Toddler Mealtime Battle – 101 Things to Try for a Kid Who Won’t Eat

Disclaimer: These tips are provided as-is and without warranty. I am a mom of one and neither a doctor, nutritionist, nor allergist, nor do I play one on TV. Please use your best judgment in attempting these techniques in your own Toddler Mealtime Battle.

We’ve all been in the trenches at one point or another. A fussy, picky toddler refuses to eat anything on his plate. A stubborn child will only eat macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets day in and day out. Feeding time is a constant battleground no matter which way you turn. You feel like you’ve tried everything, and you likely have. You’ve at least near exhausted your resources and ideas time and again. I know, I’ve been there, too. Thankfully I think I’m finally coming out on the winning side of our toddler mealtime battle.

Few things are as frustrating as getting a picky eater to actually eat. Whether they’re finicky, distracted, or just plain disinterested, chow time can be almost as demanding as late nights of teething and the ongoing potty training struggle. In my own battles as parent of a picky child, I feel as though I’ve tried just about everything to get my toddler to eat. Creative food ideas, creative mealtime games, you name it. I know I am not the only parent struggling through this daily battle at the dinner table (not to mention breakfast and lunch).

This toddler mealtime battle article has been a long time in the making. I’ve been struggling with my daughter’s small size on the growth chart since she was about 10 months old and she’s coming up on age 3. I feel like we are finally breaking some ground with our daughter’s picky eating. In the hopes of helping others in this thankless job, I’ve compiled 101 things to try for a kid who won’t eat. I hope these suggestions will help you survive the mealtime mayhem and all struggles that ensue. And please, if you have more to add, simply post your own suggestions in our comments below!



Many people swear that you should avoid bribery at all costs. This is kind of a tongue-in-cheek bribery list, okay well, some of it is anyway. When you have a child in the bottom fourth percentile (4%) for weight and pediatricians getting you worked up over why your child is so small, then I say you can toss the bribery stigma out the window. For now, some of this works for me. Take it or leave it….


  1. Walk down the cereal aisle. Slowly. Let your child pick out a box of cereal to try. All the bright colors and fun characters—it’s hard to resist!
  2. Offer a small reward, like a sticker, each time your child tries something new.
  3. Offer rewards based on food consumption, like getting to do a fun activity, or getting to go to the playground after a successful breakfast.
  4. Always place at least one thing on your child’s plate that you know he or she will eat.
  5. Start using a food chart with stickers to reward your kid for trying new things. Once a page has so many stickers, allow your child to pick out a special prize.
  6. Occasionally order takeout to enjoy with your kids. Something new and different!
  7. Eat at the grocery store. Flip the plastic or styrofoam takeout container open so you both can eat out of one of the sides.
  8. Casually show off a possible dessert or treat to inspire an appetite. “Experts” say not to do this. I haven’t seen any harm so far and in fact, it does get my daughter to eat. It isn’t meant for every meal or every day, but a once-in-a-while mealtime when you need that extra push. The “reward” doesn’t always have to be junk either—consider yogurt, fruit, or your own parfait with yogurt, fruit, and granola, plus a few chocolate chips.
  9. Cheer on your kids for their good eating habits! When you are seeing the behavior you want, make sure to call attention to it, giving high fives, fist bumps, or whatever works for your child’s excitement.
  10. Let her put the French fries inside her sandwich. Why not?
  11. Let your child have the right kind of control at mealtimes. Let him or her pick out the cup, plate, and utensils they’ll use, and then load them up with the foods and drink that you want them to have.

 Keep reading for TRICKERY



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