Your little one has moved onto small, regular meals now and is sitting up at the table with you. However, there seems to be more food on the floor than in their tummy or on their plate! Don’t worry too much about this, you have to remember that they are not trying to make a mess on purpose; it takes time for them to develop the motor skills needed to use cutlery neatly.

If they are throwing food on the floor, it’s best to ignore it and pick it all up at the end of the meal. Be patient and calm, there’s no need to panic if they don’t eat or finish their meal, as they are pretty good at knowing when they’re full on their own. And remember it’s more important to look at what and how they eat over a week compared to just one or two days.

Here are some ideas to help you through this time:

  • Regular mealtimes and snacks help them get into a routine, which is very important for young children. Try not to schedule a meal before a nap-time because they’ll probably be too tired and disinterested.
  • Have three regular meals a day and snacks 2-3 times a day. Snack ideas include rice cakes, fruit, yogurt, crackers, cubes of cheese, or a small sandwich.
  • Water is the best drink to offer them between mealtimes, that way they don’t fill up on juice (if you do offer juice at mealtimes make sure it’s extremely diluted, because it contains a lot of sugar which is bad for your toddler’s teeth).
  • Eat with them as much as you can. And be a good role model, don’t walk around the house while you’re eating if you’re trying to get them to sit at the table. If they see you eating a variety of foods, it will encourage them to try new things.
  • Let them feed themselves if they want, they are likely to eat more.
  • Cutting food into strips will make it easier for them to eat with their hands, rather than a knife and fork.
  • Limit the number of distractions by turning the TV off.
  • It’s best not to end up bribing or begging them to eat, it’ll only enhance the power struggle.
  • Give them non-breakable plates and bowls.
  • Remember to compliment them when they show good table manners.

Getting them involved

Your toddler is growing and establishing their personality and tastes, so it’s important during this time to ask them questions about what they would like to eat. Getting them involved in the shopping and preparing of meals is fun, and they’ll enjoy making some easy choices. Always give them options such as, ham or cheese, or pasta or rice because they are still little and bigger decisions will be too challenging for them. You could play some games at the supermarket; ask them to spot different types of vegetables they might want to eat later, like tomatoes or carrots.