Blog / Fussy toddlers and eating vegies!

August 30 2022,

Fussy toddlers and eating vegies!

Fussy Eating

‘Please, just one more bite’.

‘Vegetables are really good for you, just try it please’. 

We have all said something similar to children whether as a parent or educator, we have all been there… While it is definitely frustrating at times, we have to accept that fussy eating is part of children’s development. In this blog, we are going to talk about some strategies dealing with fussy eating and hope that will make mealtimes more pleasant! 

First, let’s talk about what fussy eating is and how it contributes to children’s development. Fussy eating is when children have strong food preferences and do not like the taste, shape, colour or texture of particular food.

This happens as children are curious beings, and it is their way of exploring their environment and asserting their independence. Some children might like their food separate as that allows them to see all the ingredients before eating, which provides them a sense of assurance that there will be no surprises….. Children’s willingness to try food will depend partly on the eating environment. 

Here are some fussy eating facts that gives us an understanding of why children sometimes fuss about their food - (Resource taken from:

  • Children’s appetites are affected by their growth cycles. Even babies have changing appetites. At 1-6 years, it’s common for children to be really hungry one day and picky the next.
  • Children have different taste preferences from grown-ups.
  • Life is too exciting for children sometimes, and they’re too busy exploring the world around them to spend time eating.
  • Children learn by testing the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. They can be very strong willed when it comes to making decisions about food (to eat or not to eat, and what to eat). It’s all part of their social, intellectual and emotional development.

Now that we have an understanding of why fussy eating occurs, below are some strategies that can make mealtimes more pleasant! 

  • We know this is really hard, try not to worry about spilled drinks or food on the floor during meal times (unless it's causing danger to the people around the room). Making mealtimes happy and regular is important as this allows the children to associate food with happy memories created at the table. 
  • Make healthy food fun! Try cutting it into creative and interesting shapes to draw children’s attention. Just like when adults are drawn to the fancy plating when going to a restaurant, vibrant colours and unique designs will gravitate their attention to come to the table! 
  • Involve the children in preparing their own meals such as salads. Educators use this strategy to also teach children where vegetables come from and invite them to plant their own vegetables. The results have shown that the children are more willing to eat vegetables from their own garden as this gives them that sense of achievement!  At Turtletot in Bexley, we have a vegetable garden (with a resident scarecrow!) that the children actively plant, nurture and harvest the vegetables, even if it is as simple as picking some mint or celery and taking it to Miss Sue in the kitchen!
Celery in the Turtletot Vegetable patch
  • When introducing unfamiliar food, put a small amount of new food on the plate with familiar food your child already likes and then invite them to explore the new food with their senses first. Starting off with small changes will make the transition more smooth as the child will be able to make predictions along the way. 

Another thing that we find works is to eat any new food with the children, here at Turtletot the Teachers try where they can to eat new food with the children if they are finding it hard.. does not always work, but there is nothing better than leading by example!

Most children will go through this developmental milestone and during these times they learn boundaries of acceptable behaviour which is a very important life skill to have. If we can view fussy eating as ‘normal’ and manage it in a positive way, this trait will eventually grow out of them and will have enormous benefits to children as they start to understand the concept of appreciation and gratitude. 

Healthy eating from Sue and the Team at Turtletot Childcare in Bexley

Special thanks to Kitty the author of our blog!

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