{Raising Tots} 10 Creative Ways to Get Your Picky Toddler to Eat

Raising Toddlers

This is week we are excited to welcome Mari from Inspired By Family Magazine as this weeks guest for {Raising Tots} Mom to Mom Parenting Series. She is sharing 10 creative ways to get your picky toddler to eat. Read below for her great tips.



How fun that I get to meet all of Brittany’s readers and share a little about our toddler journey through this fabulous series, Raising Tots. Sometimes being a mom can be lonely and overwhelming so this is a great place to come and feel encouraged and understood. My name is Mari Hernandez-Tuten and I am over at Inspired by Family. We are a family friendly online e-zine with a quarterly digital FREE publication with the desire to encourage you as a family and/0r individual to live, laugh, grow, create and enjoy life!

Now onto creative ways to get your toddler to eat. I had no idea what lied ahead. It was late at night and my adorably little baby once again was going through his I don’t want to eat phases. I sat there in the dark room with a bottle in my hand, exhausted and at my wits end. Suddenly I spotted this cheap little 4th of July Star flashlights that make this noise and lights up. Just like star wands are supposed to be, magical, he did start to drink forgetting about his tantrum. From that point on he has always been a fickle eater. He just decides that I am not going to eat today and he will do everything in his will to choose not to eat. Even though, those couple of days were awful it helped me realize the value of distraction because we had a fickle eater. Back to the light, he immediately ate as soon as I turned that that little magical star wand.

We have used most of these tips below and to be honest, it could totally work at one meal and not in the other so we are constantly looking for ways to get our little toddler to eat. These tips provide a distraction and little ones are easily distracted. Also, the goal is to make the eating experience more enjoyable by doing something they would consider fun. I suggest that you are firm on the stance that you take. So if you decide “I am going to present my child with this food and they have to take 3 bites then stick to it.” Don’t let them off the hook with 2 bites.

Creative Ways to Get Your Toddler to Eat

1. Singing. I know some of you are thinking “but it doesn’t sound pretty.” Let me tell you I can’t sing a single note in tune but I have always sang to my kids and they loved it until about 6 years of age, ha. Find cute little rhymes or songs that you can enjoy while eating. If you have a cd play it and sing along with it. I have made up my own when I am in a hurry.

2. Play. Let them “play” with their food. Yes, you read that right. I am not talking about slinging food across the table but let them thoroughly experience it before you try to feed them. If they are old enough to feed themselves let them get dirty and messy as they miss their mouth and touch their hair and face with those dirty little pudgy hands. Another fun way to play with food is making these personalized plates and letting them make their own version of mommy or daddy. You can find the tutorial here.

3. Persistence. Research shows it can take up to 15 tries before a child will accept a new food. Most moms give up and they don’t give it to them again after a few tries, don’t stop. Try again and again and 13 more times to help them gain a like/preference for the food.

4. Timing. Figure out when your child is actually hungry. They are most likely to eat a bit more if you feed them when they are hungry. I would still encourage to stick to schedule so you don’t find yourself feeding your child all day. Don’t give them a snack and then expect them to eat their lunch. Their tummies don’t hold a lot so the little snack might just ruin that next meal.

5. Distractions. I know that some of you are thinking I don’t want my child to get used to this one thing in order to eat but my 5 year old who was once that picky eater I shared above doesn’t expect to watch his favorite nursery rhyme on Youtube. I do want to clarify this was not our “go to” tip, we changed up all of these tips at different meals. We did not plop him down in front of the screen every meal. We used other distractions like making total fools out of ourselves. Seriously, I was always thankful that I didn’t have an audience as I made a total fool of myself singing in a high pitch voice jumping up and down as I tried to slide the fork in his mouth or other things I won’t mention here.

6. Games. We made up airplane games, racing games, up, down, in and out games to make this time more enjoyable and also to create a distraction. I would just hold a spoon of food and say the train is going through the tunnel and over the mountains and down by the river. Oh wait, another tunnel (at this point the spoon is pointing towards his mouth) hurry open the tunnel the train is coming. Whew, so glad the train didn’t crash.

7. Praise. Give them lots of praise for every bite. For example: This is going to make you so strong. You’re such a good little eater. I am so proud of you for taking this bite even though you aren’t so sure about it….

8. Little Helpers. When possible let them help you make it or serve it.

9. Positive consequences. I use this all of the time and it works for one child but not so much for the other. I tell him “if you can finish half this sandwich you will get that frozen yogurt pop or fruit (it’s like dessest for our boys)”. My other son is motivated by negative consequences. So I say to him ” if you don’t eat half the sandwich you won’t get that frozen pop.” I know, the same thing is being said, just posed differently for their little personalities.

10. 2 Utensils. Our kids went through a “I can feed myself and don’t you dare try to help” phase. So what we did was place his bowl and utensils in front of him and I would have one for myself. While he attempted to feed himself with his own fork, I would also feed him with another fork. As I mentioned above if they don’t want utensils then let them pick up their food with their hands, really it’s okay, just use a big bib.


A big thanks to Mari from Inspired By Family Magazine for these great tips! For more great resources on raising toddlers head over to our {Raising Tots} page!

What are your tips for feeding picky eaters?

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  1. says

    One thing I learned was that my son ate (and still does at 8 yrs) better if he had smaller portions to begin with. Huge portions on an adult sized plate overwhelm him and then he won’t even eat at all. Tiny, almost half portions on a small plate or saucer are much better. He might have to ask for seconds or thirds, but he ends up eating more in the long run. (Now if I could only convince my mother-in-law of this).

    • Brittany says

      Thanks for sharing. I think that giving my daughter smaller portions would also help her be less inclined to throw food on the ground.

  2. Shawna says

    Our son has a sensory processing disorder and we were encouraged to have him allow it on his plate first, then encourage him to touch it and feel it in his hands. THen we would ask him to lick it (taste) and then take a nibble. Oftentimes he would end up eating the food. But not always, he has certain things that he will just not touch.

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