If you’ve noticed that your toddler isn’t eating as well as he or she used to, it’s probably not a cause for alarm. Between the ages of one and five, it’s normal for children to experience an appetite slump. “As long as your child’s energy level is normal and [he or] she is growing normally, your child’s appetite is most likely normally slowing down,” according to the medical professionals at the Pediatric Center.
If you want to try to jumpstart your toddler’s appetite, here are some suggestions that may help. But don’t be disappointed if your child continues to eat at his own pace.
- Minimize Distractions During Mealtimes
Shut down or remove anything that might distract your child when it’s time to sit down and eat a meal. The focus should be on the food, not on a TV show, another child playing on the floor or the lure of a new toy. If your child learns to associate eating with watching TV or playing, then that’s what he or she will want to do when it’s time to eat, which can result in less time eating.
It’s also helpful if everyone is present at the table throughout the meal. When children or adults leave the table, it’s distracting and may cause your young child to wonder what he or she is missing.
- Add Some Variety to Food Choices
One way you might be able to stimulate your child’s appetite is to provide some variety. For example, if your child is a banana lover but has recently started eating less of them, try incorporating the fruit into a delicious banana bread recipe. Any food your child seems to like but has somewhat lost interest in can be made more enticing by presenting it in a new way.
- Avoid Allowing Your Child to Fill Up on Certain Beverages
If your child is used to drinking juices or milk to his heart’s content, it could decrease his appetite for solid foods. The problem is that the juice or milk can make him feel full and less likely to eat soon after.
Think about it, if you drank your favorite, filling beverages at-will, wouldn’t that decrease your appetite at mealtimes?
- Keep a Careful Eye on Snacks
The same eating principles that apply to you, as an adult, will also apply to your toddler. Imagine if you snacked throughout the day. Would you be ready to eat at your regular mealtimes? Probably not. The same thing applies to your child. If you allow him to snack as he pleases, he most likely won’t be hungry enough to sit down and eat a meal.
And if you aren’t judicious about what he’s snacking on, he could be filling up on things he doesn’t need for his health and growth, such as sugar and preservatives. Manage snacking with healthy, nutritious options timed well between meals to avoid interference with lunch and dinner times. A good rule of thumb is to avoid snacking within two hours of a meal.
- Read Children’s Stories That Include Food
Children love to listen to engrossing stories, so why not read some that include delicious, mouthwatering food? There are plenty of food-themed books to choose from, which can serve as a conversation starter about different types of food and spark your toddler’s interest. You can even ask your child if he would like to try a certain food you read about and then make a trip to the grocery store to get it.
- Lead by Example
If your child sees you eating and enjoying something, he or she may be more likely to try it. Of course, for best results, you’ll want to push foods that you think your child might enjoy, not ones that children typically don’t like, such as veggies that have a more bitter flavor. And don’t expect your child to eat an entire serving of a new food, either — even if she appears to like it. Instead, settle for one or two bites.
- Allow Your Child to Help in the Garden
Your toddler is more likely to eat foods he’s had a hand in growing. Allow him to help you in the garden. Toddlers love to dig in the dirt, so let your child help you plant seeds. He or she will be delighted when a plant starts to grow and even more amazed when it produces something to pick and eat.
Photo by Patrick Fore