Toddler Feeding 101
Toddlers can be challenging to feed. I have been told that this is the time that babies’ tastes change, and they constantly seek out different colours, textures and smells.
I recently had a hard time getting my little one to eat meals and even snacks. Foods that he couldn’t get enough of one week were being used as makeshift hair and beauty products the next [that is, he rubbed them into his hair and skin - not me]. I can also tell you from firsthand experience that Weetbix dries like cement on walls. And suits.
For a short while, I allowed myself to get exasperated. Then I got creative.
Here is what has worked for me so far:
- the good old ‘here comes the aeroplane’ doesn’t work for long, but it does work!
- cook from the rainbow – toddlers love bright colours. Plus, by preparing fruits and vegetables of different colours, you can be sure that little one is getting a good variety of nutrients.
- change the packaging – eg. bolognese sauce with rice instead of pasta, tuna mornay in filo pastry parcels, chopped apple with natural yoghurt and unprocessed honey rather than on its own;
- make food into shapes – the sky is the limit! So far, I have cut toast into geometric shapes, made faces out of the toppings for mini pizzas, and formed a ‘farmyard’ from vegetables, meat and mash.
- rename your vegies – in our house, broccoli florets are ‘trees’.
- go frozen – for teething, my top tip has to be frozen grapes and berries. Frozen fruits also soothe my little one’s teething gums while ensuring he gets some nutrition.
- eat out – at a cafe, restaurant or park, or even in the backyard. Sometimes a change in scenery is all it takes.
- let them eat big – offering big people’s cutlery to your toddler, or putting food into a container instead of a bowl, for a meal may add enough interest to get little one eating.
- if you don’t like the taste, there’s a good chance that your toddler won’t either – I tried feeding my little one an organic brand of baby food and, while he couldn’t get enough of one variety, he turned up his nose at another meal from the same brand. When I finally tasted it, I understood why: it was disgusting. I didn’t know how anyone could make vegetables taste that bad [and I'm still wondering whether or not I should write to the company in question].
- don’t push it – offer and reoffer the same foods but don’t force feed. Just like big people, sometimes toddlers just don’t like certain foods. All I can say is keep trying – this week’s dislikes may well be next week’s favourites.
- The absolute biggest tip I can give you from my experience so far is to practice what you preach. Little ones learn by example. If you won’t eat your cauliflower, there’s a good chance that they won’t either, and they will always ask to try what you are eating.
Want to know more? There are many fabulous books, websites and blogs on toddler fun and feeding, including the incredible Annabel Karmel (mentioned in my post of 31 March 2009) and SquiggleMum, a blog from a Brisbane mum who amazes me with her energy and creativity.
If you have a little one, I hope this helps you out. And if you are only responsible for yourself or other big people, remember that sometimes we like fun and variety too! Let me know what works for you.