My child won’t eat: Top Tips for a Fussy Eater Toddler!

Dr Gill Harris, Consultant Paediatric Clinical Psychologist

 

This is one of the most stressful things that a parent has to cope with; a fussy eater who won’t try new food! As a parent you are given lots of information about what your child should eat, all those fruit and vegetables for a start! And no junk food, no crisps, no ready food, no biscuits. But the toddlers haven’t read the media advice, or if they have, they are ignoring it. So what can you do? And how much should you worry?

In the first of two blogs about fussy eating, we’ll be discussing what is important to know, and what to do with a fussy eater.

Is fussy eating normal?

It’s important to stress that at around the age of 2 years most children will start to get fussy; it is a normal stage of development (called food neophobia). At this age children will suddenly start to refuse any new food ON SIGHT and push away food that they used to eat before if it looks slightly different. They start to move out of this stage at around 3 or 4 years of age.

What I can I do about this?

Even though this is a normal stage, there are some things you can do to make things easier. Here are our top tips.

Top Five Things to Do with a Fussy Eater

  1. Safe foods. Allow your fussy child to eat the foods that they do like – their safe foods – appropriate growth is more important in the early years than dietary range
  2. Eat with your child at mealtimes. Even if they are not eating the food you want them to eat they are more likely to eat it eventually if they see you eat it. Eat with other families especially if they have children too
  3. Encourage them to interact with foods
    • Plan activities where they handle bits of fruit or vegetables – make pictures
    • Look, find and name foods in the shops and supermarket
    • Grow food – even in a plant pot on the window sill
    • Make food – roll dough, mix sauces
  4. Messy play. Don’t wipe all the time! Fussy eaters are over sensitive to touch, so desensitize with messy play –in the garden, face paints, playdoh
  5. Reward for tasting. You can start up a game with other children, look at some very small pieces of a new food, if you put it in your mouth you get a sticker! Do this away from mealtimes and allow spitting out!

Found these helpful? Why not share with your friends? And come back soon for our top five things to avoid with a fussy eater!

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Further Reading

  • Judy More, Paediatric Dietitian and Registered Nutritionist Lucy Upton, Specialist Paediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist   Have a healthy Easter with The Infant & Toddler Forum’s suggested menu for toddlers!
  • Lucy Upton, Specialist Paediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist   Why is salt important for my toddler’s diet? Sodium, which is in salt, is important for healthy muscle, stomach and nerve function as well as being an essential component in the blood. Children need some sodium to grow.
  • Lucy Upton, Specialist Paediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist   Although the number of people in the UK forced to turn to food banks has been on the rise for a number of years now, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the already worrying situation even further. Data gathered by the Trussell Trust shows that there was a 47% increase in the number of people relying on foodbanks during the first six months of the pandemic compared to the same period last year. It seems families with children have been hardest hit with 2,600 food parcels being provided for children every day.