‘I don’t like it’ whines the toddler.

‘Yuck!’ Scrunches up his face, unimpressed.

The baby throws the food you so lovingly prepared off the highchair.

Does that sounds like your house? I bet all the parents reading this are nodding, sighing and wishing for the magic cure!

We are here to tell you, things will improve BUT it takes time.

Did you know?

  • Children are born with an amazing survival strategy known as food neophobia (fear of the unknown). They actually need repeated exposure to the same food to finally accept the food.

  • The repeated exposure needed for a child to accept new foods actually happens in two stages. First of all, a child needs to experience a food around 20 times without even trying it (so seeing it, reading about it, gardening it, helping to buy it at the green grocer, colouring a picture with it etc) before they are happy to try it.
    After trying the food, it can take another 15-20 times to learn to accept it. That’s a lot of times! I say – stop counting but keep talking about food, keep reading about food together, keep doing foodie activities (read more in tips below), keep offering it at the table – just stop counting (much less stressful for everyone).

  • Believe it or not; child fussiness is actually completely normal! A normal stage of growing up. Linked in with changes in appetite (as their growth slows down at certain ages), overtiredness, overstimulation, showing their control and independence, boredom (it’s hard for a little person to concentrate on sitting and eating), amongst many others.

  • Your child doesn’t have control over lots of their world, however they do have control over what food they choose to eat. They can (and often do) control what they eat and how much they eat. It’s all part of your child becoming an individual and learning (what boundaries to push and about the world around them). So really it all makes sense why your child is fussy at the table at dinner time.

As you read this information, hopefully you should already feel better and more relaxed about the situation. It’s normal, your child is just learning and growing! We don’t expect a child to know their timetables as a toddler – we know this takes time and patience (and they need to know their numbers first). Eating is no different- we can’t expect children to eat their dinner, if they haven’t learnt to like the food in their dinner. Children need time, patience and lots of food education while they are growing up.

Tips to teach your kids about food:

  1. Language- ‘Don’t be rude to food’. This is a rule at our house. Makes a happy eating atmosphere.

  2. Encourage, but don’t pressure, your child to experience a new food. Licking, playing with, painting lips with, kissing, smelling, seeing and even spitting it out is all part of trying.

  3. The benefits of reading to your children has been mentioned many times across different areas of child development. Reading about how food grows is a fantastic way to teach  kids about different fruit and vegetables.

  4. Do some veggie inspired colouring in with your kids.

  5. Take your kids to the green grocer and talk to them about the fruit and veggies. What colours do they see? What do different fruit and vegetables smell like? Feel like?

  6. Change what you say to your kids from – ‘Eat this because it’s good for you’ to what it actually means, with examples that they understand. Try saying ‘Orange vegetables like carrots are super important to help us see’ and ‘Green veggies like broccoli makes our tummies feel good’.

  7. Cook with your kids. A fun (and messy) experience. To reduce frustration and stress, cook together when you have a spare moment (on the weekend perhaps?) and choose age appropriate recipes- simple dishes work best at the start.

  8. Keep offering a whole variety of food with no pressure. Remember just because your child might not like/try it today, they need the repeated exposure to learn to like it.

  9. Some other healthy food activities you can do with your child- talking about fruit and vegetables, imaginary play- make a fruit and vegetable shop, singing about fruit and vegetables, painting and visiting a Farmers market.

  10. Remind yourself and your child – They will learn to like it. It just takes time and patience. Stay calm and try to enjoy food with your kids.

Thanks for joining us on the quest to raise colourful, adventurous and healthy children!

Please share some of your foodie family adventures with us by commenting below.



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  • I love this article. It encompasses so much of what my Early Learning Centre tries to teach to parents. Now with a child of my own I understand how time consuming meal times can be, but working with older children (school aged) there’s something different in the attitude of the children who have positive relationships with food.


  • I have a youngster who doesn’t like lettuce, cucumber and a couple of other foods. He never has even he has tried them a few times. Even as a baby in a highchair he never threw food or dropped it on the floor if he didn’t like it, he would actually hand it back to us.


  • Too many parents give up too quick with presenting food to their kids. Forcing doesn’t help indeed, but presenting the food in different ways and in different occasions can bring results in the long term. And let kids prepare meals with you in the kitchen.


  • I would add that if there is something else you are unsure of, please don’t hesitate to contact a speech pathologist or occupational therapist who specialises in sensory feeding issues. Sometimes a fussy eater is just a fussy eater. Sometimes there is something else going on!

    • Excellent point – SP & OT can help as you are quite right – there can be other things going on.


  • Such a great article. So handy to know with my two year old who has suddenly become “fussy”. It seems knowledge and persistence is the key.


  • What a great article, so true


  • I’m blessed with children who are always willing to try new things and are good eaters. Although they all have their preferences and that’s totally ok and normal. They all get their turn in chosing what we eat. Chosing and buying our foods to gether certainly helps.


  • Still not a fan of brussel sprouts even though I used to tell my daughter they were mini cabbage patches (From the cabbage patch kids).


  • Growing food is great. We have so much fun gardening.


  • We have always tried lots of different foods and have a wide variety of tastes.


  • It’s a good idea to encourage children to try all sorts of foods, and sometimes you can make foods taste better – like adding a little grated cheese, or pasta sauce.


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