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Timeout with Nanny Robina: Mealtime Tips

My 19-month-old refuses to eat on her own. We know she can and have seen her use a fork and a spoon. Even when we know she’s hungry she’ll cry and carry on. I’ve tried taking her out of her chair and waiting, but she does the same thing. What should we do?

Oh dear, be careful to not create a food war, because you will not win! Toddlers, babies and food are out of our control. You cannot make your child eat what you want or when you want.


  • Make eating fun. Try playing the “Don’t eat this, It’s mine. I will be right back to eat it” game. That always prompts them to eat it!
  • Allow more time when you need to be out the door early. On average it takes a two-year-old 45 minutes to finish a meal!
  • Give her a lot of choice of foods that can be eaten with her fingers, such as chopped potatoes, green beans and chicken.
  • Keep mealtimes short, lighthearted and fun. Moms stress out far too much about food, often taking away the love of food.
  • When you do place food on her tray, if she throws it then take it away and just place one piece at a time on her tray.
  • When you place cutlery on the tray have the food stuck on the fork ready to go. It will eliminate the frustration of getting the food on the fork. Have two forks on hand and when possible switch to the one you have already prepared.

Published in November 2010.

a man carrying two children

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