How to make a toddler eat better

As parents, we often find ourselves in power struggles with our toddlers, especially when it comes to mealtimes. These battles can lead to frustration for both parents and children. A practical approach to avoid these conflicts is by following the Division of Responsibility in feeding. This method, especially relevant for preschoolers and toddlers over 15-16 months old, helps maintain a healthy and happy feeding environment.

Understanding the Division of Responsibility

The Division of Responsibility in feeding is a concept that emphasizes shared roles between parents and children during mealtimes:

  • Parents/Caregivers: Decide what food is offered, where it is served, and when it is served.
  • Children: Decide how much to eat and whether they want to eat the offered food at all.

This approach helps to avoid the common power struggles at the table, as children at this age start to develop strong opinions about their preferences. By giving children control over how much they eat, we respect their natural ability to regulate their hunger and fullness.

Implementing the Approach

1. Structured Meal Times:
Parents should focus on providing a balanced diet by choosing nutritious foods and setting regular meal and snack times. This structure helps children know what to expect and when to expect it, reducing anxiety around food.

2. Empowering Choices Outside Meal Times:
Toddlers need to feel a sense of control over their lives. Offering them choices in their daily activities can make a significant difference. For example:

  • Let them choose between a blue or green t-shirt.
  • Allow them to decide whether to walk or ride a bicycle to the playground.

These small choices empower children and make them feel they have a say in their lives, balancing the structured nature of meal times.

3. Respecting Hunger and Fullness Cues:
It’s crucial for parents to trust that children know their own hunger and fullness cues. Avoid pressuring your child to eat a certain amount or to finish their plate. Instead, provide a variety of healthy options and let your child decide how much to eat. This fosters a healthy relationship with food and encourages self-regulation.

Benefits of the Division of Responsibility

  1. Reduced Mealtime Struggles:
    By removing the pressure and power struggles over food, mealtimes become more enjoyable for both parents and children.
  2. Fostering Independence:
    Children learn to make decisions and understand their own bodies, which promotes independence and self-confidence.
  3. Healthy Eating Habits:
    Children who are allowed to listen to their hunger cues are more likely to develop healthy eating habits and a positive relationship with food.
  4. Emotional Management:
    Allowing children to make choices throughout the day helps them manage their emotions and feel more in control, reducing overall frustration.

Implementing the Division of Responsibility in feeding can be a game-changer for parents and their toddlers. It not only makes mealtimes less stressful but also supports the development of healthy, independent eaters. Remember, the key is balance: parents provide structure and healthy choices, while children are given the freedom to decide how much to eat. By empowering our children with choices in their daily lives, we can create a harmonious and nurturing environment that fosters growth and happiness.

For personalized assistance with introducing solids or enhancing your child’s eating habits, explore our 1:1 SupportMasterClass Or Meal Guides

Happy feeding!


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