5 Ways To Help Fussy Toddlers Love Mealtime

By Kangaroo Spotting

Enjoying a fruit snack


You never know how one conversation with someone can change your life.

After meeting Nicole Wu of ‘Learn to Eat. Love to Eat.’ at a birthday party, the kitchen table in our home turned from battlefield to picnic blanket.

When I met Nicole, a typical meal-scene at home started with me sternly ‘suggesting’ eating food, then would escalate to bribes and threats. A broken mother, I would eventually resort to begging or guilt-tripping which made me feel like a hypocrite. 

Why wouldn’t my child eat? I swore I would never make ‘alternative meals’ (almost as bad as ‘alternative facts’) but found myself angrily slapping together cheese sandwiches and globbing yogurt into bowls.

It took an open mind, a few weeks, and soon I went from having a kid who only ate white things to one who scarfs raw veggies on the reg. Best of all, my stress levels plummeted and I could enjoy meals too!

Nicole helped me understand that my daughter ‘eats with her eyes.’

Nicole helped me understand that my daughter ‘eats with her eyes.’

Immediately I implemented all of the tips I remembered from my convo with Nicole and slowly dinnertime stress dissipated. We had calm…pleasantness…and eventually, eating (and fist-pumping).

Nicole and I bonded over a mutual passion for helping mothers and families. I told her about my blog and she told me about her career as a speech pathologist, I had no idea that speech pathologists dealt with fussy eating but it makes sense- it’s all about the mouth skills. Werd.

Nicole and her colleague Rachel are both busy Mums who wanted to use their knowledge and experience to develop workshops to teach parents how to get their picky eaters to not only eat, but to LOVE eating.

No more making separate kid meals. No more battles. No more stress. And most importantly we can align our kids with a lifetime of healthy eating habits.

Get Rid Of Fussy Eating

I wanted to learn more about her approach so Nicole invited me to a workshop. After attending I realised that though we already had decent results with Lavinia, there was room to improve. I took notes furiously!

As busy, working Mums themselves, Nicole and Rachel’s suggestions are practical and simple. For me, the biggest game-changer was number five.

Here Are Five Basic Tips To Help Your Child Learn And Love To Eat.

1. Eat With Your Child.

This one is self-explanatory. Eating is social time and food should be shared.

2. Take The Pressure Off.

Offer at least one food you know they like and anything else they eat is a bonus. It’s our job as parents to offer nutritious food and it’s the child’s job to eat. Let them decide what to put in their mouths. Speaking of mouths, parents: ZIP YOURS. Don’t make food the focus of conversation (it’s really hard but completely worth it).

3. Keep Mealtimes Relaxed And Interesting.

Make meals a time to be with the whole family. Turn off TV, put the phones away. Make the table THE MOST INTERESTING PLACE TO BE. Kids will eventually come to the party. We started playing the game “What was your favourite part of the day?” at dinner. The answers are usually memorable.

4. Encourage Food Interaction.

‘Trying’ new foods does not necessarily mean eating them straight away. Encourage children to interact with the food until they become comfortable and familiar with it. Start with the food near or on their plate. Encourage them to touch the food with their hands or taste with their tongue. Serve meals family style at the table and get your child to serve him or herself. This will give them confidence and autonomy.

5. Redefine What Success Looks Like.

It may take a while and several interactions (maybe more than several) with new foods before your child eats them. Maybe success means they touched a tomato, or licked a spoonful of curry. Now I consider mealtime a success if we have an enjoyable, stress-free meal and if we’ve made some sort of progress with a new food.

I feel so much better now, and when Mama feels better, so will the whole fam bam.

For more specific advice on serving meals, snacks, and personalised tips, head to the Learn to Eat. Love to Eat. website, check out their Facebook Page or better yet attend a workshop in person. I really hope they do an online course someday to reach even more parents!

In the workshops you will learn how to:

  • reduce stress, worry, and frustration from mealtimes.
  • manage common mealtime issues (eg food refusal, leaving the table, bargaining).
  • encourage your child to eat a variety of nutritious food. 

You can even arrange a private workshop with your parent’s group.

Learn to Eat. Love to Eat. also have a workshop for babies- introducing babies to solids. I can’t believe I’m back there again, but alas. It would have been great to have this knowledge before the eating battles began!

Click here to find more info on workshops near you

Bon Appetit!

This post was republished with permission from Dawn Rieniets’  blog Kangaroo Spotting, you can read the original post here, and follow Dawn on Facebook and Instagram


Nicole Wu