Convincing a picky eater to eat can be a challenge for parents. Between the ages of about 2 and 5 it’s natural for children to become mighty fussy about what they will and will not eat. Try the following tips to keep your sanity and the peace at mealtime, while feeding your child a balanced diet.

Keep it Healthy for Your Picky Eater:

1. Take the long view. Evaluate whether your child is eating a healthy diet over the course of a full week. Toddlers may have individual days when they’ll eat nothing but noodles, but that’s okay if it balances out in the long run.

2. Introduce new foods gradually. As your child gets more mobile, they’re designed to test whether the new things they encounter are safe to eat. You’ll often get the best results if you present a new food every day for about 1 to 2 weeks.

3. Scale it down. Small children need small portions. They’ll ask for more if they’re still hungry. Encourage them to try one bite at a time. Limit meal times to a maximum of about 30 minutes. Serve smaller and more frequent meals if possible. Sticking to a regular schedule may also get good results.

4. Use innovative recipes. A little creativity can work wonders for getting your child to eat their vegetables and other wholesome fare. Grate carrots into pancake batter. Bake spinach lasagna. Munch on leftover chicken in the morning and serve waffles and other breakfast items for dinner.

5. Rely on nutrient dense foods. There may be times when your preschooler doesn’t have much of an appetite. Make every calorie count with powerhouse foods like yogurt, beans, and peanut butter.

6. Stay calm. Emotional health is also important to your family’s wellbeing. Talk about pleasant things while you eat to avoid making your child’s dining habits the center of attention. Indulge their preferences within reason. Above all, take heart that this fussiness is a passing stage.

Make it Fun for Your Picky Eater:

1. Take your child food shopping. Use grocery shopping as an opportunity to discuss good nutrition and admire attractive displays of food. Let your child pick out fruits and vegetables. Welcome their suggestions for planning your weekly menu.

2. Start a garden with your child. Children will be more interested in food if they help to grow it. Make it merry by planting a pizza garden or giving children their own colorful watering can. If the weather turns cold, cultivate easy indoor herbs like mint and chives.

3. Let your child help out in the kitchen. Involve your child in preparing meals and snacks. Even small children can use cookie cutters to turn bread into unusual shapes or help arrange vegetables into funny faces.

4. Make dining a social experience. Schedule a lunch date with other children and adults who can serve as good role models for eating well. Pack up a picnic lunch or visit a family friendly restaurant.

5. Get messy. Kids love to get a little wild. Make a game out of dipping baby carrots in yogurt or smearing toast with peanut butter. Give ordinary dishes gross names like olive eyeballs.

6. Use fun props. Presentation is the key. Look for cups and plates with your child’s favorite cartoon character or zoo animals. Wear funny hats. Develop a ritual to celebrate eating together including your own theme songs.

It’s exciting to watch your toddler grow and master new skills even when you need some extra patience at meal times. Learn to please your picky eater so your whole family can eat a balanced diet and enjoy these years together.