As a first-time parent, you may have thought that the most challenging part of parenting would be the newborn stage. Little did you realize the trials you would face as you enter the toddler years. Little personalities coupled with big emotions and an inability to express themselves makes it feel like you are having a conversation in an exotic language. But while our toddlers may not be able to speak to us (yet), if we pay attention, they are particularly good at communicating, especially when it comes to their eating habits.
As babies become toddlers the parenting role of nourishing growing tummies continues – it’s still about the need to provide tasty, healthy meals and snacks that are nourishing, filling and simple to get into little people. With growing appetites comes growing independence and it’s exciting and liberating when little people can eat and enjoy snacks and meals by themselves.
It is normal to be a picky eater
It helps to know that you are not alone in the dinnertime struggles with your toddler. According to research, fussy eating is quite common in young children, peaking at 20 months and gradually fading away by 5 – 8 years of age. This frustrating toddler habit is also about the need to express their independence as they figure out this new and exciting world. Like all things, this too shall pass.
Great news for parents of picky eaters, there is a new Squish 200ml 100% fruit and veg puree offering, available in 6 delicious flavours specially made for growing kids with growing appetites. The Squish purees are preservative-free, colourant free, flavourant free with no added starch and come in a convenient pouch, perfect for meal-times, snack-times or on-the-go.
“My appetite is never the same”
Your child may eat breakfast like a king yet they will barely taste their dinner. It is very normal for your toddler’s appetite to change from day to day, and even from meal to meal. Every toddler is different. Some wake up very hungry to eat a lot at breakfast, while others have bigger appetites at dinner when eating with the family.
Teething babies and toddlers are often not extremely interested in food, while growth spurts may mean you cannot keep up with what is on offer. Be guided by the interest your toddler expresses in food rather than assuming they will eat the same amount at each mealtime.
“I’ll tell you when I am full”
Babies and toddlers are particularly good at listening to their bodies and eating when hungry and stopping when full, unlike adults. Pay attention and you will quickly learn when your little one has had enough to eat. The pace of eating slows down and your toddler will purse their lips closed. They may turn their head in defiance, push food away, and even throw the food to the floor. If you don’t notice these initial signs, your toddler might get rather irritable and demand to leave the dinner table or exit the feeding chair.
“Please can I feed myself”
With good intentions, many parents will feed their toddlers at mealtimes. However, stepping back and letting your toddler feed themselves is a vital part of their development. The practice of self-feeding stimulates hand-eye coordination and is also important to encourage them to learn to listen to their fullness cues.
From about 8 – 9 months you can start offering your baby age-appropriate finger foods like scrambled egg, small soft chunks of butternut, or grated cheese, and toddler-friendly utensils can be used from 15 – 18 months. If you are nervous, serve some meals that allow your toddler to eat on their own and others that you guide.