How To Get A Picky Toddler To Eat? 5 Tricks That Work

It’s one of the most common refrains among parents of toddlers: what do you do when your kid won’t eat?

If you’re struggling with a picky eater, take heart. It’s a phase many children go through—and although it can be frustrating to find nutritious meals that your kid will actually eat, knowing that your child isn’t the only one who approaches meals like they’re carbo-loading for a marathon or who eschews any food that isn’t smothered in cheese is a good reminder that this too shall pass.

Fortunately, there are some tricks for how to deal with a picky eater toddler that can encourage them to try new foods and connect the whole family around the table. Start by giving your baby a place at the table —it can make mealtime more enjoyable for you and your toddler and put an end to their picky eating.

Understanding Picky Eaters

Picky eating can be a natural part of your toddler’s development, rooted in their desire for autonomy and control and their natural resistance to change. And a lot of kids have very sensitive tastebuds, making the introduction of new foods even more fraught.

The good news? Most picky eaters outgrow their pickiness over time, and you can help push them along by taking steps like offering a variety of foods, involving them in meal preparation, and keeping mealtimes happy and positive.

Be sure to consult their pediatrician as you and your little one navigate this phase of their development.  

What Do I Do If My Picky Toddler Doesn't Want to Eat?

If mealtimes are starting to feel like an ongoing power struggle between you and your picky eater toddler, remember that patience and persistence are key to overcoming picky eating challenges. These five strategies can help make mealtimes smoother: 

  1. Continually Reintroduce Foods: It can take 15-18 exposures to a new food before a toddler will accept it. Baby-led weaning is a great way to set your baby up to be more open to new foods, and you can follow baby-led weaning strategies with your picky eating toddler even if you introduced them to solids with purees. Start offering small chunks of foods they can easily pick up, like roasted sweet potatoes, cooked apples, bananas, steamed broccoli, melon, eggs, bread and avocado.  
  2. Serve Proportionate Portions: Avoid overwhelming your toddler with adult-sized portions. Instead, offer appropriate serving sizes, such as 1-2 tablespoons of fruit or ¼ of a slice of bread. 
  3. Give Them a Seat at the Table: Pull the Connect High Chair® up to the table and serve your baby their meals when the rest of the family is eating— as your toddler grows, you’ll find it’s the best convertible high chair for making your toddler feel like a part of family meal time. It also allows you to model  healthy eating habits so you can help avoid your toddler becoming a picky eater: let your baby see you enjoying a variety of foods with different smells, color and textures and talk to them about what you’re eating and how much you like trying something new. 
  4. Choose Transparency Over Sneakiness: While it can be tempting to sneak vegetables into foods like fruit purees and tomato sauces, experts agree that it’s better for toddlers to see the actual food on their plate. Rather than hiding veggies, try preparing them in a variety of ways—grilled, steamed, sauteed—until you find a method that your little one enjoys. 
  5. Get Creative: While we don’t suggest tricking your little one into eating something, we’re all for tapping into your creativity to when trying to figure out how to get a picky toddler to eat. Arrange food so it makes a face on your baby’s plate and give foods creative names that encourage your kids to try them; re-name broccoli ‘trees’ and raspberries ‘finger hats.’ You can also use your high chair for food-related art projects that encourage sampling, like “finger painting” with mashed sweet potatoes or yogurt.

What to Feed a Picky Toddler

While you might enjoy complex flavors rich in spice and flavors, your picky eater toddler probably prefers simpler, blander flavors, like cheese and crackers, tender fruits and vegetables, and plain pasta.

Even the pickiest eaters will usually accept foods like apples, eggs, cucumbers, bananas and yogurt—and once you have these foods in rotation, you can start introducing more complex flavors, like iron-rich meats and whole grains.

Again, remember that it can take 15-18 tries before your baby accepts a new food, so keep on trying and don’t give up on your journey as you figure out how to get a picky toddler to eat.

Will My Picky Toddler Eventually Eat?

Yes, they will. Patience, consistency, and creativity is key to helping avoid your toddler becoming a picky eater and instead develop healthy eating habits—and you play a pivotal role in this journey. Continue offering a wide variety of foods, be patient (even when you’re faced with constant rejection), and consistently model positive eating behaviors.

While it may feel overwhelming trying to get your picky toddler to eat, remember that every small step towards expanding their palate is a victory—and the Connect High Chair ® is there every step of the way to help your family make mealtimes the best times.