Getting toddlers to eat consistently at mealtime can be a tedious task. One day they love a food, and the next day, total food refusal with a tantrum to boot. How can a parent keep nutrition steady and consistent? Bring novelty to the dinner table and you will have your picky toddler trying new foods!
Novelty: Making food unique and new doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend hours in the kitchen or make mealtime masterpieces. Try using these tips to bring novelty to your next toddler meal:
- Change the temperature of their favorite food. Do they love grapes? Try introducing grapes that are frozen!
- Change the shape or look of the food. Do you usually serve sandwiches cut in half to form rectangles? Halve the sandwich to make triangles or use cookie cutters to amp up the fun.
- Toddlers are fascinated with familiar foods presented in novel ways, which makes chicken nugget kabobs a mealtime favorite.
- Change up the dipper with their favorite food. Do they adore ranch dressing? Add a little beet juice to make the ranch a pinkish color. Is the dipper usually a blob on the plate? Use a dipper cup to add some freshness to the meal. You can even use an ‘eye’ of the Happy Mat for a fun dipping solution!
- Have leftover fruit and veggies? Blend them with ice cream, yogurt or milk and place in a popsicle mold for a cold healthy treat.
Practice: When it comes to a picky eater, I always say that Practice makes Progress. So keep offering food you would like them to learn to eat (in slightly novel ways) so they have practice with trying that new food. Remember that you are striving for practice of a new food (a bite here, a bite there) not focusing on whether they ate the entire offering. No matter how slow the progress may seem, teaching your child to enjoy a variety of foods is one of the best experiences we can give them.
Food Art: Creating easy food art can be a game changer for a finicky toddler. The smiley face design of the Mini Mat and Happy Mat make food art simple for parents, while helping expose picky eaters to whole foods. Using the food art feeding technique can quickly change mealtime from a struggle to an eating adventure, and it can also stimulate a positive food conversation with your toddler. Here is an example using our Crazy Cat food art from our book, Making Mealtime ezpz: Fun Ways to Fill the Happy Mat.
- Positive Food Art Conversation: “Do you want to eat the whiskers first? Or the nose?”
- Negative Food Art Conversation: “Just try this new cheese, you like cheese.” “You can’t say you don’t LIKE blackberries, because you have never tried them!’
Food art makes food more fun because we are labeling and trying the food through play; and we all know that play is the way a child learns! That is why food art is such a powerful technique and the reason I use it in feeding therapy. It fosters a child’s sense of imagination while they figure out what tastes, temperatures, smells and textures they like to eat. This advances their learning and helps them become more adventurous eaters!
We hope you have fun turning your “regular” meals and snacks into a novel routine your kids will love! #ezpzfun #ezpzbook
Dawn Winkelmann (M.S, CCC-SLP) is ezpz’s Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist and Feeding Specialist. She has 26 years of experience teaching parents and medical professionals how to start babies on solids safely and encourage toddlers to overcome picky eating. In addition, “Ms. Dawn” is the designer of our award-winning Tiny Cup & Tiny Spoon (for infants) and the Mini Cup + Straw Training System & Mini Utensils (for toddlers).