Feeding Toddlers: Mistakes I’m Ok with Making

by tinysneakers

toddler eating mistakes

There are a lot of topics that elicit strong reactions, none more so though than parenting. Ok, maybe politics wins. But when it comes to parenting, it’s about more than philosophies, practice, research, or opinions. It’s about YOUR kid. Of course you’re going to get fired up.

Recently on Babble I admitted my two year old is overweight. Obese actually. It started a sh*t storm, to be mild about it.The strongest reaction {which has since been edited and is now much less volatile} claimed I didn’t love my son because he was fat. Not true, obviously. But the other main point of that article, that actually garnered much support, was that just because a baby or toddler is obese it doesn’t mean they’ll grow up to be obese.

To this argument I say yes. And no, no, no, and NO! Do a lot of chubby babies grow up to be slender? YES! Does that mean we should ignore ALL kids weight? Until when? I don’t believe in putting kids on diet, but that doesn’t mean we turn a blind eye to the possibility that an overweight toddler can turn into an overweight kid, an overweight teenager, or an overweight adult. What I do believe in is setting up good foundations.

This is where you’d probably assume I’d list on the “good behaviors” dietitians and other parenting experts will recommend. I’d list them too if I didn’t have a child for which none of them would work. Instead, here’s a list of the rules I break, what we do instead, and why. Our biggest battle is trying to get him to eat at appropriate times, instead of throwing a tantrum every 15 minutes because he wants to EaaaaaaT. As he grows older and his habits change {and we help them change}, I’m sure we’ll adjust back towards the mainstream recommendations. But we’re not there, and I’m 100% ok with that. {Please note: I still pick what foods go on his plate. ;)}

toddler counting

Mistakes I Make When it Comes to Feeding My Toddler:

Not eating at the table. He won’t stay there. Why fight it? In a parenting battle there is no good outcome; somebody always loses. If he wants to eat perched on his stool at the counter, so be it. If he wants to eat on the couch, whatever. <—sometimes that’s the only way to get him interested in eating the healthy foods on his plate. He makes a mess; it can be cleaned up.

Saying “sure you can have more ____ … try 2 bites of veggies.” We are NOT members of the clean plate club, but if KB has already had 34,583 blueberries and wants more even though he didn’t touch any other food on his plate, it begs the question if he’s really hungry or just likes getting more blueberries. If he really truly wants more or is hungry, he’ll usually at least pretend to taste something else. That counts in my book; he doesn’t have to actually eat it and it’s not a battle of wills, it’s just a suggestion.

Grazing. If I had to count on 3 meals and 2 snacks to give my kid all the nutrients he needs, he’d be SOL. He just doesn’t do meals. When he tells me he’s hungry, he can have something to eat. Sometimes I make him wait a few minutes to learn that it’s ok or to see if he’s really hungry vs. just likes getting what he wants/needs a distraction. We do attempt to structure his eating around meals and snack “time” so that it builds that foundation. {We call breakfast breakfast, lunch lunch, etc.} This means no battles and no pressure at specified meal times. If he doesn’t want what’s on his plate I don’t feel like I have to give him something else less he starve. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a free-for-all, but we’re not overly rigid. This is the one we’re working on now. 🙂

Family dinner time. There is absolutely zero way this kid would make it to 6pm for dinner. Honestly, I can barely get dinner ready by then with a toddler underfoot anyways. I do try to sit with him for his dinner {and other meals we manage to eat at the same time} just so he knows what the deal is, but that doesn’t always happen either. That’s called being realistic – sometimes the only 5 minutes he’s occupied all day is when he’s eating.

Sitting in a chair. He doesn’t sit. Just doesn’t. If he’s at a chair at the “big table”, he stands on it. Heck even when he’s at his little table he stands or kneels. Like most wild toddlers, he doesn’t like being still, confined, or made to do something. We try not to let him stand on the chair since it’s dangerous, so if he wants to stand at the coffee table and eat, by all means. If he wants to sit in the middle of the kitchen floor with his bowl, whatever.

feeding toddlers

<<– not allowed!

Serving himself. I love this idea, in theory. Letting kids serve themselves teaches them to rely on their bellies to say they’re full, not a parent. But this would mean all of everybody’s dinner would be on his plate, the applesauce would be in the container of hummus, the pancakes would be in a bowl of milk, and he would only ever choose the fruit or cereal.

Obviously I’m not telling you these are good strategies or that you should do them. But calm down and cut yourself some slack if you’re not doing what “they” say. Kids are hard enough to raise without the guilt. Winking smile

Be sure to visit Munchkin Meals for more real parents feeding real kids. And leave your mistakes in the comments.



{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Brittany (Healthy Slice of Life) March 6, 2014 at 9:04 am

Interesting post! Like all things parenting, I really believe in a to-each-their-own policy and I’m so glad you’ve found what works for you!

Personally, all our meals are eaten in the kitchen, but that’s mostly because I’m not ok with my couch getting dirty, haha 😉 She chooses whether to be at the table or the counter.

For us, I choose what foods go on her plate and when she eats, and she has the ability to choose which foods off her plate and how much. We’ve done this from the get-go and so far (age 2.5) it’s working! Sometimes she’ll eat all off X food first and ask for more and I’ll answer with a “sure, sweetheart. Once you eat your dinner you are welcome to have more if you want it.” That usually nips it in the bud.

However, this is just what works for US, which is why I go back to my to-each-their-own policy. Who knows what this second baby in my belly will bring 🙂

Thanks for linking up!


Yuliya March 6, 2014 at 10:16 am

You made some really interesting points. Food in my house tends to be similar to Brittany’s approach. We however do let the kiddo eat snacks or some less messy foods in the living room. He still sits in a high chair at 18 months old, but he is starting to show interest in sitting in a chair. I know once the high chair goes, he is going to be running away. Like you, we don’t always eat together, although I do sit with my son while he eats. I try to get dinner cooked while he naps during the day, and then heat it up in the evening, so he can eat what we will be eating, just earlier.


Chris @ amplifytoday.com March 6, 2014 at 10:24 am

Feeding toddlers is no easy task. I have a 5, 2, and 6 month old. Our 2 year is a challenge to feed. He did (and sometimes still does) some of the things you mentioned. What started to turn the tide for us was setting the expectation that’s dinner time and this is what’s for dinner. Most nights are good and others are challenging. Quiet honestly, there’s a lot of crying but holding strong is important. Our 2 year old gets a balanced meal, sleeps through the night and sets him for a good day.


misszippy March 7, 2014 at 10:55 am

Ah, the parental judging. It kills me. What works for me won’t work for you and vice versa. Keep doing what you’re doing and thank you for sharing in such an honest, open post!


Holly Marie March 8, 2014 at 3:40 pm

I love how candid you are! As I was reading I felt like I just kept nodding in agreement! Your little one is adorable and I appreciate you being so strong and discussing these hot-bed topics!


Maryea {happy healthy mama} March 10, 2014 at 7:18 am

It’s interesting how with my first I was much more concerned about following the “rules”. Somewhere along the line I realized that my parental instincts could be trusted–I didn’t have to use a book to make a decision! 🙂


Emma @ be mom strong March 13, 2014 at 12:26 pm

I love love love this. I am constantly feeling like I’m not doing what “they” say and what my friends are doing but it’s working for us. Geez sitting at the table is the worst. We are all just trying to do our best here!


Momofboys June 4, 2014 at 12:01 am

This is great! I love it, I swear families like the ones in the books don’t exist. I have a 4 and 18month old, oldest eats just about anything, the other, well different child different story just like all kids! He is still a good eater but picky compared to my first who I think only dislikes cucumbers. My youngest loves them though! But we don’t eat at the table either, he stands too. I find that giving him small chunks of food and letting him poke with a toothpick gets him to eat more. I just have to make sure he doesn’t leave his little table with the toothpick! He will use silverware but most of the food doesn’t make it to his mouth. And he put salsa on his pancakes the other day! So I totally feel ya there!

I try to buy “healthy” snacks and foods but lets face it we are all human and sometimes you just want a cookie! I used to really push them to eat more, 3 more bites or just 5 bites left, but I have started letting them be the judge of when they are done, but they do have set snack and meal times which has helped my oldest to do better. Like I said he isn’t picky, but he would take 2 hrs to eat dinner bc he just wouldn’t focus. Now he knows there will be no extra snacking so he better eat when it’s time. It has eloped him to have more energy but also nap and sleep better too. Now my husband….he does not do well with feeding the boys! Lol he will say “no cookie or ice cream bc you didn’t eat your dinner” but give in after they ask twice so I do have to watch him. I don’t mind at all them having those things but only if they have eaten something healthy first and aren’t eating more “treats” than they did their meal.

All kids are so different and even each child goes through phases where he/she only wants certain foods. As a parent you just kinda have to go with it. I’m the strict mom in the family, but it works for us and seems to be setting a good example for my kids bc my oldest sons favorite is carrots (the long ones though like rabbits eat


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