Making Good Food Fun for Your Toddler

2-3 Years

When it comes to getting picky eaters to enjoy healthy meals and snacks, a few simple adjustments can make all the difference. That’s because kids (and adults) love eating food with cool names—like Princess Peaches, Cauliflower Snowballs and Spider-Man Spinach. Here are some more easy ways to encourage your child to eat like a champ.

Liking or not liking a food depends on how it looks

Whether or not we like a food depends on more than just our taste buds. Our brains have a hand in it too. What we call different foods, the way they look on our plates, our eating environment and even our role in food preparation can affect how much (or how little) parents and toddlers enjoy mealtime. In other words, the better it looks, the better we think it tastes.

Smart moms use superheroes to make foods sound cool

When you eat out at a nice restaurant and are trying to decide what to order, what are you more likely to pick: “chicken and rice,” or “pecan-crusted chicken and jasmine rice”? More descriptive and fancy-sounding names improve the taste expectation for adults, and the same is true for toddlers. Character or family names and seasonal themes are an easy way to jazz up the menu and to raise your toddler’s expectations for dinner.

Some fun examples include:

  • Superman Stew
  • Princess Jasmine Rice
  • Lightning McQueen Spaghetti Marinara
  • Captain Hook Hummus
  • Cauliflower Snowballs

Make mealtime fun with shapes

The better food looks, the better we (and our kids) expect it to taste. The best way to make a plate of food look better is to add color, and the easiest way to do that is with veggies and fruits. By adding at least two different colored veggies or fruits to every meal, you’ll make your little tot more excited about eating it. When you have a little extra time, like on the weekend, you can use these simple tricks to make breakfast, lunch and dinner look more appetizing to a toddler:

  • Use cookie cutters to make shapes quickly and effortlessly out of sandwiches, melon, pancakes and more!
  • Arrange foods into fun shapes, like flowers or happy faces.
  • Use Pinterest to find simple, easy and fun ideas, like a snack plate made with Ritz cracker eyes, a cheese nose and a fruit mouth; or a breakfast “flower” with mini pancake petals and a cut fruit middle.

Turn off the TV and tune in your toddler

Everyone has the opportunity to appreciate their food and each other’s company more when the TV is off and toys, tablets and smartphones are put away. Keep the conversation positive by talking about what everyone learned, enjoyed or discovered that day, and save stressful conversations for later (in private).

Let your child into the kitchen

Since toddlers are more likely to enjoy eating meals they helped prepare, grab a stool and appoint your child assistant chef. You’ll feel good about making fun memories together and bonding over meal prep, and he’ll be excited about his role in the end product.

  • Involve your toddler by letting him pick a new veggie or fruit at the store.
  • Let him rinse off the produce, tear the greens, snap the beans or stir things together in a big bowl.
  • Have fun naming the foods, setting the table and scooping veggies onto everybody’s plates together.