One of our readers recently reached out for help managing her 2.5 year old boy during mealtimes. Since this is quite a common issue in toddlers, I've decided to share my response in hopes it helps more families manage big feelings during meals.
1) Identify what is the trigger:
a) is he overtired? (when are you serving dinner, is it possible he needs to eat a bit earlier?)
b) has he been snacking during the day and then not hungry at mealtimes?
c) is he a picky eater and not a fan of the choice presented?
d) is his appetite decreased?
2) Make a plan:
a) For the overtired child: That one is easiest (obviously our schedules now are upside down... so maybe not that easy...) - try to get him to eat earlier, even if it means he either eats alone or you all eat a bit earlier.
b) For the constant snacker: young children normally tend to want to snack all day, making meals a battle. You could try limiting or reducing all together some snacks, so he's actually hungry at mealtimes.
c) For the picky eaters: Could he be tantruming because he doesn't like any of the foods you are preparing? Here are some tactics.
d) For the lack of appetite: This is actually quite normal. Appetite decreases in toddlers and it could be that he is simply not hungry (also, most likely not moving as much as before the shelter in place orders). Here is a really good article that explains this from the University of Utah.
3) Prep your child
Way before mealtimes, tell your child you are making food, show him what you're making and give him a heads up that you will be eating soon. (To avoid taking him away from toys/or a fun activity without warning). He can also be a part of the preparations, with easy tasks that are safe for little hands.
4) Help your little one develop his emotional language
Help him teach him the meaning of words like: tired, lonely, hungry, upset. Giving him the ability to verbalize emotions rather than exploding in a tantrum. Our feelings chart will help you show him the different emotions.