How to Get a Picky Eater to Eat (Toddler)

Some kids are just picky. Or, a good eater will go through picky stages. When that’s the case, try these 8 tips to get them back on track!

Griffin was such a picky eater that I seriously thought I’d have to admit him to the hospital and put him on a feeding tube.

And let’s face it; few things bring us more satisfaction that seeing our kids well nourished. Somehow I feel I’ve “failed” if this isn’t the case. But, alas, sometimes we get a picky one – or our good eaters go through picky stages. When that’s the case, try these 8 tips to get back on track.

How to get picky eaters to eat video

8 tips to get your picky eater to eat

1. Feed child three meals and one snack a day

As mamas, we often think that we need to be feeding our kids 24/7 to be sure they’re getting enough nourishment. But I’ve found that it’s important to let our kids actually get hungry before we set them down for a meal. So breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, and dinner. And a little nursing or drinks in between.

2. Let them feed themselves

I’ll admit it. I spoon-fed my guy until he was about 14 months old because I was sure I’d get more in him. It was becoming annoying for both of us so I stopped. And once I did, he started eating more! Kids enjoy the satisfaction of feeding themselves.

3. Don’t encourage, beg or even watch them eat

The more I pushed food on Griffin, the more he’d resist. With picky eaters, there’s usually a power struggle going on. So the best tactic is just let them be. By not interfering, your child will actually love satisfying his own hunger. It’s a beautiful thing!

4. Provide colorful, flavorful variety at each meal

Kids like to try different tastes if we start early. My goal is to rotate fruits, vegetables, starches and proteins as much as I can. I also dress foods with spices and condiments. (My guy loves spicy Dijon mustard! Who knew?) Avoid the easy food ruts like buttered noodles or blueberries, and expose your child to new flavors.

5. Try some props

Let’s face it, kids have the attention span of goldfish; a half hour in the high chair can seem unbearable.
- Try putting that chair in from of a window so they can look out and see birds, cars and life going on.
- You can also put washable books on their high chair so they can look at pictures as they eat peas.
- Even a little car or doll can keep them company.

6. Keep challenging them with new eating behaviors

Towards the end of a meal, reward your child by letting them practice a more grown-up eating behavior. If she’s still eating with her hands, let her practice with a fork or spoon. If he still uses a sippy, let him drink straight from a glass. If she’s still in a booster chair, try dining without one. All of these boost confidence – and can help get a few extra bites in as well.

7. Allow them to be part of the food choices

As your child gets older, let them pick between two food options. Do you want corn tortillas or rice noodles? Do you want strawberries or pears? By allowing your child to pick which food, they’ll feel more in control and excited about eating.

8. Include your child in food prep

Some kids are just picky eaters. Or, a good eater will go through picky stages. When that’s the case, try these 8 tips to get them back on track!Can your child crack an egg? Stir yogurt or butter toast? Let them help as appropriate for their age. Don’t think just because they are 18 months they can’t take part in some way! By just watching me crack and cook an egg, Griffin now loves them!

It is possible to turn a picky eater into a good (or at least decent) one

I know this firsthand, and these tips helped me do it :)

Do you have a picky eater?

I know that many of YOU have your own tips and tricks up your sleeve. How about it? How did you approach the issue? Share with us so we can learn from each other.

About Genevieve

After battling weight, digestive, and immune system issues for years, I know firsthand the harmful effects of conventional life. Through a long road of detox, I discovered the healing power of natural living. This transformation spread into every area of my life - physical, emotional & spiritual. Now I'm on a mission to help other mamas live happier, healthier lives.

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Disclaimer: The statements made here have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure or prevent any disease. This notice is required by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

13 Comments

  1. LB June 28 at 3:10 pm

    I was surprised when my 2yo LOVED dried mango with chile on it (from Trader Joes store)… Now I’m more open to him eating spicier food which I thought wasn’t age appropriate or he couldn’t handle it… This kid loves the tangy and spicy!

  2. Maria June 27 at 11:46 pm

    I teach nutrition workshops for kids, and I have realized that most kids will be more likely to eat a variety of foods or will try new things if they have a hand in the preparation. It might not happen over night, but eventually they will get curious and become less daunted by the food if they are comfortable around it. Teach them to create a plate that looks like a rainbow. Talk about how each color makes their bodies happy and strong. Encourage them to try at least a bite, and continue to do so until they adapt the flavor or texture. If they don’t like it after 7 times, then continue trying with other foods. Consistency and encourage work best – ESP if they are past 3 yrs old.

  3. Alexia January 28 at 9:59 pm

    My 2.5 yo loves to bake! I have taught her to crack and whisk eggs on her own.

  4. Brelynn January 27 at 5:49 pm

    Hi! I was wondering if you have any tips for 4 or 5 year olds? My son refuses everything and doesn’t care enough about food to be bribed or reinforced, he would rather not eat. its so frustrating!

  5. benzinga.com April 19 at 3:02 am

    I am not sure where you are getting your info, but great topic.
    I needs to spend some time learning much more
    or understanding more. Thanks for wonderful
    information I was looking for this information for my mission.

  6. Kayla July 10 at 5:25 pm

    I wish I could agree with parents who say, “they won’t starve themselves”. My little one once refused what was to eat for 4 meals, (dinner, breakfast, lunch, dinner). Then in the middle of the night she woke up vomiting. Apparently, my kid has an iron will.

  7. Chelsea June 20 at 3:37 pm

    I would add to get frustrated, a picky eater will need time to try new things, and don’t go paste the one snack a day. And remember to remind your parents (their grandparents) to follow the rules as well. It took much longer for us because we found that his grandparents were giving him way too many snacks and chocolate milk. :P

  8. stephanie June 20 at 2:39 pm

    lol, yes the challenges. . i have a rule that you have to at least TRY one bite of everything on the plate before you can be excused. anyway, i had made a bean pie- lol- a pie crust filled with pinto and black beans with mashed potatoes on top. i thought to myself that there is NO WAY my girls ( 2 and 4) were going to eat it. so when they came to the table i said i had made “FAIRIE PIE!!!” a secret recipe from the faires themselves. and do you know what happens when you EAT fairie pie? well, you grow wings and fly!! so with each bite my girls wings grew bigger and bigger until we were all flapping around the table FULL OF FAIRIE PIE:)

  9. Jojo June 19 at 12:42 pm

    Thank you for this! I have a preschooler and a 5-month-old. I hate to tell you but it gets so much more difficult as they get older. Surround yourself with like-minded parents and caregivers or else you will be the only one who doesn’t give her kid a hotdog or a bunch of crackers as a meal (or just a bag of fast food). I love your bullet about not letting your kid graze (goldfish are the devil) and including them in prep. As they get older keep reminding them that it is important to try new things and that they may well love something later. Also, hold to your standards. If my kid doesn’t eat much dinner, I do not fill them up on crackers. Your kid won’t starve, REALLY.

    • Genevieve June 19 at 10:11 pm

      Good points! He gets graham crackers at church and they’re like crack cocaine. LOL! When we pick him up from the nursery, he reeks of those things. So, I can see how his environment and friends’ diets will make a big impact. I have friends who also don’t make special meals and if their kid doesn’t want to eat, they go to bed with no dinner. Let’s just say it doesn’t happen often :)

  10. Kelli June 19 at 10:16 am

    This is so helpful! Just what I needed!

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