Gentle Ways to Encourage Your Toddler to Eat

Of top priority in our family is that we keep intact our son’s healthy relationship with food.  This comes as a result of fully turning over my own relationship with food about 5 years ago.  After doing much research after my son was born, we decided to introduce solids to him via the Baby Led Weaning method.  I don’t know any different, but this method was quite successful for us!  It’s internal logic also seems undeniable.

All this being said, our son is in general a great eater, so no, I haven’t been in the ‘trenches’ of trying to get him to eat just something.  Is it nature or nuture?  Probably undeniable that it’s a little of both.

None-the-less, lately I’ve been finding myself searching for strategies to encourage him to eat.  Aside from extreme patience (sometimes he can just be a slow eater), and also always remembering to TRUST my son and his body above all else, I have found these strategies to work.  May you find some help in them if you’re struggling.

1. Tooth picks.  Yes, you may think it potentially dangerous or just plain silly, but if his snack or meal is ‘pierceable’, I will give my son a toothpick to pierce his food.  Most of the time it will be gobbled up in a matter of minutes.

2. Be Creative with his Plate/Bowl.  If it comes down to it, I will serve food to my son in the strangest of dishes. Tea cups, egg cups, jars, mugs, glasses, just about anything can do the trick and help him think what he’s eating is SUPER exciting.

3. Vary the Utencils.  If anything is liquid, I will 100% of the time give my son a straw.  Use stainless steel to help the environment and also for cleanliness!  He slurps up soup and broth when he’s sick, and also it helps him to drink his tinctures in juice (which can be really hard).  Also giving him big forks/spoons, or other smaller utencils can make things fun, just look for things around the house.

4. Dip.  What kid doesn’t like to dip??  Just make sure the dip itself is healthy and not ‘addictive’ (full of sugar).  Depending on what he’s eating, we love to put almond (or other nut/seed) butter, honey, mustard, vegan mayo and homemade ketchup.  If he’s having soup, he dips his rice cakes or toast fingers in the soup, often pretending they are different kinds of boats or even people going swimming.  Sprinkling can also be a ton of fun.  We always have nutritional yeast in the house and my son is obsessed with it.  He loves eating it on anything and it’s so good for you.

5. Explore Your Imagination.  At two, a serious time of creativity and imagination development, I’m always astounded at how my son dreams up what he’s eating.  He will say ‘bunny’ or ‘cow’ or ’emu’, and I will always draw it out a little more to get another few mouthfuls in!  Our favourite lately is pretending the spoon is a gondola (something we saw on our NYC trip) and well, this is just incredibly exciting as it tick-ticks down slowly into his mouth.

A last note on gentle encouragement for eating – remember to try and always trust your child.  Just because he or she is not eating to your expectations, doesn’t mean he or she is a ‘bad eater’.  Trusting your child and trusting her tummy will help to maintain her positive relationship with food.  I was met with this last week when my son didn’t eat much for dinner and then after his bath he had a HUGE bowel movement!  It was no wonder – he couldn’t fit anything else inside his body!  We all go through times of our lives or times in our hormone cycles when we eat less and eat more.  And for children this can be true when they’re going through a developmental leap.  It’s easy to be so focused in on our children and their food consumption that we lose sight of the greater picture.

All the best in supporting your child’s positive relationship with food!  It is a relationship they will have for the rest of their lives.



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