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!

Posted in BlogTagged , , , ,

Further Reading

  • Dr Gill Harris, Consultant Paediatric Clinical Psychologist   Following his recent recovery from coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has publicly blamed excess weight for his need for intensive care. He has subsequently declared a war on the UK’s obesity crisis and is planning a post-pandemic public health drive to battle the growing problem.
  • Katie Fox, Primary School Teacher   Due to coronavirus, playgroups and nurseries are shut and those children due to start school in a few months will be out of routine and away from friends. It is understandable that many parents are worried about getting their children ready for September. Children learn and progress at different rates so there are no set criteria on what they need to be able to know or do when they first start nursery, but if they have had some experience learning at home it could help to make it a smoother transition. Turn taking games, imaginative play, reading, and developing fine and gross motor skills can promote independence, build confidence and help develop simple skills.
  • Dr Gill Harris, Consultant Paediatric Clinical Psychologist Dr Maddy Harris, Clinical Psychologist   In times of crisis – such as the one we are currently living in – parents may find that the normal stresses of everyday life are magnified and additional worries and concerns emerge. Knowing how to cope may prove difficult, but an approach which has widely been discussed in the media and on social media is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).The premise of ACT is that fears and anxieties are seen as real and cannot be ‘challenged’ away, unlike with cognitive behavioural therapy. By concentrating on our actions we are able to work past our fears. This method may help those struggling with this new chaotic routine we find ourselves in. The Infant & Toddler Forum are here to help with our top tips on how to apply this intervention.