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It is normal for toddlers (children between one and three years) to be finicky with their food. They may like a particular food one day and not like it the next, eat a small amount of food at some meals and even not eat anything at another meal.

A toddler that will eat only a narrow variety of foods, insists on the same foods again and again and gets upset when offered a new food is a fussy eater.

Parents often want help to ‘get their child to eat’. However, there is no way to ‘get a child to eat’ if they don’t want to. Pressuring or tricking or feeding your child doesn’t help establish healthy, age-appropriate eating habits

Rather, use Ellyn Satter’s  Division of Responsibility in Feeding to take the stress out of feeding your child:

  • The parent is responsible for the what, when, where
  • The child is responsible for the how much and whether

Parent’s feeding jobs:

  • Choose and prepare foods
  • Provide regular meals including morning and afternoon tea
  • Not to let children graze on food and drinks between meal and snack time
  • Let children grow up to have the bodes that is right for them

Child’s feeding jobs:

  • Children will eat the amount they need
  • They will learn to eat what their parents eat
  • They will grow predictably
  • They will learn to behave at the table

Instead of focusing on how much and whether your child is eating, focus on anything other than food eg what did you do today?. If you are calm and matter-of-fact at the table, your child can learn to be calm and polite about refusing food. For example, teach your child that it is OK to say ‘No thanks, I don’t want any’ rather than ‘that’s yukky’ or throwing the plate or the food.

Familyfoodworks is run by Eve Reed, a paediatric dietitian. For more information about Eve and Familyfoodworks, please visit