How To Get a Picky Toddler To Eat: 9 Tips!

10 mins read
how to get a picky toddler to eat

It’s finally arrived; every parent’s least favorite time. The baby feeding time when you have to battle with your little one just to get them to take a few bites of food.

Commonly known as the “picky eater” phase, this is when your toddler seems to turn their nose up at anything and everything you put in front of them. You’ve tried every type of food, every cooking method, and even bribery, but nothing seems to work.

If you’re struggling to get your picky eater toddler to eat, don’t worry, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that up to 25% of toddlers go through a picky eater phase. 

The good news is that you can use some effective tips and tricks to encourage your toddler to eat. Here are some effective tips on how to get a picky toddler to eat:

Tip 1: Offer a Variety of Foods

One of the best ways to get your picky eater to try new foods is to offer various options. Try not to get stuck in a rut of repeatedly offering the same few foods. Instead, mix things up and offer a variety of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and grains.

You can also try different cooking methods and flavors to make foods more appealing. For example, you could roast vegetables instead of boiling them or add some herbs and spices to plain chicken.

Tip 2: Let Them Play with Their Food

Against your better judgment, you may need to let your toddler play with their food before they eat it. Now, we’re not saying you should let them turn the dining room into a food-fight battlefield.

But letting them touch and explore their food can help them become more familiar with it and less afraid to eat it. This works because many toddlers are hesitant to try new foods because they’re afraid of the unknown.

Allowing them to play with their food can help reduce this fear and make them more likely to try it. Just be sure to supervise them closely and have a wet cloth or napkin on hand to clean up any messes.

You can also try using fun plates and utensils to make mealtime more exciting for your toddler. Let them use their hands, fingers, or small spoons to eat. You can even let them use their food as paint to create a work of art!

Tip 3: Let Them Help in the Kitchen

Sometimes, we must resort to trickery to get our picky eaters to try new foods. And what better way to do that than by involving them in the cooking process?

Letting your toddler help you in the kitchen is a great way to get them interested in trying new foods. Let them wash vegetables, mix ingredients, or use cookie cutters to shape food.

Not only will this make mealtime more fun for them, but it will also give them a sense of pride and accomplishment when they sit down to eat the food they helped prepare. In fact, they may be so proud of their creation that they’ll be more likely to try it!

Tip 4: Serve Smaller Portions

One reason that’s often cited for why toddlers are picky eaters is that they’re simply full. When you consider how small their stomachs are, it’s not surprising that they can’t eat large meals.

To avoid overfilling your toddler’s tummy, try serving smaller portions. Put a few bites of food on their plate instead of a heaping mound. You can always give them more if they’re still hungry.

This will also help prevent mealtime battles because your toddler won’t feel like they have to eat everything on their plate.

Tip 5: Eat Together as a Family

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It’s been shown that children who eat meals with their families are more likely to have healthier diets. They’re also less likely to become overweight or obese.

So, if you want your picky eater to try new foods, one of the best things you can do is eat together as a family. When children see their parents and siblings eating healthy foods, they’re more likely to want to try them too.

Eating together also gives you a chance to model healthy eating habits and show your child how much you enjoy eating nutritious foods. For example, you can explain how a particular food is grown or how it benefits your body.

You can also use this time to talk about your day and bond with your child. Just be sure not to pressure them into trying new foods or force them to eat more than they want.

Tip 6: Don’t feed them too often

If you’re constantly offering your toddler snacks, they may not be hungry enough to eat a proper meal. So, one of the best ways how to get a picky toddler to eat is to space out their meals and snacks throughout the day.

This will help them build up an appetite for their next meal and make them more likely to try new foods. It will also prevent them from becoming obese or developing diabetes later in life.

To ensure your toddler is getting enough to eat, you can offer them three meals and two snacks daily. Just be sure to offer healthy foods that are high in nutrients and low in sugar.

Tip 7: Don’t bring toys to the table

Bringing along baby toys to the table won’t help your toddler focus on their food. In fact, it will only make them more likely to play with their food and create a mess.

If you want your child to eat their meal, leave the toys in the other room and only bring them out once they’re finished eating. If they’re still not interested in their food, you can try offering them a small toy or sticker as a reward for eating.

Tip 8: Don’t pay attention to their picky eating

Parents, out of frustration, often unintentionally turn mealtimes into a battle of wills by paying too much attention to their child’s picky eating. This can be in the form of cajoling, bribing, or even pleading. Unfortunately, this only makes the problem worse.

Paying attention to your toddler’s picky eating behaviors will only reinforce them. So, it’s important to ignore the behavior and instead focus on teaching your child healthy eating habits.

You can distract your toddler with conversation or fun activities if you need to. Just be sure not to make a big deal about their picky eating.

Tip 9: Don’t use scare tactics

Some parents try to scare their children into eating their food by telling them stories about starving children in other parts of the world or even that aliens will come to get them if they don’t eat their vegetables.

This is not only ineffective, but it can also cause your child to develop a fear of food. So, instead of using scare tactics, try to focus on the positive aspects of healthy eating.

For example, you can explain how eating their vegetables will make them big and strong, like their favorite superhero. You can also tell them how eating healthy foods will help them become doctors or teachers.


Mealtime should be a happy and enjoyable experience for you and your child. So, try not to make it into a battle.

Instead, focus on teaching your child healthy eating habits and modeling these behaviors yourself. With a little patience and perseverance, you’ll eventually get your picky eater to try new foods. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. So, take your time and enjoy the journey.

Cynthia Harper

I’m Cynthia Harper, along with my two wonderful kids, Gian and Nellie, we’re living our best life here at the Evergreen State of Washington! And together, we are Health Fit Advice! I’ve dedicated myself to giving my kids the best life, and through that dedication, I learned about everything health under the sun!

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