Toddlers who help prepare dinner may be more likely to eat it.
Unfortunately, picky eating is practically a prerequisite for toddlerhood. Once a child reaches her first birthday, her weight gain slows down and so does her appetite, according to AskDrSears.com. Combine that with the fact that toddlers are too busy to sit still, and you can understand why picky eating is to be expected. Still, while you can't force a toddler to eat, there are several strategies you can try to make that meal you worked so hard to prepare a bit more enticing to your little one.
1Involve your toddler in food shopping and meal prep. With his rapidly growing sense of independence, your toddler is more likely to chow down at dinnertime when he's had a hand in choosing and creating the meal. Next time you're at the supermarket, let him pick out fruits and vegetables, choose a pasta shape or select a flavor of yogurt. Once you're in the kitchen, give him kid-friendly jobs like mixing ingredients, washing grapes or tearing lettuce. Or have him bring you ingredients from the pantry, if he can reach them.
2Offer a variety of foods at every meal. Set a plate of peas in front of your toddler, and she's probably ready to hop right out of her chair. But nestle those peas alongside a scoop of pasta, a slice of cheese, a few strawberries and a cut-up hot dog, and she's more likely to give it a try as she picks her way around the plate. Chances are, there are at least one or two foods that even the pickiest kids will eat, so serve those along with a few other selections. At the very least, she'll become more familiar with the new food and may be more likely to try it in the future.
3Serve dipping sauces with meals. Offering dips is one of the oldest tricks in the book when it comes to getting young kids to eat more; that's because it works. In addition to the perpetually popular ketchup, try guacamole, barbecue sauce, salsa, plain yogurt flavored with herbs, pureed fruits and vegetables, cheese sauce, cottage cheese, pasta sauce or pizza sauce with finger foods.
4Create a cute presentation. When it comes to food, appearance is important to kids. Use fun-shaped cookie cutters to cut up sandwiches, fruits and cheese. Serve up pasta and cereal in brightly colored bowls, arrange the veggies on the plate into a colorful smiley face, or serve snacks in unexpected containers like a measuring cup or a giant soup ladle. Taking an extra minute to create a meal with visual appeal might just mean the difference between your toddler refusing to take a bite and cleaning his plate.