Advice for Parents With Toddlers Who Are Fussy Eaters

Toddlers are known for being more particular eaters but know that it’s normal for your child to have likes and dislikes, just like adults do. Rejecting foods as a toddler can be a combination of your child discovering their food preferences as well as asserting their independence as their own person.


It can be stressful or worrying when you don’t think your child is eating enough food or the right types of foods. Remember: as the parent or caregiver, you get to decide what food you serve your child and when. It’s up to them to choose whether or not to eat it and how much to have. Most children will eat when they’re hungry.

Here are some tips and advice that may help with your fussy eater:

  • Research shows that you may need to offer your baby a new food up to 15 times before it is accepted. If your toddler refuses certain foods, one of the best approaches is to simply continue exposing them to it; put one or two pieces of the food on their plate, alongside other food you know they like. If they try it, give them lots of praise. If they just leave it, that’s okay too – you can try again next time.
  • It can help to refrain from giving snacks too close to your child’s main meals and to try to feed them kai (food) when they aren’t too tired.
  • Keep mealtimes positive and relaxed; rather than nagging, bribing or forcing your child to eat, focus on offering praise when they are eating well.
  • It’s wonderful to eat together as a whānau too as this can help foster a positive relationship with food for your tamariki and encourage them to eat healthy kai (food) like you do – they love to copy you at this age. Having meals together doesn’t have to be for dinner, but could be for breakfast, or on the weekends if that works best for your family.
  • And, when you are sitting down to eat together, focus on engaging in conversation and turn off all devices (like mobile phones and the TV) at the dining table.

If you’re worried about your child’s appetite or diet or are struggling with fussy eating, talk to your Well Child Tamariki Ora nurse or call PlunketLine on 0800 933 922 for free 24/7.