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Nourishing Your Independent Toddler

Written by Cathe Olson   
Wednesday, 01 March 2006 00:00
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Somewhere between 12 and 18 months of age, your easygoing infant becomes a toddler striving to take control of his or her activities. When you want her to get dressed, she decides pajamas would be perfect for the park. When you call him to come in, he runs away laughing as you chase him.

Mealtimes are the worst. While your baby used to eat anything you put in front of her, you may now have a finicky eater on your hands.

Don’t let the table become a battleground. Here are a few ways to make meals enjoyable for the whole family and to help your child develop a healthy attitude toward food.

Nourishing Independent ToddlerEncourage independence

Allow your child to feed himself. Let food be something he wants and goes after rather than something he submits to. Prepare bite-size dishes like noodles, diced poultry or tofu, steamed broccoli florets, and diced carrots. Kids love to dip things. Serve pancakes, French toast, or waffles with applesauce or yogurt for dunking. Encourage (but don’t force) your toddler to try different foods. Allow your child to have some choice in what he eats.

Accept the method

If your toddler is most comfortable using her fingers, let her. If she manages to use a spoon or fork, all the better. Don’t discourage any effort your children make to eat on their own. To encourage your baby to spoon-feed herself, serve a bowl of her favorite food with a small, easy-to-manage spoon. Try applesauce, yogurt, mashed sweet squash, etc.

Nourishing Your Independent ToddlerPermit any order

Let your kids eat food in the order they choose. If they want to eat applesauce first and vegetables last, that is their prerogative. Both my daughters pick all the raisins out of their oatmeal to eat first. I used to be afraid they wouldn’t eat their cereal afterwards but they always did. Children notice if you are placing more importance on sweet food. Example works very well here. Let them see that you enjoy broccoli and carrots as much as fruit or cookies.

Keep it simple

Chances are, if you go through a lot of trouble preparing a fancy, gourmet meal for your children, that will be the dish they refuse. Toddlers’ tastes change from day to day, and you will end up frustrated or disappointed if they won’t eat your special dinner. Don’t make your child feel guilty if he genuinely doesn’t like what you have prepared. Simply give him something easy like a bowl of rice or peanut butter toast, and let the rest of the family enjoy what you have prepared.