Your toddler eats best when you give her both clear leadership and a sense of control. Get started with family meals, if you aren’t having them already. Give leadership by offering foods you choose, at sit-down meals and snacks, at regular and reliable times. At meals and snacks let her decide how much and even whether she eats from foods you have put on the table. Keep yourself comfortable by understanding her normally quirky eating behavior. You are following a division of responsibility in feeding.
The toddler is at high risk for learning to use food for emotional reasons. Toddlers are active, unceasing in their demands and prone to get upset. It is tempting to give food to quell the riot. Don’t. Instead, stick to scheduled feedings and sort out whether your child is hungry or sad, full or tired. Give attention, hugs or naps.
- Have 3 meals a day at set times and eat with her—don’t just feed her. Offer her sit-down snacks every 2 to 3 hours between times.
- Offer her the same safe food you offered when she was an almost-toddler.
- Even though she will be skeptical even of food she has eaten enthusiastically before, do not short-order cook or limit the menu to foods she readily accepts. Instead, be family friendly in your meal-planning.
- Let her eat her way—fingers or utensils, fast or slow, much or little, 1 or 2 foods.
- Say no when she begs for food or drinks between times, except for water.
Copyright © 2009 by Ellyn Satter. Published at www.EllynSatter.com. For more about feeding your toddler (and for research backing up this advice), see Ellyn Satter’s Child of Mine; Feeding with Love and Good Sense, Bull Publishing, 2000. Also see http://www.ellynsatter.com/commerce/catalog.jsp/shopping to purchase books and to review comprehensive educational materials that teach stage-related feeding and solve feeding problems.