8 answers

20-Month-Old Picky Eater

I know this question has been asked a million times, but I've never needed to read the responses until now, so please, respond! My 20 month old is a very picky eater. He tends to eat better for daycare, probably because he's surrounded by his peers who are all eating. But at home, it's a constant battle. To complicate things, he still struggles with utensils too. We don't push the utensils on him because we don't want the negative association. My hubby and I are feeling a lot like short order cooks. How old should kids be before you play "hardball" and send them to bed without dinner? Any other alternatives to that suggestion?

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

All kids with teeth eat whatever I cook for the rest of the family. If they don't eat it when we are all sitting at the table for the meal, I put it in the fridge for later. When they tell me they're hungry I get out the plate and warm it up. If they won't eat it they go to bed hungry. It may be one rough night, but that's better than endless rough days in a power struggle over food.

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I would agree with those who say and insinuate that you won't hurt him by sending him to bed without dinner. The only harm may be if he really does get hungry and you end up losing sleep over it. But one thing that wasn't addressed is how do you define "picky eater"? Does he just refuse to try new things? And is that only when they are kindly and politely offered? When we meet resistance with a new food we are trying on a young child, we find a way to trick it (sometimes even force it) into his mouth (just a very small amount). Then, if they don't want more, we know they don't like it. But it is AMAZING how many times that first bite leads to a clean plate. They just didn't want to try it, but they really like it. Of course, in this instance the child is not in trouble for spitting the bite out, since we were technically the rude ones.:) But being afraid to try something is not the same as not liking it, and we just really want to know which it is!:) If you're certain he really doesn't like the foods you are offering, then I would agree with the different methods mentioned here of letting the child get "good and hungry". Just make sure you are giving enough healthy options to be reasonable. The child doesn't have to eat everything offered, but should have a pretty broad base of approved foods. He's pretty young, too, for this to be a big deal yet. I would probably be tempted to give it some slack for a little while yet and really start cracking down in a few months (maybe another year) if it isn't getting better. I say that because at this age a lot of things just don't feel right in that mouth yet. It wasn't that long ago, really, that almost everything was liquid, right?

Stop the short order cook nonsense now before he's 5 and still won't eat what you cook. Offer a couple of different choices (make smaller portions of 2 veggies, for instance) and remember that old rule when introducing new foods - it may take up to 8-10 times of trying a new thing before they actually like it. He will eat if he's hungry - but if you keep giving him the idea that you will jump up and make him something else, he won't be satisfied and dinner will last 3 hours!

Once my kids had teeth and were able to eat table foods they ate whatever was being served. We always say that we are not running a restaurant. Another thing I tell my kids is you can't say you don't like something unless you try it.

My son has always been a very picky eater, as well. With that said what I've always done is make one meal for the entire family BUT I always try to include at least one thing that I know my son will eat. That way the bulk of his plate is filled with things he likes along with a little bit of what he isn't fond of. We never really pressure him to eat what he doesn't like-just suggest that he try a small taste. If you're worried about nutrition, the cookbook "The Sneaky Chef" has really good ideas. In the book it shows you how to add fruits/veggies into a lot of kid friendly choices like chicken nuggets or mac-n-cheese.

All kids with teeth eat whatever I cook for the rest of the family. If they don't eat it when we are all sitting at the table for the meal, I put it in the fridge for later. When they tell me they're hungry I get out the plate and warm it up. If they won't eat it they go to bed hungry. It may be one rough night, but that's better than endless rough days in a power struggle over food.

I have been on both sides of the fence, and am glad that my husband and I agree that the hardline works best.

I make a meal, and my kids know if they don't eat it they don't get anything else, period. If they do eat it, they will be able to have a snack or dessert later. It took some battles, let me tell you, but I am very glad we went this route. There are certain things that my kids don't like, and they must at least have a small bite of it to complete their dinner.

On the other side is a friend of mine who is a phenomenal cook, but who allows her children to eat whatever they want. She makes an amazing meal while they snack on junk food, and then she makes them kid friendly food like macaroni, chicken nuggets, or cereal. They eat a few bites, if that, then get back into the snacks.

The difference is astonishing. Her kids will not TRY ANYTHING new on their own. Her two older children have weight issues which they are aware of and rather embarrassed about. In fact, to entice her kids to eat, my son will go over to their house for dinner, and rave about the meal she makes which ocassionally will convince one of her kids to try the item - which they always end up liking.

Another friend did the same thing...only provided things her daughter "would eat" and convinced herself that her 2 year old had sensory issues because she only wanted to eat goldfish crackers and Chicken McNuggets. I tried explaining that every two year old would live on that if you let them. It isn't hard for a kid to figure out...throw a fit a couple times, get what you want, and repeat.

Currently, her daughter is 7, and when they visit we have to spend and extra 45 mintues driving around finding a place that her daughter is willing to eat at. Then, we have to make sure the Nuggets are McDonalds, because she doesn't like any other type. We go to two different restaurants when they visit, and as soon as they leave the restaurant, she busts out the snacks to reward her.

She says her daughter ONLY eats crispy items, and nothing mushy because of the texture, but then when my friend leaves, her daughter will eat yogurt with my kids,and all these other items my friend swears her daughter cannot eat because of her "condition." It would be funny if it weren't so sad. The daughter has the parents so trained, that three meals a day, she had four cars of families running around to alternative restaraunts to feed her while we were in Wisconsin Dells for 3 days. It was absolutely ridiculous.

My solution ~ I manuevered it well when my oldest was almost 2 and hated vegetables and fruits. We would regularly take him to Camp Snoopy (the amusement park). While he was always fighting me on eating fruits and vegetables, I took him and put him in very thin flat flip flops...whereby he was too short to ride on many of the rides. I explained that eating fruits and veggies would help with this. I would remind him of Camp Snoopy at meal times, and how to ride the cool rides, he needed to eat more fruits and veggies. He chowed down, and a few weeks later we brought him back, and I put him in some taller loafers. He could ride many more rides due to the height difference. We would go off and on, and depending on how many battles we had and how he had been eating, I would alternate shoes to show him how eating a healthy diet including fruits and vegetables would help him grow big. Lots of veggies and fruits, and I would dress him in tall shoes or boots to go, and vice versa. Because he could actually merit from good eating, he started asking for fruits and vegetables, and the rest is history. My mom thought it was pretty devious (to say the least), but I must say it did the trick. He could see the reward of healthy eating.

My pediatrician and I discussed this many times, and he explained that kids that age will not starve themselves...it is a biological need. Eventually they will eat what you put out, but you have to make sure you are willing to meet their resistance and not break down. It is very easy to make alterantive meals and cater to your kids, but what are you really teaching them?

I didn't read the other responses, but I know from experience that this is a "hot topic" among parents.

We started struggling with pickiness somewhere from 18-20 months with our son. It started after he had the flu and his eating just never went back.

We basically catered to what he wanted (within reason) and fixed him different meals from ourselves. Just after he turned 2 yrs old we tried forcing "you eat what we eat" --- that went VERY badly for a week. After that we stopped listening to everyone else and just losened up again.

I think this was the best strategy. Our son is now almost 3 yrs old and is starting to add things back in to his diet. We eat meals together as a family and we always offer him our food, but he is welcome to say "no thank you". We feel that eating and food shouldn't become a battle, and we feel that he will eventually come around.

With that all said our son does eat a TON of different fruits, yogurt & cheese, few veggies (red peppers & cucumbers primarily).

Our "staple" meals are PB&J, Tyson Chicken Nuggets and toast. Along with those is always served a fruit of veggie and milk or OJ.

Good luck!

what does he like to eat?

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