My daughter ate so well as a baby but not any more. Is that normal with a 2 year old?

The good news is that it's very normal for toddlers to be picky. Now I can almost hear you yell at me from here- how is that possibly good news?! Well, two reasons:

  1. At around 12 months of age, growth rates slow down considerably compared to growth rates as infants. Often, a toddler's appetite will drop off a bit as a result. Eating less or being more fussy about eating can be a sign that your child is listening to their hunger signals and only eating what they need. This is very normal and something we want to encourage.

  1. Being picky is actually quite an important part of a child's development. At this age, toddlers are learning more about their role in the world around them. They're spending more time exploring than sitting, which can make mealtimes harder. They've also gone from being entirely dependent on their parents, to realising that they have a say in what happens in their world. They are naturally curious, and sometimes cautious, about things. This even extends to known things, like foods that they've previously eaten without any problems. That can be hugely frustrating for parents, but it's important to react in a way that doesn't encourage your toddler to be more suspicious of food.

Generally, the more parents try to 'get' a child to eat something, the more reluctant the

child is to eat. I like to think of it like this- imagine you've found a box in front of you at the table and it's wrapped up tightly with all sorts of wires coming out of it. You're naturally curious about what's in the box, but you're a little bit scared too. It could be an interesting electrical gadget, but it might also be a bomb! So what do you do? Most people would look for clues around them.

  • If everyone else at the table is looking pretty worried whilst staring at you and the box, then you might be quite hesitant to open the box. You'd probably want to get down from the table and get away from the box!

  • If everyone around you is yelling at you to open the box then you might decide to keep it closed. If they're getting agitated, then you know that there must be something in this box to be worried about so you leave it well alone!

  • But, in a different scenario, if you notice that everyone around you is calmly opening their boxes, and not paying that much attention to your box, then you might be more inclined to open it. You might not open it the first time you see it, but the more you watch others open it safely, the more inclined you are to open your own.

The same goes with food. The more a young child can see others enjoying food, without putting pressure on the child to enjoy the food, the more likely the child is to feel safe to try it. If the child is under pressure, or knows that the parent is worried about the food, the more reluctant they can be to try it.

So why are some toddlers more fussy than others? It can be to do with their previous experiences with food, their temperament (some kids are naturally more cautious), the pressure on them to eat or a number of other reasons. If your toddler's eating is causing you stress, then you are entitled to seek help. Often an understanding of the reasons, and some reassurance is all you need. Most parents tell me that it's much easier to feed their child once they know why they weren't eating so much or so well as they used to.

If you have other questions about fussy eating or childhood nutrition then please get in touch by emailing kyla@mealtimes.com.au

In-home appointments are also available in Perth, Western Australia.

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