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Toddlers often have their parents in a twist over everything they do or won’t do. This is even more so over the tricky issue of toddlers who will not eat at mealtimes. What can be done about it?
Recently, I got a call from my childhood friend (Our friendship is 23 years old). “He doesn’t eat anything! What should I do? Does your son eat well?” She asked referring to her two-year-old. “It’s a phase. Don’t worry, it will pass.” I said.
It was funny as just few weeks ago I had called her whining about the same problem.
Toddlers are full of unlimited energy. (I wonder where they get it from!) As our child grows up, we start bothering and comparing. “When he is going to sit? Or when he is going to walk or talk? X has started when she was just y months old”. We often do that.
But, the biggest challenge of raising a toddler is to tackle his/her finicky eating habits. Isn’t it? I think, the most important mantra for positive parenting is PATIENCE, and a bright smile even when you are irritated! Same goes with feeding your toddler.
When I shared my worries with my paediatrician he smiled and said, “He won’t eat. You know, now he is the busiest person of your house. You may sit doing nothing but he is always busy.”
So, what are the reasons your toddler evades his food?
As your child grows up, he starts discovering new activities. Several things around him interest him so much that he won’t care about food. But, you know that your little bundle of energy needs nutrition. So, you need to have patience and wait. Let him play, and try after few minutes. He will eat.
When your child grows up a little, he develops a habit of eating from every plate or everything we munch. These mid-meal snacks make him full. Or sometimes as a mother we bother too much about our child’s meals. For a mother, her child is always hungry but he is not. So, relax, and try after sometime.
Sometimes, toddlers eat well and suddenly refuse to eat. Maybe, he is thirsty. It happens when I feed my son. Give him some water to drink. He will eat merrily after that.
When I fed my son banana smoothie for the first time, he simply puked. He refused to eat straight away when I introduced apple puree (I used to grate the apple to make puree. Boiling it is not a good idea).
I consulted my paediatrician, and said “He doesn’t like banana smoothie and apple.”
“Don’t say he doesn’t like it before you have tried enough. Try and feed him the same food ten times. If he refuses to eat after ten efforts, then you can say that he doesn’t like it.”
My paediatrician was right. I tried and my son started to like them.
This is the most important point. Toddlers love newness, uniqueness and innovation.
Sometimes you need to break rules to make things interesting. Keep changing the food items. Introduce new and interesting meals in an interesting way. Give your food some interesting shapes. Involve your little ones in meal preparation.
So, what do we do? Be creative. Creativity is not limited to writing and art, you see. Raising a happy child is an art.
Sometimes, introducing new foods works fine. There was a time when my son won’t eat the regular meals so I thought to try something new. I made Atta (Wheat flour) – Halwa (I make it in pure ghee and added some grated almonds). He loved it!
Sometimes, regular feeds become boring to him. Repeat the meal after a week or so. He/she will like eat again.
Do not force if he doesn’t want to eat.
Don’t bribe (If you do ever, keep your promise. Never break his trust!).. Add some fun. Enact, engage, even make funny faces, sing…oh, toddler make us do funny things!
Avoid running after him. When my son refuses to eat everything I try to feed him, and runs all around, I make him sit on his high chair and let him eat by himself. As expected, he creates mess. But it is okay because he finishes his meal! It’s a learning experience for him.
Let your child enjoy his/her meal. You can clean up later.
Many toddlers don’t like milk. But you are smarter, aren’t you? Nutritionists say that it is not advisable to sit with a glass of milk every time you think your child is hungry. It is boring also. Break the milk intake into different varieties. Give him yogurt, fruit yogurt, cheese or paneer.
You must ensure that your toddler enjoy your company, and your ideas. Spend quality time with him/her. Be a buddy. Playful interaction can do wonders for children. It can be wonderful learning experience too.
Leaving you with a wonderful poem: (Author unknown)
I tried to teach my child with books
He gave me only puzzled looks
I tried to teach my child with words
They passed him by, often unheard
Despairingly, I turned aside,
“How shall I teach this child?” I cried.
Into my hand, he put the key
“Come,” he said, “Play with me!”
Image source: toddler eating porridge by Shutterstock.
Author of 'We Will Meet Again'. Freelance writer and editor. Tarang's works have been
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