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09 April 2001

Toddler not eating? 5 things to do

Remind yourself that unless there is an underlying medical problem, if your toddler won’t eat, it is because mealtimes have become a battle of the wills between the two of you.

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Five things to do:
  • Remind yourself that unless there is an underlying medical problem, if your toddler won’t eat, it is because mealtimes have become a battle of the wills between the two of you. Your child is fighting for a certain independence, which is typical of this age group.
  • The tendency is towards five to six meals a day. Try to feed your child at the same time every day for breakfast, dinner and supper, with mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack times. Keep the snacks and meals as healthy as possible. Rather give your child foods with a lower Glycemic Index (wholewheat grains, fruits and other food stuff rich in fibre) than refined and sweet snacks, chocolates, cake or chips.
  • Make it clear that it is the child’s choice whether to eat or not. If it has not happened within 20 minutes or so, say that you are removing the food and do so.
    Make this "real" food available as soon as the child complains about hunger or wants something to eat. Don’t be manipulated into giving other snacks, unless it is healthy snacks like fruit and not sweets, chips or other fast foods. It will be hard, but you can help your child discover healthier food options.
  • Be firm, patient and kind. Stick to what you have said you are going to do, otherwise your child is going to start to associate food with emotional issues, which could cause problems later in life. At the best of times, food can be an emotional issue. Don’t allow the dinner table to become a battleground.
  • Choose foods which you know your child likes, but don’t be manipulated into preparing different foods which are then rejected in succession by your child. Power is the issue here, not what you have prepared. Compare this to a child who only wants the toy her sister is currently enjoying.

     
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