Getting used to meal times, new foods, strange textures and flavours can be hard for a child. It’s natural to worry that something might be wrong when a child loses interest in food. However, this is a common stage for many children between 2-3 years of age.
Most children grow out of it and begin to accept a wider range of food over time, but sometimes there might be another problem behind a sudden loss of appetite.
The most common reasons for fussy eating are:
Children benefit from routine and sometimes fear new people or experiences, including new foods. New tastes, textures and smells can make a child less likely to try unfamiliar food.
From around the end of the first year, a child’s growth rate slows down, and as a result they may want to eat less.
Children experience a growing sense of independence, and refusing food is often a way of a child asserting him or herself.
Supporting young children to overcome fussy eating
- Be patient: On average children need to be offered individual foods up to 10 times before they choose to eat it.
- Be a good role model: Children learn to eat foods they are unfamiliar with by watching and copying other adults and children eating.
- Give small portions: Large portions can be too much for children.
- Eat together: Meal times are an opportunity to develop table manners, social skills and create a sense of belonging.
- Encourage routines: Children benefit from routines and knowing when to expect food; they are less likely to eat when over-hungry or tired.
- Praise: Children respond positively to praise. Do so when they try new foods or when they behave well during mealtimes.
- Involve children in simple cooking and food preparation: By handling and touching new foods without pressure to eat them, children will become familiar with new foods and be more likely to try them.