You cannot force your child to eat, so don’t try. The more stressful we make mealtimes, the more likely children are to develop problems.

But you can help by establishing a routine around mealtimes. It can be difficult in a busy family, but even very small changes can be helpful.

For example:

  • Try to have meals in a particular place – ideally at a table
  • Encourage sitting at a table or stable surface so that cups and plates are secure and not wobbly on the top. Being at a table will encourage a good sitting posture too.
  • See this as an opportunity to introduce cutlery, allow little ones an extra spoon to “have a go”, be aware this might get messy but that is okay!
  • Encourage your little one with lot’s of praise “good sitting” “well done for trying” “that’s a good question” etc
  • Involve your toddler in preparation – setting the table, bringing things they can safely carry
  • Have a beginning and an end to mealtimes – say what is happening – “have we all finished? OK, let’s clear up”; “Is everyone ready, let’s start!”
  • Make mealtimes a time for talking and chatting. Try to reduce use of TV and phones at this time, including the adults! If you have older children it can be difficult, but see if you can agree some basic rules with them

If your toddler can’t or won’t eat some food, you can find ideas to help on these pages