This is a formative time in a child’s life – the toddler years are when impressions about food are formed as your child moves into the realm of a mature diet. Keep in mind, though, that toddlers are really still babies in many ways. Remembering that may help you keep a healthy perspective.
New foods are challenges for some toddlers and parents; for other toddlers, new is exciting and fun and they can’t wait to dig in. Regardless of what kind of child you have, you may from time to time need some help in introducing new foods. Here are some tips.
Story Time and Snack Time
Books like Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit feature nibbling raw vegetables. Other books feature interesting food descriptions, too – your local librarian would probably be glad to put together a collection of books featuring various foods. Then you can serve the relevant snack while you read the book. If they can associate it with a neat story and interesting literary character, toddlers may be less hesitant to try the new foods featured in the book.
Have a Stuffed Animal for Dinner
Let your toddler bring a stuffed animal “guest” to the table on a special night when you’re going to try something new. Let your toddler “feed” the new food to the stuffed animal, and let the toy join in with the dinner conversation by “asking” it how the food looks, tastes, and so forth.
Your toddler may begin to associate new foods with fun exceptions, like bringing a toy to the table (if she asks if the animal can join again, tell her it may join her the next time she tries a new food). This also gives your toddler the opportunity to express herself through the toy; it takes some of the “pressure” off when trying a new food.
You don’t have to go all-out, but making new foods into fun shapes can attract toddlers who might otherwise shun the food. Use a little nut butter or cream cheese to “glue” fruits together in attractive designs (maybe a pineapple ring with berries on it to make a wreath, or a broccoli “forest” held upright on a plate with blobs of cream cheese).
If you’ve never tried Bento, now is a great time! Toddlers enjoy the fun and pretty shapes you can make with food using the Bento method. Look online for interesting Bento ideas.
No Big Deal
Don’t worry if your toddler doesn’t respond positively to a new food. Your worry and anger will only make mealtime more tense, and make your toddler clam up even more the next time, say experts. Do praise your toddler for trying a food, but keep it low-key.