How to Encourage Your Toddler to Eat his Dinner

Once again your toddler’s plate sits at the table just as full as it was when you put it down. He sits at the table kicking his legs impatiently while the rest of the family eats the lasagna you spent hours slaving over a stove to prepare. You know it’s going to be yet another night of wasted food and frustration. If you’re tired of the power struggle every night at the table with your 2-year-old, take steps to encourage your toddler to eat his dinner.

Portion Sizes

Keep your toddler’s portion sizes suitable for his size. A typical toddler-size portion of food is the size of your fist, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Plates that have too much food on them can overwhelm your toddler. He might feel that he isn’t able to eat spoon-sized portions and decide that he’s just not going to eat at all.

Avoid Negotiation

Don’t negotiate with your toddler to encourage him to eat. It might be tempting to promise that he can watch an hour of cartoons if he just eats a few bites, but that continues the power struggle and will create a cycle of bargaining that is difficult to break in the future. A little bit of coaxing doesn’t hurt to encourage him to try a bite or two, but don’t bargain your way through the entire meal.

Eat Together

Toddlers model behavior by example. Your toddler will be more willing to eat his dinner if he sees everyone else in the family eating too. Eat meals together at the table with no other distractions. Don’t eat in front of the TV or use your cell phone during meals. Your toddler will be more willing to focus on eating his dinner without outside influences. Make dinner time a time to tell your husband about how your toddler recognized his shapes today or is able to recite the alphabet. This also allows him to get involved in the conversation and feel included in family time, which results in better overall behavior.

Let Him Feed Himself

Toddlers are trying to learn independence and want to be able to do everything on their own, even if they need a bit of assistance. Don’t try to feed your toddler his dinner. Cut everything into bite-sized portions before serving him and let him decide what to eat on his plate on his own. Don’t pressure him to eat one food over another.  While it might be messy to watch him get spaghetti all over his face and floor as he skips the fork in favor of his hands, don’t stress over it. He is eating and you can always clean it up later.

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