Charity Registration Number 1121605

Helpful Hints When Feeding a Baby / Toddler

  • If you find preparing food at the end of the day when you are tired, stressful, you might find it easier to prepare food in the morning, when you are fresh.

  • Similarly, you may find it easier to introduce new foods to your child at a time when she is not tired. All children become fussier eaters when they are tired, so if you often have difficulties trying to introduce new foods at supper/tea time, why not give them for lunch instead?

  • Introduce as many flavours as possible while your child is still young. It is thought that a person's taste buds are established by the time they are three, so after that time it is much more difficult to introduce new flavours. If a child is already eating a wide range of foods including fruit and vegetables before they are three, meal times will be easier for you for years to come.

  • There are many children who, by the time they are three, are not eating vegetables at all. Meal times when a child is young can be hardwork whatever food they are eating, but most children, if hungry will eat.

  • Don't give your child snacks (however healthy) just before a meal.

  • Whether a baby/toddler likes the food you are offering or not, there can often be a lot of waste. If a child refuses to eat a certain dish which you have cooked, then try to mix in something they do like, for instance stewed apple, plain yoghurt, white sauce. They will often then accept the mixture. The next time you cook the dish, add slightly less of the food that they like, so they can slowly get used to the new flavour.

  • Sometimes a child may refuse food, not necessarily because she doesn't like it, but for other reasons: she's not hungry, she wants to feed herself, she doesn't want to feed herself, she wants to use fingers, she wants to use a spoon, she's tired/teething etc.

  • Try to make mealtimes fun. If possible sit down with your child so she doesn't associate meal times with being strapped into a high chair and left. Playing music during mealtimes can create a calm atmosphere and so make things less stressful (for mums as well as children).

  • All toddlers and young children can be very difficult about eating what you want them to eat, when you want them to eat it.

  • Experiencing food problems is a normal and common stage of development in pre-school children. One-third of under-5s practise food refusal or selective eating.

  • This is partly because children are experimenting with, or being asked to try new textures and tastes, and partly because they are testing their parents' reactions and seeing what effect their behaviour has. A child may refuse food to get your attention, so try to give attention and praise when your child is eating, to encourage them to repeat that behaviour.

Keep trying


Almost all children aged around 2-3 have their food favourites and take against certain foods that they have previously liked, or refuse certain foods just from looking at them, or try a little and then refuse that food next time. Many will use food refusal as a way to get your attention - or a reaction. If they are not underweight and seem healthy and are eating some foods from each of the groups, then you shouldn't worry too much.

Useful store cupboard foods:

  • Pitta bread
  • Baked beans
  • Tinned fish
  • Tinned sweetcorn
  • Other tinned vegetables and fruit

Where possible, buy low salt and low sugar tinned food: fish in oil is much lower in salt than fish in brine. It is also better to buy tinned fruit in light syrup.