Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for your toddler. It provides her with the nutrients she needs for energy and proper growth, and helps prevent hunger-driven crankiness later in the day. Some toddlers are naturally picky, either from innate preferences or from a more sensitive palate. But just because your toddler is picky doesn't mean you have to skip the day's most critical meal.
Serve Breakfast at the Same Time Every Day
Your little tike's brain and body does best with a regular routine. Serve breakfast -- and all subsequent meals -- every day at the same time. This helps condition your toddler's internal biological clock to feel hungry in the morning at the same time, and this hunger can help dull his pickiness.
Make It Messy
Toddlers love tangible, squishy, and movable food. This plays into her need to explore, answers her curiosity about new objects she encounters, and satisfies her urge to touch and encounter different textures. To get her to try new foods, use healthy breakfast foods that move, have interesting textures or shapes, or make squishy noises. Think of juicy grapes, 100 percent fruit jam -- squishy and slimy! -- spread on whole wheat crackers, and yogurt that she can dip into with her fingers. Protect your toddler from choking by cutting the grapes into quarters. As an added benefit, cut grapes are squishier!
Dress It Up
Treat ketchup, ranch dressing, pure fruit jams, and similar food toppings like an artistic tool to dress up your toddler's breakfast foods and make an otherwise boring dish instantly appealing to a picky eater. For example, a little boy may be willing to give that healthy spinach omelet a try if you draw an airplane on it with ketchup or creamy dressing.
Create a Breakfast Nibble Tray
Give your picky toddler a sense of control over her food choices instead of forcing her to try just one or two new things. For example, on a tray place several healthy breakfast finger foods, such as whole grain cereal bits, thin slices of fruit and a couple of cubes of cheese. She can poke, prod and play with the food -- engaging her sense of touch -- and choose to slowly expand her food horizons on her own time.
Cut the Food Into Shapes
Using a cookie cutter or an artfully wielded knife, slice and dice your tike's food into creative, new shapes that spruce up even the most boring food. For example, a star-shaped cookie cutter can transform even the most boring slice of whole grain toast into a galaxy of fun.
Keep Portions in Perspective
Sometimes, what you think is a picky toddler is simply a toddler who doesn't have a big appetite to start with. Toddlers have very small stomachs and can only eat so much. For example, just a quarter of a slice of bread acts as an entire serving for a young toddler. Keep this in perspective when giving your child food. Knowing that toddlers don't eat a lot to start with can take a lot of pressure off of you -- and them, too.
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- "Today's Parent"; Rise and Dine: Breakfast Guide; Madeleine Greey; February 2010
- MayoClinic.com; Children's Nutrition: 10 Tips for Picky Eaters; August 2009
- "Today's Parent"; Messy Eaters; Holly Bennett; February 2008
- Focus on the Family Canada; I Don't Like It!; Meghan Baxter; 2009
- AskDrSears.com: Feeding the Picky Eater
- BabyCenter: How to Handle a Picky Eater
- Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images