Is there such a thing as toddler table manners?
Lots of parents worry about how their toddler eats when he joins the family at the table. The secret to “civilized” toddler dining is avoiding a battle over what and how much gets eaten.
It also helps to have reasonable expectations for your child’s age. Because toddlers sometimes like to touch as well as taste their food, messy mealtimes are often the norm with toddlers.
How am I supposed to cope with the mess?
It helps if you set an age-appropriate table. Use a bowl that attaches to the table or high-chair to decrease the risk of spills. Try to minimize the amount of clean-up you’ll have to do. Use a bib and keep toddler away from areas and objects that are hard to clean.
Serve only a few bites of food at a time. A smaller quantity of food may be a less tempting tip-over target.
What are some reasonable ground rules for toddler mealtimes?
- Don’t pressure toddler to eat and don’t allow anyone else to either. With 3 meals and 2 snacks daily, your toddler will get enough to eat even if he doesn’t clear his plate.
- Any combination of fingers and dining utensils is acceptable so long as the food is eaten happily.
- Let him eat foods in any order he wishes. That way he will learn that all foods are important.
- Give him food he can manage, and don’t help unless he asks.
- Let toddler leave the table to play when he’s finished even if the rest of the family is not.
What should I do if my toddler refuses to try a new food?
Take “no” for an answer. Toddlers may reject a food simply because it’s new or just because they like to say “no” to you. Take no offense, but continue to offer new foods—even ones he’s turned down before.
Generally, if toddlers are not forced to do something, eventually they become more flexible.
What should I do if my toddler throws his food?
If toddler flings his utensils, bowl, or food, politely, but firmly, correct him before re-setting his table. However, don’t make too big of a deal out of bad behavior. A strong reaction may only make toddler more inclined to seek the same attention again.
What should I do if my toddler plays with his food?
Playing with food is a common toddler pastime. Try to grin and bear some of this natural behavior, which usually disappears around the second birthday.
However, if toddler only seems interested in playing with food and making a mess, and is no longer eating, take that as a sign to end the meal.