Mother and Baby

5 Ways To Get Your Toddler To Feed Himself (And Not The Walls)

Fed-up making food for your toddler only to see it smeared across the walls/the floor/their face? We’ve got the pain-free plan to getting your tot to feed himself, while still preserving your sanity

Weaning may have been in walk in the swing park, but now that your little one is hitting the terrible toddlers mealtimes are set to become a whole lot more challenging. From flat out refusing to eat to merrily throwing the food you’ve lovingly prepared all over your freshly mopped floor, the messy reality of toddler mealtimes will have you yearning for the days when you spent the best part of an hour feeding your six month old stewed parsnip!

But before you start blubbing into the baby rice, take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone.

According to Mother&Baby’s Feed the Family survey in association with Cow & Gate, half of the 2000 parents interviewed said they lose their patience with their toddler at mealtimes – probably because 71% of the tots they’re trying to feed throw their food on the floor and nearly three-quarters refuse to open their mouths to eat! Testing times! But don’t despair because there are a few tips and tricks that can help fast-track your little one from fussy to foodie. 

Toddler Foodie Fix – Start Small

First snacks are a good way to get your tot used to aiming his food at his mouth and not up his nose: fruit or vegetables cut into handy sticks, breadsticks and raisins are great snacks to help give your child some sort of ownership over feeding himself.

Later you can move onto proper meal time foods like toast, small sandwiches and chopped up chunks of cheese, meat and vegetables he can try picking up with a spoon. 

First snacks are a good way to get your tot used to aiming his food at his mouth and not up his nose

Toddler Foodie Fix – Make Food = Fun

When they’re just starting to self-feed it’s important to make sure food time = fun time. Try playing ‘feed me’. Chop up some finger foods and encourage your toddler to put the food in your mouth. Chew each bite enthusiastically, then feed your little one in the same way. Toddlers love learning by example.

Toddler Foodie Fix – Playing with your food

Yes, you heard right we did just tell you to let your toddler play with their food. But touching and playing with the food on their plate encourages your little one to be creative.

The Spaghetti pick-up game is a firm favourite. Using cooked spaghetti encourage your toddler to make a shape before he puts it in his mouth. You can help by joining in and showing him how he can make various shapes or a smiley face.

Toddler Foodie Fix – Lead by example

The best way to encourage your toddler to self-feed is to show him exactly how it’s done.

‘Finger food is the best way to help children develop the hand-mouth control,’ says child development expert and founder of The Good Toy Guide Amanda Gummer. ‘And heavier foods like ice lollies strengthen the muscles in the arm.’

Amanda also suggests showing your toddler how to use his cutlery. ‘Eat your food with cutlery first and let your toddler try with his/her spoon/fork whilst you eat yours, you can then help him afterwards, but you'll have given him/her the opportunity and the motivation to try.’

Toddler Foodie Fix – Turn a blind eye to the mess

If your little one is messy eater, try to close your eyes to the chunks of food decorating the floor/the walls/the ceiling – afraid mess is part and parcel of the toddler years. And resist telling him off, unless of course he’s deliberately trying to avoid eating.

In which case, calmly clear away and give him some of the food again, yourself. It may be that’s he’s not yet ready to feed himself. And there’s always anti-bac wipes.

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