Feeding Toddlers – 6 Common Mistakes to Avoid

by doddl expert partner Lucy Upton (The Children’s Dietitian)

The toddler years can feel like a time of transition at mealtimes! All of a sudden, their appetite seems all over the place, foods that were flavour of the month last week are ‘yuck’ this week, half the food is on the floor and you’re pulling your hair out. These sudden changes often cause parents to question their judgement on how to manage mealtimes. It’s easy to fall into food parenting traps that seem like they could be helpful with a toddler’s feeding behaviours, but at times can tip things the opposite way. Here’s Specialist Paediatric Dietitian Lucy Upton, with 6 common mistakes when feeding toddlers.

1. Staying at the table too long

Toddler attention spans can be transient. Like lots of other activities this age you might find attention slips after 10-15 minutes. Don’t drag out mealtimes unnecessarily – they don’t need to ‘sit nicely’ at the table for 30 minutes or more – move on to their next activity.

2. Offering alternatives if food is refused

Gosh it’s hard when your carefully prepared meal gets rejected, but try to avoid the ‘topping up’ trap. Children quickly learn preferred foods might be coming, so remember it’s your job to provide the meal and theirs to decide what and how much they eat.

3. Just offering preferred foods

If you’re stuck in a cycle of rejection with certain foods, it’s easy to default to options you just know they will eat. But by doing this quickly a toddler’s range of accepted foods can drop. Try to use mealtimes to offer preferred foods alongside foods they are still learning about too.

4. Offering too much

As growth slows down during the toddler years, you might be surprised to see the amount your little one is eating drop. This is very normal! Around 70-80% of parents are thought to overestimate how much children need to eat. Offering too much can often leave you feeling like they haven’t eaten much of their meal at all (cue stress levels rising), with tons of waste.  Being offered too much food can even intimidate your toddler into not eating!

5. “Just one more bite”

This phrase often sneaks out from fear your little one hasn’t eaten enough, but it can add lots of unnecessary pressure to a mealtime. Toddlers are excellent at regulating their appetite, so don’t be tempted to push them until you’re happy they have eaten enough – respect their appetite.

6. Bribing or placing earning potential on food

Foods do not needs labels of good and bad, and it’s great for children to have experience of food neutral environments at home. By placing earning potential on a food e.g. if you eat X you can have…, children can learn to place a higher value on some foods more than others, or that they have to ignore their appetite cues in order to be offered certain foods.

‘Feeding Toddlers – 6 Common Mistakes to Avoid’ is just one of our blogs written by our expert partners. To read more from Lucy and our other experts, please check out the doddl Parent Hub. 

Here at doddl, we can’t promise you a perfect mealtime every time, but we can offer you our fantastic mealtime solutions to help make every mealtime a happy one! Our children’s cutlery is suitable for 12 months+ and includes a fork, spoon and knife. The short, smooth handles encourage the correct finger placement, developing dexterity, coordination and control. This makes it easy to transition to adult cutlery as and when they are ready. 

Check out the whole range at shop.doddl.com!

Lucy Upton - Children's Dietitian - bio image feeding toddlers common mistakes to avoid - doddl expert blog

Lucy is a highly experienced Paediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist based in the UK.  She is passionate about helping children and their families achieve happiness and health with food and nutrition, no matter what challenges may stand in the way.  Working in both the NHS and private sector, as well as being an advisor in early years public health and feeding therapy, means that she has a unique offering for children and families.

Find Lucy on Instagram @childrensdietitian,

or on her website www.thechildrensdietitian.co.uk

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