Mother and Baby

Why won't my three-year-old eat his dinner?

One day he was gobbling his greens with gusto. The next you could barely get him into his high chair without a major wobble. We show you how to sort your toddler's tricky eating

So, you planned to bring up a perfect angel, but your toddler has now stopped eating and started throwing epic tantrums when he insist he sits down for meals. Of course, this is all totally normal but, depending on his temperament, you might need more than one trick up your sleeve. Try our tot-taming strategies below to fix his wobble.

'Toddlers don’t always find food important enough to interrupt play'

Ditch the highchair

‘Try a booster seat instead of a highchair – he’ll feel more included in mealtimes,’ says psychologist Emma Svanberg. And give him warnings about when it’s supper time by saying “Five minutes until your supper”. Also, let him finish one thing, like his jigsaw or CBeebies program, before bringing him to the table. ‘Toddlers don’t always find food important enough to interrupt play,’ says Emma.

Let him graze

‘If your tot refuses to eat, take away the food and let him snack on it later,’ says Emma. Perhaps put it on the floor where he’s playing and let him come back to it. Research shows toddlers like
to graze so, while he may reject it at an official mealtime, if you leave it somewhere within reach, he may come back to it in his own time.

Turn him into a sous chef

‘Even if it’s only asking him to share out carrot sticks, or pass you the peas, getting your toddler involved in preparing food will make him more likely to eat it,’ says Naomi Richards, author of The Parents Toolkit (£12.99, Vermilion). And a bit of reverse psychology can also work wonders, so saying ‘don’t eat it yet’ will encourage him to ‘disobey’ you. Clever…

Make food fun

As well as those classic tricks of pretending broccoli spears are trees and making faces with your child’s carrots and peas, there are lots of ways you can bring food to life, so the atmosphere is fun and light during meals. ‘We have a game which involves my two year old twins pretending that they are Peter Rabbit and I’m Mr McGregor and if they eat their vegetables, I chase them with a broom – it sounds ridiculous, but it really gets them eating everything and enjoying food,’ says Gemma, 31, from East London, mum to Lucy and Leo, aged two.

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