I don’t know if it’s genetics, personality, or something I did wrong with baby-led weaning, but Gray isn’t “in” to food the way I hoped he would be.  Indeed, some of his favorite foods are very healthy (lentils, eggs, any fruit, spinach, raw carrots and bell peppers are his current favorites), but to me his palate seems limited, and he is reluctant to eat anything “assembled”–sandwiches, casseroles, soup; he prefers finger foods.  Some days he eats so little that I really do not know how he has such boundless energy.

Five Changes I Made to Help My Toddler Eat Better

So last month I set out to learn more about how I can help him become a “good” eater.  I put quotes around good because it’s a pretty subjective term.  My hopes for him are pretty simple in theory: to enjoy eating a variety of healthy foods, and to retain his inborn ability to regulate his intake.  At this age, table manners are not a top priority, though I would like for him to be able to sit in his high chair for the duration of dinner (some nights this is a struggle).

As is my style, I went on a bit of a reading bender.

Getting Your Toddler to Eat

Enter: five books promising to teach me how to get my kid to eat well.  You can read about each book on Daily Mom, but here are some of the decisions I made after my crash course:

  • Each author has a slightly different approach, but BY FAR, the overarching theme is:  do not get into a power struggle.  Do not negotiate.  Do not cajole.  Do not bribe.  This is SO.  DIFFICULT.  Though I have never negotiated at the table, I have often encouraged (err, begged), and found that the more I want G to eat, the less he eats.  I am working very hard to reduce this behavior in myself.  Though I hate to disrupt family dinners, I sometimes have to leave the table in order to do this.  Matthew is much better at letting G eat uninterrupted.
  • Have set meal and snack times and discourage eating outside of those times.  This can be difficult for us when we go to the gym or a play date where they give out snacks, but I am learning to incorporate those into his eating schedule.  Nowadays, we offer meals/snacks to G four times a day: when he wakes up, before nap, after nap, and at dinner time.  His morning meal is the most relaxed, as he wakes up early, so he starts eating with Matthew and usually continues to nibble with me later in the morning.  I cut him off at 9am.    
  • Offer foods I know he likes mixed with those he is learning to like.  Because I hate seeing him reject food, I fell into only offering him his favorite foods for a while.  This obviously wasn’t helping him expand his palate.  Now I include at least one food that will encourage him to get out of his comfort zone.  It helps when I silently don’t expect him to eat it.  He’s been surprising me lately with what he will eat!
  • Give him some choices during mealtime (or at least the appearance of them).  This is the time when toddlers are trying to establish their autonomy, so I try to offer options all day, but especially around meals, to make the whole experience more positive.  Little things like letting him choose his own fork, his own plate, fill his water cup (with close supervision!), and climb into his high chair himself have all helped mealtimes go more smoothly.  Sometimes we will also let him choose one of his foods, usually which fruit he wants for dessert, from two options.  
  • If I’m serving it, he can have as much or as little of it as he wants.  Yes, this means he can have more bread even if he hasn’t had much broccoli (see: no negotiation).  But it also means he doesn’t get to ask for crackers if I’m not serving them; the food at the table are his only options.  Oh, and he gets dessert regardless of what or how much he ate at dinner.  This is all part of the “Division of Responsibility” outlined in Child of Mine.

Not meddling while Gray eats is a constant challenge.  I often repeat a concept from Child of Mine as a mantra, “Your job is done once you serve the meal.”  I think this is the change that is making the biggest difference.

Please share any tips you have to encourage good eating habits in children! 


The First Time

by Lara on April 4, 2014

When Gray was about ten weeks old and nursing every hour, I called my mom crying that he wouldn’t even go to my husband long enough for me to shower and dry my hair.

“Just wait,” she said.  ”Just wait until the first time he cries and wants his daddy.  It will knock the wind out of you.”

And today, five days short of 20 months old, Graham rounded the corner faster than his little toddler legs could carry him, and his sock-covered feet slid on the hardwood floors.  I heard the BONK.  His top teeth went through his little bottom lip. There was blood.  And amidst the hysterical sobs and scared whimpers, I cradled him in my arms and suddenly heard him cry, “Dada.”


Poor kid is blabbering whatever words he can think of to tell me he’s hurt.


Sob sob.


And luckily Matt is working from home today and heard the commotion and came right in to scoop up his big boy.

And luckily G is fine and they are now outside doing yard work while I sit here catching my breath, from the wind being knocked right out of me.

And yet again I have further confirmation that my mother is always, always right.


Silent Observation of Toddlers

March 21, 2014

Gray and I are newly enrolled in a fantastic toddler/parent ed class at our local community college.  It was something we kind of fell into while registering for another class, and it is just amazing so far. Today during class, the teacher called for a period of “silent observation.”  The entire concept was new to […]

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Myths About Birth Photography

March 14, 2014

  I am happy to share that I have joined the team over at Daily Mom as a contributing writer! My first post went live this week, and it’s on a topic y’all know I hold near and dear: childbirth!  I hope you will click over and check it out!

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Indoor Activities for Young Toddlers (No TV!)

February 17, 2014

It’s been a long, rainy winter in Seattle.  It’s important to me (for his sanity and my own), that Gray has opportunities to explore, learn, and get his wiggles out without making a mess or watching TV. Here are some of the things we’ve been up to these last few months (13-18 months) to have […]

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Toddler Busy Book

December 9, 2013

Gray received an awesome Christmas present this year that I wanted to share with you all!  Our dear friend Brandi is not just a talented photographer…she is also super crafty, creative, and generous.  She made this amazing toddler “busy book” for our very busy 16-month old. Brandi used three rings, felt (a soft felt on […]

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First Birthday Gift Guide

November 11, 2013

Also known as, Favorite Baby Items, 12-15 Months. Here’s a quick list of some of Gray’s favorite things during this fun, exploratory age! 1) Water table:  We enjoyed this all summer outdoors, and I think we will be getting it out this winter for some indoor sensory activities as well.  There is lots of fun […]

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Fun Stuff Friday – Parenting Reads

October 18, 2013

Source I don’t know what I did with my time and money before I had dogs, a baby, and a house. At any rate, I’m popping in to share a little of what I’m reading lately.  I’m on a Facebook hiatus (more on this soon), and I’m finding that I have more time in the […]

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I Am Enough.

October 4, 2013

Do you ever just want to slap yourself? I have these moments a lot. In the process of moving into our new lovely home, I have found myself feeling oddly without.  My mother might say, I’ve had a mentality of scarcity.  It started with the kitchen faucet.  Stiff as a board, about ten years old, […]

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Moving With a Toddler

October 1, 2013

So, we grossly underestimated what moving would be like with a toddler.  I’m popping in to share some tips.  Here we go: Tips for Moving With a Toddler Don’t do it. If you are really thinking about it, see above. If you really must do it, beg, borrow, and steal as much help as you […]

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