Top Tips | Fussy eaters?..or neophobic?

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Has your little one suddenly stopped trying new foods? Have they decided they no longer like meals they’ve had before? Does the approaching mealtime fill you with dread? There may be a good reason why your toddler is being so stubborn!

During a child’s second year, normally when they have learnt to walk and they have become more independent and love to explore a little further, there is quite often a decrease of the amount of food eaten or a battle to try and get them to try a new food. This is a developmental stage for toddlers and is known as neophobia, the fear of new. The reason for this is quite likely to be a survival technique to prevent an inquisitive and curious toddler from roaming alone and harming or poisoning themselves by eating everything and anything. Your toddler could limit their selection of food they want to eat or take longer to like a new food than they did as a baby. For most it’s a phase that easily passes but we have some handy tips to help you through the process.

Handy tips

  • Continue to be encouraging whilst your toddler is eating. It is important to make mealtimes and food a positive experience so that this phase doesn’t prolong itself or become more serious.
  • Eat together. How does a child know a new food is, primarily, safe or tasty if they haven’t seen anyone else eat it? Eating together promotes conversation, bonding and distracts from the task of ‘eat your dinner now’. Set an example yourself by trying new foods and eating politely, toddlers take everything in that they see every minute of the day. Being a role model is very important over mealtimes.
  • Don’t give toddlers too many snacks, too much milk or juice throughout the day. Children should only need a morning and an afternoon snack. At this age, children should be on a small amount of milk as they receive all their nutrients in their diet. However, if you choose to give your child milk try and not give it too close before a meal, this is the same for juice. The sugars in juice fill a toddler up really well, leaving not a lot of room for a healthy fulfilling meal.
  • Give toddlers the chance to be independent and feed themselves, whether it be with a spoon or with finger food. Give you toddler lots of encouragement.
  • Give children two courses all the time so that they have two opportunities to receive the calories they need.
  • Keep distractions away from the table, such as TV and toys. This inhibits the chance to talk and explore food.
  • Fussiness may be down to the look of food too. Have you broken up a biscuit that they normally have whole? Are two foods touching that they don’t want to be touching? Through this time, respect your child’s choices. They will be much easier to reason with when not going through this phase.
  • Don’t pressure a child to eat more. They have an inbuilt skills to identify when their body has had enough. Children will eat a lot when they are growing or meeting a new significant milestone, another time they will eat very little. Listen to your child’s signals such as keeping mouth closed, turning away or pushing the plate away as to when they have had enough. This will help to keep the arguments down to a minimum keep then anxiety away from you as an adult too to make the whole experience more relaxed.
  • Give your child appropriate portion sizes. Plate your child’s meal with a small amount of food-having more is always possible but giving to much can put a child (or adult!) right off.

We think that giving a child the right portion size is absolutely key to a successful mealtime. Just think about a time you have sat in a restaurant and have been presented with an enormous amount of food – it makes you feel full at the sight of it, even if you work your way through it! Overloading a plate is such an easy thing to do, so to help we have found a portion size table thanks to the Infant and Toddler Forum, that is working really well for one of us pocketnannies at work currently so we thought we should share it with you all. It’s surprising how little children need and how much we try and get them to eat ‘just one more’. As said before, they can always have more. By trying a few of these tips, you could change the whole feeling to a mealtime altogether and have better eaters for it.

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© pocketnannies 2015

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