Your little ones grow at a rapid rate when they’re babies, their growth starts to slow down however as they hit the toddler stage, that’s when picky eating could possibly start to happen… as in, it’s a normal developmental stage. Toddlers’ appetites tend to slow down, and they begin to develop food preferences. What they like one day could be unappealing the next, they may even stick to one or two foods for weeks. The key for parents here is: do not get frustrated, this is typical toddler behavior.
There may be one thing that parents can do to help curb the “picky eater” stage, or at least to try to shorten its length of time, and that is to expose your little ones to as many types of food as possible at an early stage, before their growth starts to slow down…
1. Variety! Variety!
When your baby starts eating solids, and you’ve exposed him/her to different foods already, you can then start mixing it up by offering something different every day. One day could be potatoes, the next could be pureed lentils, maybe some sweet potatoes, zucchini, carrot, pumpkin, and so on. Make sure to consult your pediatrician to ensure you are feeding your baby age-appropriate foods.
2. Encourage food play!
As your baby grows, start offering foods they can eat with their hands. This sensory element familiarizes them more with texture and helps get them comfortable with food. During snack time, seat your baby in the high chair, offer age-appropriate snacks like boiled carrot sticks they can gnaw on – this is also good for teething babies – maybe a few strands of boiled pasta they can get messy with, a few cubes of boiled potatoes, etc. Let them get messy and explore the food world!
3. Model good eating habits.
As your child gets older, make sure you’re practicing what you preach in front of your toddler. Make one or two dishes for lunch/dinner, serve them in a family setting, and show your child that you eat what’s available. Resist the urge to always make what your little one likes to save the hassle of negotiating over dinner. This is what’s available to eat, full stop.
4. No pressure.
If your child refuses to eat, let it go. Avoid the urge to force, punish, negotiate, bribe. Maybe your child is being picky, in which case they will give in when the hunger is unbearable, maybe they are simply not hungry. Your child is listening to their body and so you should encourage them to do so. Pressuring your little one to eat can make them dislike food they previously liked.
5. Catch their eye!
Food arranged in creative ways can really get your toddler excited about eating. Make fun and colorful arrangements with their food, especially shapes they can recognize, there are plenty of resources online that can give you ideas. Toddlers also seem to enjoy dipping food at this stage, try a plate of fruits or vegetables cut into bite-size pieces alongside a savory, healthy dip like hummus or yogurt salad.