10 tips for the toddler who refuses to eat

10 tips for the toddler who refuses to eat

Are you feeling frustrated because your toddler won’t eat their dinner? Wondering how to best support your toddler who refuses to eat?

It seems like everyone on the internet says that the only way to stop your toddler refusing to eat is through fancy shaped cutters, cutsy plates and inventive utensils. 

These are great but there are tons of things you can do for your toddler who won’t eat with the stuff you already have.

10 tips for when your toddler refuses to eat without spending a dollar 

Toddler sitting in high chair refusing to eat dinner

Toddler meal times can be really stressful when your toddler refuses to eat. We have all had the experience of a failed attempt of those “best dinner recipes for toddlers”. Ater searching for a new exciting “toddler approved” recipe, going back and forth to the recipe while trying to cook it just right, you finally set the plate before your toddler. 


Your toddler flat out refuses to eat it. Or maybe even throws the plate. 


Toddlers are pretty notorious for going through a picky eating phase. 

If this battle at dinner time with your toddler is causing you a lot of stress- consider joining my upcoming FREE ecourse on picky eating in toddlers. You can find more details: here.  

It might be that you are unintentionally making your toddler into a picky eater.

Or it could be that your toddler has real legit reasons for being a picky eater.

Either way- whether your toddler is refusing to eat because of sensory issues or just going through a picky eating phase- these tips will help you get some cooperation from your toddler. 

Sometimes toddlers refuse to eat, not because they aren’t hungry, but because their need to assert themselves is stronger. Emotions (theirs and ours) play a big part in meal times.

And sometimes they just need a little bit of humor, fun and playfulness to help them transition into the meal. 

white crackers and snacks are often toddler approved foods

10 tips for the toddler who refuses to eat

1.   Frozen foods

Maybe it’s the constant cycle of teething that toddlers go through or the connection between frozen and ice-cream. Toddlers love frozen food! 

  • Popsicles
  • frozen fruit
  • Heck my kids also like frozen broccoli

2.   Sprinkles

There’s This can be ANYTHING in a herb container. Potato spice, pink salt, Italian herbs, nutritional yeast. 

When a toddler refuses to eat- the simple act of sprinkling something ontop of their food helps them feel involved in the act of serving. 

3.   Mini

Small is always more fun. It can also be more manageable to eat for toddlers who refuse to eat because of oral motor difficulties. 

  • Mini meatballs
  • Small bread rolls
  • mini chicken nuggets (chicken nugget popcorn) 
  • Tiny sandwiches
  • mini pies
  • Single serving mini quiech (you can use your muffin tray to make these)
  • Mini skewers
  • Baby wraps or wrap wheels 
  • yogurt in a mini cup
toddler using a dip during meal. Helps for toddlers who refuse to eat

4.   Dipping

Using a dip is another great way to get buy in from a toddler who won’t eat. It makes the meal a type of activity or science experiment.

Fruit and vegetable sticks as well as crackers, pieces of bread or even slices of chicken are great for dipping. 

When my toddlers refuse to eat I like to involve these dips in our meals: 

  • Hummus
  • Cottage cheese
  • Home made tomato sauce
  • Ranch sauce
  • Peanut butter dipping sauce 
  • Low sodium soya sauce
  • Artichoke dip
  • Guacamole 
  • Cream cheese

5.   Snack plates

When we start to get into a pattern of our toddlers refusing to eat, it’s good to shake things up. Trying something new, even as simple as how we serve dinner can make a difference. 

Snack plates are an easy way to do this. The idea is basically a collection of many snack foods served for dinner. 

You can serve it on a kids plate, inside a muffin tin or in lots of small containers. 

Some ideas to put inside: 

  • Cut grapes
  • Rolled cheese slices or cubed cheese
  • Any dipping sauce like cottage cheese
  • The mini meals are also great for snack plates- like mini sandwiches
  • Sliced banana
  • Pieces of avocado 
  • Crackers
  • Vegetable sticks- like cucumber
  • Leftovers are perfect for snack plates 
  • Small serving of yogurt or apple sauce 

6.   A funny name “jingle jangle rice”

It may sound silly but sometimes just calling the dinner a new funny name can persuade a toddler who is refusing to eat. 

Speak “kid” to kids. Toddlers like to laugh and say funny new rhyming words. Seriously try it- it works

Some of our favorites: 

  • Jingle jangle rice (for stirfry and rice) 
  • Hubbly bubbly soup (for minestrone) 
  • Patter cake pizza pie (for aubergine parmigiana) 
  • Sip sup stew (chicken stew) 
  • Bossy burgers (meatballs) 

Yes they make no sense. They just sound funny. That’s literally it. 

fruit on a skewer or stick as pictured is a great way to encourage toddlers who won't eat

7.   On a stick

Serving foods on a stick is especially helpful for toddler who refuse to eat because of sensory issues. It takes away the fear of their hands getting dirty and makes the journey of food from plate to mouth a little less intimidating. 

Also most kids love food on sticks. Maybe it reminds them of popsicles?

Some ideas I like to use when my toddler won’t eat are: 

  • Veggies on a skewer
  • Burger pops
  • Fruit on a stick
  • Corn on the cob with those little forks
  • Mini sandwiches on a stick
  • Chicken skewers

8.   Food art

Making pictures or art on your toddlers plate may not be feasible to do at every meal. But when you do have the opportunity, it can really encourage your toddler to eat healthy foods. 

I find this particularly helpful if you let your toddler who refuses to eat-make it with you. 

Here are some really fun ideas for toddler food art.

9.   Tapas

Think lots of small salads or mini meals. 

You can do a leftovers tapas- seeing the variety and the fact that it’s generally self-serve can really encourage toddlers who aren’t feeling enthusiastic about food. 

For toddlers refusing to eat because of sensory issues this may not be the best idea- the variety could be overwhelming. You might try using the concept of tapas with mainly “preferred” foods for extreme picky eaters. 

10.   Let them make it

Cooking is such a fun and effective hack for toddler who won’t eat! By preparing the food- they feel pride, ownership and being apart of the process. It’s also a great way to help your toddler transition into meal time. 

If your toddler is refusing to eat, try get them to help you in preparing: 

  • Grilled cheese
  • Peeling a boiled egg
  • Preparing scrambled eggs
  • Vegetables that they have helped to wash and put in the pot to steam 

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