Tips For When Toddlers Refuse To Eat

Making sure that toddlers get enough nutritious food daily can be difficult for some. This is because toddlers are waiting to assert their independence and not eat if they do not care to, have taste buds that have changed overnight, or may decide that the texture of food is not to their liking. There are a number of reasons that toddlers decide to take mealtime off of their daily schedule. And when the time comes that toddlers refuse to eat, there are things that parents can do to tempt them to ensure that happy bellies are had.

Just when parents thought that they had mealtimes figured out for their little ones, toddlers throw a wrench into the works by deciding not to eat. This can be stressful for parents because, without the proper nutrition, toddlers will not grow and thrive. Fortunately, there are solutions to most eating problems for toddlers. And because of this, there generally is no reason for parents to stress if their kiddos are choosing not to eat as much for a meal or two.

RELATED: How Many Snacks Should Toddlers Eat Per Day?

Here are things to do when toddlers refuse to eat.


10 Make Portion Size Smaller

When parents want their toddlers to have variety in their food, they put too big of a serving on their tray. This can cause toddlers to become overwhelmed with how much food is in front of them. And instead of eating some of it, they will choose to eat none of the food.

According to Is This Normal, by giving toddlers less to start with at mealtime, there will be less waste. It is easy to offer more if little ones still appear hungry. But smaller portions may be all toddlers need to start their appetites back up again.

9 Take Spice Out Of Food

While it is good to get toddlers used to a variety of flavors, Sometimes food can be overwhelming with spice. Even if the spice is just adding flavor versus heat to the food, it can be too much. And when this happens, toddlers will not eat.

If there has been a lot of spice added to food as of late, present toddlers with a bland meal to see if they are willing to eat. It could just be that their taste buds are overwhelmed and need a reset on their journey of trying new flavors and textures.

8 Try Different Food

Overnight, a favorite food can turn into one that toddlers never want on their trays again. Instead of pushing the issue and making toddlers eat something they no longer enjoy, try different foods. This way, their pallets will try new flavors, which is beneficial for eating a variety of foods. And, in the future, the food that made its way to the “no” list may just return as a favorite once again.

7 Offer Utensils

When toddlers want to be independent, eating with their hands may not be enough. As such, offer toddlers utensils and see if their appetites return.

According to What To Expect, between 10 and 12 months of age, toddlers are ready to use spoons and forks. As such, give them the opportunity to eat their food with them. It will not only be fun for the little ones but work on their motor skills as well.

6 Eat Together As A Family

Toddlers may feel like they are missing out on the action if they are eating on their own while the rest of the family goes about their activities. As such, eat dinner together as a family so that toddlers are able to focus on their food.

According to MU Health Care, when toddlers are at the table with their families for meals, not only are they more apt to focus on eating, but they are more willing to try a variety of foods as well. This is because toddlers see their families eat food and enjoy it, they want to try what looks good as well. As such, pallets are being expanded and good meals are being eaten when everyone comes together as a family for mealtime.

5 Get Toddlers On A Schedule

When mealtimes are at the same time every day, toddlers’ systems get on a schedule. This means that toddlers will be hungry at the same time daily on cue. As such, toddlers will be less apt to fight eating and everyone will enjoy mealtime more as a result.

4 Avoid Grazing If Possible

Snacks are fine if toddlers are really hungry in between mealtimes. But, when snacking becomes the main way that toddlers get their nutrition, they are not going to want to eat when meals are prepared.

To keep toddlers from grazing, offer them food until they appear satiated at mealtimes. Then, if they are hungry, a small snack can be had at different times of the day. Snacks should be small, however, to not fill toddlers to the point where they do not want to eat at designated mealtimes.

3 Eat In The Same Place

Eating in the same place for meals helps toddlers transition from one activity to the next. This will help little ones to focus on eating versus having toys around them to distract them. And when this is done, toddlers will be less likely to refuse a meal.

2 Make Messiness Part Of Mealtime

Getting messy is part of eating for toddlers. As such, parents should let them get into their food to help them eat a proper meal.

According to, messy eating helps toddlers “learn about food.” This is because they get to check out the different textures with their fingers and mouths. They get to see what happens when food is dropped or even tossed in the room.

This is a good sign, according to the publication, because it is part of toddlers’ development. Therefore, the more of a mess that toddlers make while eating, the more of a meal will be eaten. And this is a win for parents.

1 Do Not Stress

At the end of the day, toddlers may just not need as much nutrition from one meal to the next. Therefore, if toddlers go a few days eating just a little, parents should not stress. Most likely, they will come around and eat more than expected, making up for lost meals and everything will be back on track when it comes to eating in no time.

Source: Is This Normal, What To Expect, MU Healthcare,

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