The Fun of Eating Your Dinner

by KJ Dell

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Why does your toddler reach for your steak but ignore the neatly cut bites of meat right in front of him? Because that steak is yours.

“Even if it’s the same food, if it’s on your plate, it must be better,” says Ann Douglas, author of Mealtime Solutions for Your Baby, Toddler and Preschooler. “He thinks that if he’s having trouble with his fork and you’re not, maybe your food is easier to eat. Or yours is on a different-colored plate, or it’s cut differently, so it might taste different. And if it actually is different food, it might be better than his  — even young kids get tired of the same foods.” The result? A fist in your spaghetti. To regain control:

Set boundaries. Your toddler’s not too young to ask first or to use a fork (instead of grabby fingers). Tell him what you expect in very clear, simple terms.

Don’t give up your dinner. You don’t have to eat only what no one else wants. If you make sure there’s enough to share, you can both enjoy a grown-up meal.

Stop making special toddler food. If he’s always eating off your plate, why bother being a short-order cook? At a restaurant, ask for an extra plate instead of something from the kids’ menu. Think of this phase as the perfect time to introduce new foods!