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How to Get a Toddler to Eat


How to Get Toddler to Eat

If you’re the parent of a new toddler, you may notice that their eating habits are a tad different from the adults in your life. Toddlers are those human beings in the 16 to 36 month age range, and things can get very difficult with them very quickly. Since they’re not growing as fast as babies younger than 16 months, they’re not going to need to eat as often, and it can often be frustrating to get them to eat what you put on the table. The blog world is full of parents who are struggling to get a toddler to eat. The good news is that it’s completely normal for a toddler to refuse to eat. The bad news is that it can be a frustrating problem to fix.

Frustration is a part of parenthood. You may have already noticed that. Given the joy and rewards of parenthood, though, it’s well worth the struggle you’re going through. To make things a little easier on you, it’s time to take in a few tips that will help you during this difficult journey. There’s no quick fix, and you’re certain to benefit from listening to other new parents who might have encountered this problem and fixed it, but there is a short list of things you can do to help get a toddler to eat. Use every tool at your disposal. This is for sure a war, but it’s a war you can both win together.

Why Toddlers Refuse To Eat

You’ve prepared a beautiful meal for your entire family. Dad is eating. Mom is eating. Your other children are eating. And then, there with a very determined and stubborn look on his or her face is your nemesis. That’s your toddler, and they aren’t eating anything you’ve put down. The first thing to always remember in this situation is that your toddler is just like millions of other toddlers in the world. This is the stage of life where just about everything is the most difficult. Your toddler is beginning to walk. They’re talking a bit. They’re off a bottle and exploring adult foods for the first time. Everything new takes time to learn, so settle down and try to understand the world from your toddler’s perspective.

Your toddler doesn’t need as much food as a child in the first year of life, so their appetite is drastically different than yours or a 14 month old baby. Many parents mistakenly believe their children need more calories than they really need, and often the first problem you might want to consider is whether you’re trying to get your toddler to eat too much. A toddler will need about 35-40 calories per pound. Do a quick math lesson and make sure that you’re not trying to overfeed your toddler. Many well meaning parents do this as a mistake, believing that their toddler needs more food than they really need or may want. Find out what’s healthy and see if there’s still a problem. Toddlers refuse to eat for a host of reasons, some mysterious, others pretty simple. Toddlers refuse to eat because:

  • Toddlers are in a perpetual state of testing boundaries and may simply be instigating a power struggle between you both
  • They may not be hungry
  • They may not really like the food you’ve served them
  • They may have a belly ache but not be able to communicate that because they have a limited grasp on language
  • There may be something else going on in their head that they can’t communicate in language

In the toddler range, they’re just beginning to walk, understand language, and learn about the family they’re in. They can’t yet effectively communicate all their feelings and thoughts to you, and this can create a communication barrier that sometimes feels insurmountable. They’re also learning that you’re the boss, and they don’t particularly like that very much! If your toddler is eating an unhealthy amount of food a day, it’s time to take some action. If they’re eating a healthy number of calories, it might be time for you to scale back their food. Your solution will depend on which problem you have.

Tips To Get A Toddler To Eat

In order to get a toddler to eat, you are going to have to pinpoint what the problem is, and that can be frustrating to do given that they can’t always tell you. Maybe you want your child to eat something that they don’t particularly like. It could simply be a matter of them not liking the food. Toddlers have taste buds that are much more sensitive than an adults, so they’re going to taste food in a more robust way than you will. Keep this in mind when you pick out foods to make for your child. Also consider re-structuring your meal times and try to keep things as simple as possible for your toddler.

If it’s a power struggle that’s happening, this is something you might be able to talk to your doctor about, as a pediatrician is going to have experienced this kind of problem before.

  • If your child has very little appetite at all or is eating a very low number of calories compared to what’s healthy, this may be a matter for a doctor to explore.
  • There are some childhood illnesses that will cause weight loss and cause a child to have trouble eating. It’s not always psychological or a power struggle.
  • Whatever the problem is, there are some solutions you can always try to make meal time less frustrating for your toddler and you.

Toddlers thrive on routine, so the first thing you can do is schedule regular meal times. Snacks are sometimes a problem, too. Handling a toddler a cup of juice is always a great way to keep them happy and occupied, but it can alo make them less hungry come meal time. Hand your toddler water instead if you want to get your toddler to eat at meal time.

Another great tip is to always make sure that at every meal there is a food that your toddler likes. If he or she is especially picky, make sure it’s one of his or her favorite foods. This can get your toddler to eat by just generally putting them in the mood to eat. Like all people, toddlers like what they like. Don’t expect them to eat a food they don’t like if there’s a healthy substitute for it that they do really like. There’s nothing wrong with seeing things your toddler’s way sometimes. They can’t help how their taste buds turned out, and they’re inevitably going to like foods that they like.

Some Final Thoughts On How To Get A Toddler To Eat

Power struggles and plays for attention will inevitably be a part of life with a toddler. They’re going to test you. They’re going to want their way. Sometimes they may even intentionally refuse to eat just because they’re aware that it’s one way they can get attention from you. No one knows everything that goes on in the mind of those precious toddlers because they can’t always effectively communicate their feelings through words. One thing is for certain, though, and that’s the fact that you love your toddler and want what’s best for them. Following the few simple tips you’ve learned about here can really make things easier for them and you.

If you’ve tried all of these tips and dozens more and your toddler still isn’t consuming a healthy amount of food everyday, it’s time to go to the old pediatrician and speak with them about the problem. There’s always the slim possibility that a medical issue could be causing the problem, and that’s nothing to delay seeing a pediatrician about. Pediatricians are also very well trained on just about everything having to do with those toddlers, so you can always count on them even in matters of dinner time and everyday problems. Just talking to a pediatrician and learning that all of this is usually normal is a great way to sooth your mind.


Trying to get a toddler to eat is a normal part of parenthood. It’s often a memorable one. Billions of toddlers around the world have refused their meals, and billions of parents have sighed over it for as long as people have been on earth. There’s no reason to panic over this simple issue. With a little time, patience, and love, you can get a toddler to eat a healthy amount of food, even if everything doesn’t always go smoothly. As you use simple time-tested techniques and get your toddler to eat more, you’ll feel a huge sense of accomplishment. After all, almost any parent who’s ever had a toddler will tell you that it truly is an accomplishment every time you get a toddler to eat.

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