Busy toddlers may not be able to sit down to finish their meal. They may also be afraid to try new foods, or refuse to eat to maintain control of the environment. Here are some strategies that might make family dinners more enjoyable:

Offer small, frequent meals to make sure your child gets all the necessary nutrients, but don’t get overwhelmed by the amount of food.

Serve meals and snacks at the same time of day. Toddlers need routines, and you should expect them to cooperate.

Offer 2-3 food choices at snack and meal times to give your child a sense of control.

Let your child develop food preferences at their own pace. Research shows that some kids need to be exposed to certain foods multiple times before trying to eat them, so be patient!

Resist the urge to prepare your child’s favorite food most of the time, as this will only encourage picky eating.

Schedule snacks between meals so your child eats every four hours or so. This will prevent irritability caused by hunger or low blood sugar.

Make meals a family time. Sit together at the table during meals. Expect your child to do the same. Research shows that eating together as a family has a positive effect on the quality of a child’s diet. It also teaches children to make good food choices in the future.

Turn off the TV! At mealtimes, your child should only focus on eating.

Offer milk at meals and snacks, totaling 16-24 ounces per day. Between meals, provide water. Give your child four ounces of juice per day, but dilute it with water. However, since juices mainly provide empty heat, water is the moisturizing fluid of choice.

Don’t get frustrated. Combine some of these strategies and your child’s fussiness will improve over time.

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