A child is considered a ‘toddler’ between 12-36 months of life. This life stage is characterised by rapid growth and development and signifies a pivotal turning point when a child’s feeding behaviours dramatically change. An emerging sense of independence combined with more refined motor skills means that toddlers enjoy and demand the challenge of feeding themselves and start to develop certain preferences that affect their food selections.
Why is my toddler a picky eater?
Whilst the transition from breastmilk or formula to food can be thrilling for a child, it can also bring about chaos at mealtime. During this explorative phase toddlers are exposed to a wide range of flavours, textures and smells, an experience that can be pleasant but equally overwhelming. As such, you may find your child craving some foods and rejecting others (especially ones you want them to eat, like veggies!). While fussy eating patterns can be distressing for parents, understand it’s a common and transient phase in childhood development. So common that it typically presents in up to 50% of toddlers1.
Managing ‘picky eaters’ – the dos and don’ts
While picky eating behaviors cannot always be avoided, there are things you can do to manage this progression obstacle more smoothly as well as ensuring optimal nutrition for your child.
- Consider breastfeeding – if you can! Although not a preference for all women, breastfeeding is highly encouraged as it serves as perfect nutrition for young children. It has been shown that breastfed infants are less likely to be fussy eaters as they have been exposed to a variety of flavours while breastfed2.
- Encourage diversity – by exposing them to a range of textured and finger food in their purest form so they can learn to appreciate the nuances of flavour of different foods, for example, whole pieces of fruit instead of a smoothie.
- Be patient and persistent – when introducing new foods. This is probably the most challenging task of all but keep at it! Try giving your toddler small amounts of a new food at first. It can take up to 10 times or more before they will accept a new food, yet most parents give up after 5 attempts3.
- Avoid negativity – by refraining from forcing your toddler to eat certain foods or punishing them for rejecting others. Using negative reinforcement at mealtimes is more likely to promote food aversions in the future.
- Minimise distractions – by turning off the TV, putting toys away and pets outside. Doing this allows toddlers to be fully present in the moment and appreciate new experiences.
- Bribe them with treats – as it will only make them think that these are far more superior than healthy alternatives, further worsening these habits. Moderation is key!
If you are looking to supplement potential gaps in your child’s nutrition, consider Herbs of Gold Children’s Multi Care. It is a comprehensive multivitamin that contains key vitamins and minerals to supports a child’s health and wellbeing, including B vitamins for energy production and iodine for cognitive function and brain health, and is suitable for children aged 2 years and older.
1 Carruth, B. R., Ziegler, P. J., Gordon, A., & Barr, S. I. (2004). Prevalence of picky eaters among infants and toddlers and their caregivers’ decisions about offering a new food. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 104, 57-64.
2 Mennella, J. A., Daniels, L. M., & Reiter, A. R. (2017). Learning to like vegetables during breastfeeding: a randomised clinical trial of lactating mothers and infants. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 106(1), 67-76.
3 Forestell, C. A., & Mennella, J. A. (2007). Early determinants of fruit and vegetable acceptance. Pediatrics, 120(6), 1247-1254.