It’s hard not to obsess—how much did he have at breakfast? He hasn’t had a vegetable since Tuesday! How can he possibly make it through the day on two crackers and one-third of a string cheese?! Breathe. Here are some gentle reminders to keep handy for when you feel yourself spinning out:
1. There’s a legit reason for her preference for beige food—it’s typically bland (which may remind her of her baby days); it tends to be sweeter; and it’s easier to chew and swallow (think white bread versus seedy whole-grain bread).
2. Kids are neophobic—they have a natural tendency to be afraid of trying new things. They may need to be exposed to a food many times (up to 15 times) before they like it.
3. Is your kid a more adventurous eater at daycare than he is at home? Never under-estimate the power of peer pressure. Invite your kid’s BFF over for dinner—seeing a pal try something new might be just the nudge he needs.
4. Pickiness is part of development. You may have gotten a little too comfortable making your infant’s food choices—and now he’s discovered the word no (and the ability to toss food with purpose). Around 18 to 24 months, he starts to develop tastes and affirm his beliefs. This is about control and independence for him—and patience for you.
5. Kids are generalists. One bad experience with one particular green vegetable can lead them to conclude that all vegetables (or foods, even) that are green must also be trouble.
6. It’s expensive to keep offering fruits and veggies only to have to toss them when she turns her nose up. Try to serve small portions, save her rejects to offer if she complains she’s hungry later, or use the sad broccoli or spinach in an omelette or the browned apples in yogurt or on oatmeal.
7. Keep food and mealtime exciting, fun and light. Try your best not to make the dinner table a place of stress or confrontation.
8. Toddlers often have an erratic appetite—it’s normal for them to eat one good meal out of three. Their appetite fluctuates just like adults’.
9. Expecting kids to sit at the table for too long is unrealistic. For toddlers who prefer to be on the move, start at five minutes and gradually increase from there. Experts agree mealtime shouldn’t go longer than 30 minutes—unless, of course, everyone is having a wonderful time.
10. Your kids are always listening. Try not to tell him, or let him overhear you telling someone else, that he’s picky or he doesn’t eat kiwi. Keep an open mind and don’t label your kid—he just might surprise you.