Developmental Behavior in Toddlers: Learning to Eat

A toddler learns to eat by practicing with both finger feeding and holding a spoon. Once she starts doing it for herself, you can expect an occasional mess; being a neat eater takes lots of practice.

Some toddlers will feed themselves certain foods but want a parent to feed them others. If this practice continues, it is possible that Toddler will build up faulty eating habits she will discriminate between the foods she wants and the foods you want her to eat.

Such a practice can develop into a parent/toddler tug-of-war. In the future you may find that she may not have an appetite for your foods. We urge you to allow Toddler to feed herself in spite of the mess she may make.

Between the first and second years many youngsters will give up certain foods, particularly some vegetables. Accept her preferences and return to the rejected foods in a few weeks.

By pushing a temporary dislike on her, you increase the probability that the particular food may become permanently distasteful to her.

Toddler’s preferences may result in an occasional lopsided meal but from day to day or week to week her choices should even out to a well-balanced diet.

There is no doubt that the quality as well as the quantity of her appetite will change during this period. She may drink less milk, but a pint a day (in any form) is satisfactory to cover her needs if she’s receiving a reasonable diet.

If she rejects milk, don’t force it just quietly take it away. Experienced parents report that each time Toddler says “no, ” her determination becomes stronger.

Should it happen that she is without a daily pint of milk or other calcium-containing products (such as cheese or yogurt) for more than two weeks, it might be wise to report to this to your physician.

Toddlers require variety in their menu just as we do. Chewy foods, especially finger foods like shredded carrot strips or a chicken leg are excellent for their emerging teeth and for exercising the muscles of her month.

The identical muscles used in chewing are used in speaking. Regular vigorous chewing practice will make the movements of tongue, lips, and jaws more proficient.

Caution: finger foods should be introduced with care and in small amounts, such as shredded carrots, not sticks. Meat bones should be checked carefully to make sure there are no small fragments that can come off and choke Toddler.

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