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Parenting Resource Library

Toddler Mealtime

TODDLER MEALTIME MANGEMENT
Funded By: the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation of the Administration of Children and Families (OPRE/ACF), Grant Number: 90-
YF0046. Copyright Michigan State University Board of Trustees 2008.
Adapted with permission from: Horodynski, M.A., Coleman, G., Contreras, D., & Hoerr, S. (2005). Nutrition Education Aimed at Toddlers
(NEAT) Curriculum. Michigan State University
The One-Year-Old Child (12-24 months)
Child’s
Developmental Stage
Common Mealtime
Behaviors
Caregiver’s Mealtime
Strategies
Curious – Watches and
explores
• May dump or throw food to
see what happens.
• Set positive limits at the
table, such as “Put the food
in your mouth.”
Uses fingers to feed self
• May make a mess or be
viewed as playing with food.
• Allow for messy mealtimes
by having surfaces that you
are able to clean.
• Provide finger foods.
• Have your child sit at the
table while eating.
Doesn’t like new situations
• May be afraid of new foods
or new meal-related
situations.
• Offer a new food up to 20
times without fuss.
• Add new foods into family
meals.
• Have regular mealtimes and
snacks.
Eating often slows down
• May not eat as much or as
often as before and is easily
distracted.
• Serve small portions.
• Allow your child to decide if
and how much food to eat.
• Have your child sit at the
table while eating.
• Permit your child to leave
the table when full.
• Turn off the TV during
meals.
Says two or three words
• Can’t tell you about food
likes
• Watch your child’s face and
body to see what he or she
wants.
• Eat and talk with your child.
• Make mealtimes pleasant.
TODDLER MEALTIME MANGEMENT
Funded By: the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation of the Administration of Children and Families (OPRE/ACF), Grant Number: 90-
YF0046. Copyright Michigan State University Board of Trustees 2008.
Adapted with permission from: Horodynski, M.A., Coleman, G., Contreras, D., & Hoerr, S. (2005). Nutrition Education Aimed at Toddlers
(NEAT) Curriculum. Michigan State University
The Two-Year-Old Child (24-36 months)
Child’s
Developmental Stage
Common Mealtime
Behaviors
Caregiver’s Mealtime
Strategies
Short attention spanwatches
many things
• May not eat if distracted.
• Often wants to leave the
table shortly after sitting
down.
• Has a hard time waiting for
food if hungry.
• Turn off the TV during meals.
• Plan meals and snacks at regular
times during the day.
• Make mealtimes a pleasant,
social experience.
• Have your child sit at the table
while eating.
• Permit your child to leave the
table when he or she is full.
Can use spoon and cup
fairly well
• Has better use of spoons,
forks, and cups, but still
may be a messy eater.
• Has trouble pouring and
cutting.
• Provide small spoons, forks, and
cups that won’t break.
• Fill cups half-full or less.
• Expect messiness during
mealtimes
Independent—often says
“no!”
• May refuse food.
• Allow your child to decide if
and how much food to eat.
• Avoid power struggles.
• Continue to offer new foods and
encourage tasting.
May have food jags
(picky eater)
• Children often have times
when they only eat one
food. For example, they
may want only cereal for a
while, then just fruit and
cheese.
• Do not worry, if your child is
growing.
• Offer many nutritious foods and
allow your child to select what
to eat.
• Do not prepare special foods for
your child.
Says short phrases-“more
juice”
• Able to talk a little better,
but still has some trouble.
• Watch your child’s face and
body to see what he or she wants

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