The Toddler Guide To Food by Joanne Mallon
Parenting a toddler is full of challenges and for some this can often include issues around food. Did you ever wish another parent could tell you what they wish someone had told them? Well read on, because we are about to share an extract from the chapter on fussy eaters from Joanne Mallon’s new book Toddlers: an instruction manual. A guide to surviving the years one to four (written by parents, for parents).
If you’ve got a faddy eater on your hands, at least you’re not alone. When toddlerdom strikes and children learn to say no, fussy eating is at its height. Your compliant little baby who opened his mouth obediently like a bird when offered milk or mushed up food may one day morph into the toddler who clamps his mouth shut and refuses to try anything he doesn’t recognise.
Why do toddlers refuse food?
The calorie needs of a toddler are very different to that of a baby. If you think about how much a baby grows in the first year of its life, from freshly hatched newborn to strong and sturdy nearly-toddler, you can see that it’s inevitably going to take a lot of fuel to make that happen. But their rate of growth then slows down and is less consistent from around 12 months onwards. On the other hand, a toddler is much more mobile than a baby, and is going to need to power all that fizziness and moving about.
So you may find that your child’s appetite goes in fits and spurts just like their growth and activity pattern. Some toddlers seem to go for days existing on only fresh air and dried up crisps off the floor, then launch into three course meals with abandon.
Don’t panic if it looks like your toddler isn’t eating much. Look at the overall picture to get a sense of whether your child is getting the nutrition they need.
• Do they have enough energy for play?
• Do they sleep well, or at least as well as they ever have? If they wake up in the night, are they hungry?
• Does their skin look healthy and bright?
• Are their bowel movements regular and normal (no loose stools or constipation)?
• Are they prone to illness?
A toddler’s appetite may also be affected by teething – a sore, gummy mouth would put anyone off their dinner.
What’s the recipe for a fuss pot
There’s no real rhyme or reason as to why some children get fussier about food than others, and it certainly doesn’t make you a bad parent if you find you have a food avoider on your hands.
Neither does it make you a better parent if your child’s an omnivore who’s always happy to try new things. Two children brought up in the same household by the same parents could have entirely different approaches to food.
That said, if, deep down, you know that your own approach to food and trying new things is less than positive, then don’t be surprised if your child picks up on this. And if that’s the case, then the place to start making improvements is within your own attitudes rather than your child’s. Be honest – does your child see you eating a varied, balanced diet? Are you up for new food experiences, even if it’s something you don’t expect to like? Does all the family regularly share meals together? Sometimes the solution to fussy eating lies not with the child but with the parent.
Extracted from Toddlers: An Instruction Manual by Joanne Mallon (Nell James Publishers £7.99) Joanne Mallon is a freelance parenting journalist, a life and career coach and a parent to two. Part of the royalties from the book will be donated to Home-Start, one of the UK’s leading family support charities.