by Becky Tountas

My daughter Emma has always been a pretty good eater.  By that, I mean she is a healthy weight and eats a variety of food, including fruits and vegetables.  However, Emma is almost two, so with her newfound defiance toddler independence, she has started to push the boundaries.  A lot.  Mealtime has morphed into a loud hour of screaming and food throwing while she jumps on a chair.  As such, I have had to come up with some new ideas for getting her to eat her broccoli instead of mashing it into her hair.

Here are my top 5 strategies to get your toddler to eat a meal:

  1.  Encourage your child to “cook” while you cook.  I give my daughter some big mixing bowls and a plastic ladle and let her bang around the kitchen while I am cooking dinner.  Of course, she inevitably wants food in her mixing bowls, so I throw a few crackers into the bowls and thank her for cooking them.  Despite the inevitable mess, this makes her feel like she is helping out.
  1. Get your toddler to sit down for dinner using any method.  For me, this means that I have basically given up on the high chair, which she hasn’t sat in for over a month.  Emma has 5 stuffed animals crammed into the high chair, so there’s no room for her anyway.  Lately, Emma eats her meals while sitting on a regular chair or on my lap.  She likes to jump from my lap into the chair while chewing on her food.
  1. Let your child feed his or her stuffed animals.  Emma won’t sit down for a single meal without her Elmo doll, whomelmo she always feeds before herself.  This routine involves her picking up food, wiping it all over Elmo’s face, and then putting it into her mouth.  She does this constantly.  Granted, it adds about 20 minutes on to our mealtime, but it gets her to eat.
  1. Allow your child to use adult silverware.  I realize that this could present a hazard to toddlers, but Emma refuses to use anything other than an adult fork.  Luckily I am able to supervise her closely, since she is usually in my lap.  Alternatively, One Step Ahead makes these, that toddlers love!
  1. Bribery.  If my daughter wants to watch Frozen before bedtime, she knows that she better finish eating dinner.  I have no shame about bribery.

Between the desire for independence and short attention span, toddler meal time is definitely not the easiest, but these strategies help me get through those long days.  When all else fails, I let her eat crackers for dinner in front of the TV.

What do you do to get your toddler to eat?  Let me know in the comments below!