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The Parent's Guide to Toddler Feeding:
Part 1: Tips, Tricks, and a Meal Schedule

Rogers Bridge » The Parent's Guide to Toddler Feeding: Tips, Tricks, and a Meal Schedule

As an expert in feeding delays in infants and toddlers, I am frequently asked for tips and tricks to make mealtime easier. We’ve come up with a list that can help parents create a routine and determine if their child is developing their feeding skills appropriately.

Please be aware that the tips and tricks listed below are for children that do not have trouble with drinking and eating. To find out if your child is not eating safely, stay tuned for Part 2: Signs of Unsafe Eating.

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As a parent, one of your most important tasks is ensuring your toddler is well-nourished and healthy. However, feeding a toddler can often be challenging. It's important to have a proper feeding schedule in place and understand how to use some strategies that will help make mealtime more successful.

First, let's discuss the recommended feeding schedule for toddlers. Toddlers between the ages of 1 and 3 typically need 3 meals and 2 snacks per day. A typical schedule might look like this:

  • Breakfast at 7 am

  • Morning snack at 10 am

  • Lunch at 12 pm

  • Afternoon snack at 3 pm

  • Dinner at 6 pm

It's important to note that this schedule is just a guideline and can be adjusted to fit your child's individual needs and schedule. However, consistency and structure in meal and snack times can help to establish healthy eating habits and prevent overeating. When having meals, it’s important to sit with your child and eat with them. Sitting and eating with your child provides them with a model for trying different foods and can make your child more comfortable around new foods.

Now, let's talk about some tips for successful toddler feeding. Toddlers are messy and parents may want to avoid the mess by feeding their toddler. However, not allowing your child to feed themselves is going to impact their fine motor skills and control over their food. Parents should provide age-appropriate utensils and allow your child to feed themselves as much as possible regardless of the potential mess. Avoid wiping your toddler’s face and hands frequently during the meal since being messy helps promote increased sensory regulation.

Introducing new foods and textures can also be a challenge for some parents if your child does not seem interested. Try to offer a variety of foods and flavors, and don't give up if your child initially rejects a new food. It may take several tries before they learn to like it. It is important to remember to present your child with age appropriate foods in age appropriate sizes. You may need to smash, cook softer, and cut into small pieces to be sure you are presenting your child with foods that are safe for them to eat.

Picky eaters can also be a common problem. Try not to make a big deal out of it and instead, offer a variety of healthy options at each meal. Family style meals, meals where the family is sitting together and the dishes of food are on the table, help provide good models for trying a variety of foods and learning to be a healthy eater.

There are a few pitfalls to avoid when dealing with your child and food:

  • Using food as a reward or punishment can undermine the healthy eating habits that you are trying to instill.

  • Mealtime distractions can also be a major issue for some families. Try to create a calm and quiet environment during meals and minimize distractions such as toys and electronic devices.

  • Mealtime meltdowns can also be a common problem. Try to stay calm and consistent in your response and remember that this is a normal part of toddler development.

Establishing a proper feeding schedule and understanding some tips for successful toddler feeding can make mealtime less of a challenge. Remember to be patient and consistent, and don't hesitate to reach out for additional resources if needed.

Continued in Part 2 of the Parent's Guide to Toddler Feeding: Signs of Unsafe Eating.

If mealtime is a struggle for your child and you have tried the tips and tricks listed above, or see signs of aspiration, please talk to your pediatrician. You are welcome to contact us for a free consult to determine if your child should be evaluated.  

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"My daughter has been seeing Ms Jessie for about four years, since She was in the Babies Can’t Wait program. Ms Jessie has been kind, friendly, kid-centered, flexible, and has never given up on my daughter. To be able to serve a strongly oral averse child with health complexities for several years, to look into many different options so that my daughter would be okay with being in the same room where there was food, touch, smell, lick and so forth, to take a training course that would give her more tools to work with children like mine is the most incredible experience. My daughter is now feeding orally without the need for a feeding tube for  about eight months. Ms Jessie continues to help in increasing her food options with a fun, consistent and encouraging approach. We love having her as my daughter’s speech and feeding therapist. – Ana

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