A Toddler at the Table

Mealtimes should be about good behaviour as well as good food. Toddlebox health and nutrition expert Annemarie Bennett shows how mealtimes can set healthy habits for life!


Toddlers eat better if they are allowed to feed themselves. A messy meal is, more often than not, a sign that your toddler is enjoying their food. Toddlers who are allowed to explore their food are more likely to eat enough and to eat a greater variety of foods.

  • Use unbreakable plates and bowls. This makes meals and snacks much safer.
  • Use plates with raised edges. This is especially important when toddlers are learning to use cutlery. The raised edge helps prevent food from sliding off the plate and makes eating less frustrating.
  • Cut foods down to size. Cut larger pieces of food into small chunks to help your toddler to pick up food with their hands or a fork more easily.
  • Encourage your toddler to serve themselves. Particularly once they turn two, let them decide their own portion sizes. You can help put food on their plate, but allow them to decide on the amount of food.
  • Introduce toddler cutlery at the right time. Toddler-specific cutlery should be introduced when your toddler shows an interest in using cutlery with their meal.



  1. Easy-grip plastic spoon between 9 and 14 months of age.
  2. Toddler fork from about 18 months of age (but fingers are still ok too!).
  3. Toddler knife from about 2½ (but you’ll need to help till age 5+)

It takes several years to master cutlery, especially the correct use of a knife and fork together. When you’re a toddler, a meal is as much about learning as eating! Check out Making Mealtimes Matter for tips on dealing with problems at mealtimes!



Family meals can improve food intake, vocabulary, self-esteem and sleeping habits. They can decrease behavioural problems and the risk of obesity. Family meals are comforting for anyone, at any age. Try to have family meals most days, and treat them as special family time. Chat and share thoughts as well as eat.

  • Relax. Meals aren’t for arguments.
  • Use please, thank you, and excuse me.
  • Serve everyone at once.
  • Sit at a table with no distractions and no screens.
  • Relax and enjoy – and your toddler will follow your example.
  • Don’t pressure your toddler to eat. See our Guide to Healthy Eating Habits for tips on how to deal with a toddler who doesn’t appear hungry.
  • Whether you’re all together at breakfast, lunch or dinner, make a commitment to family meals.
  • Be realistic. Make time for family meals as often as your home life allows.


tips to include your toddler in making meals


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