Many toddlers and their caregivers struggle with periods of picky eating, and my brother and two-year-old niece are no exception. By the time meals and snacks are over, both are often frustrated. But what can you do if your toddler isn’t eating the meals and snacks you prepare? What if they ask for the same foods over and over again and a tantrum ensues if anything different happens? I’ve been asked these questions by many parents, including my brother. Here’s what I’ve told them.
Get your kids in the kitchen!
Children who are 2 and 3 years old like to do things on their own. (Shocking, right?) They are also extremely curious and like to explore the world using their senses of sight, touch, smell, sound and taste. Getting your kids in the kitchen is a great way to accomplish both these things, all while teaching them a life skill at the same time!
Giving toddlers an opportunity to use their senses and feel a part of meal preparation and cooking helps them accept new foods and can help prevent and manage picky eating. You can get them involved in smelling and tasting herbs and spices, whisking eggs for muffin cup frittatas, and pouring dressing over a salad. Try having them do things like fill cut bell peppers with rice, beans and cheese for Mexican stuffed peppers, or put paper cups into muffin tins to make zucchini banana muffins. For more ideas on age-appropriate tasks for your child, check out this list.
As you cook together, ask your child questions to help keep them engaged. Get them to identify the colors of ingredients, ask them how the ingredients feel, look and smell, or talk about where the ingredients come from. Some toddlers might prefer to watch you cook instead, and that’s ok too! They’ll be eager to help soon.
My niece and I have spent time together in the kitchen, and the recipe that ended up being her favorite to help make was biscuits cut into shapes. We used cookie cutters—everything from stars to hearts to airplanes! Your local discount/dollar store should carry a variety of these. We both enjoyed the added element of creativity. And when the biscuits came out of the oven, it was even more fun to spread on some of the homemade freezer jam I made last summer.
Recipes to try
Depending on the recipe, your toddler will be able to help a little or a lot. The amount that they can help will increase with time and practice. Here are some fun and easy recipes you can try making with your toddler that practice different skills:
- Watermelon Blueberry Yogurt Pops
- Fun Fruit Kebabs with Maple Cinnamon Yogurt Dip
- Mini Pizza Sandwiches
- Weekend Waffles
- Homemade Mac and Cheese
Once your meal or snack is made, sit down and enjoy it together. You are your child’s best role model, so if you are a healthy eater, chances are your child will be too.
Stages of picky eating are normal. Be patient and know that this will pass. But if you are concerned about your toddler’s eating or growth, phone HealthLinkBC at 8-1-1 and ask to speak with a dietitian. Dietitians are available Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm, to answer your questions.
Author’s Bio: Today’s blog is written by Nilou Forooghian. Nilou is a Registered Dietitian who works at HealthLink BC. She provides callers with nutrition education on many topics, from diabetes to food safety. Nilou has 15 years of experience as a Registered Dietitian and enjoys taking traditional recipes and making them healthier and toddler friendly!
Helping Your 1 to 3 Year Old Child Eat Well (HealthLinkBC File #69d)
Meal and Snack Ideas for Your 1 to 3 Year Old Child (HealthLinkBC File #69e)
The Benefits of Eating Together for Children and Families