Most children are able to balance food intake with activity if they are encouraged, but not forced to eat. You can help by providing a variety of healthy and nourishing foods from which your child can choose. Offer children the same foods as the family, with a variety of textures and flavours for balanced nutrition.
If a food is refused, the child may not be objecting to the actual food, but may be testing to see the effect they have on people around them. By assuming the food is to blame, some parents can get caught up in a frustrating game. Some helpful tips to deal with food refusal include:
- Try to stay calm.
- Don’t force your child to eat.
- Allow your child some likes and dislikes.
- Offer new foods with familiar ones.
- Provide a small spoon or fork and a comfortable chair.
- Turn off the television – chat at mealtimes instead.
- Start with a small serve and give more if hungry.
- If a meal is refused, let your child sit quietly for a few minutes before leaving the table.
- Be a role model for your child. If you eat well, they may copy you.
You can use food activities with older toddlers to help them learn about foods and nutrition. Letting children get involved in basic food preparation – like washing or peeling vegetables, making a sandwich or salad, or baking fruit or vegetable muffins – teaches them about healthy foods. Other learning opportunities include:
- Exploration of shapes, colours and how foods grow
- Development of skills like pouring, stirring and cutting
- Learning food hygiene, like washing hands before touching food or eating
- Sharing food with other people.
Childcare provides an environment for children to eat with others and experience new foods and tastes. Some parents may find that their toddler is tired at the end of the day and less interested in the evening meal. This will vary for each child.
Always ask about your child’s eating habits from childcare staff, as well as giving them important information about your concerns or problems at home. Working together with childcare staff can positively reinforce healthy food messages and eating for your child.
More information on healthy eat and tips to get your child eating new foods can be found at https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/eating-tips-for-older-toddlers