Jun 28, 2023

12 Tips for Dealing with Toddler Tantrums at Mealtime

Sophie Allen
Sophie Allen
12 Tips for Dealing with Toddler Tantrums at Mealtime

Mealtime tantrums can be a challenging and frustrating experience for both parents and caregivers. Dealing with a meltdown at the dinner table is a common occurrence, but it doesn't have to ruin your family meals. In this blog, we will explore practical strategies to help you navigate through tantrums during mealtimes and create a more peaceful and enjoyable dining atmosphere for everyone involved!

Establish a Consistent Mealtime Routine

Children thrive on routine, and establishing a consistent mealtime routine can help prevent and manage tantrums. 

  • Set specific mealtime schedules and stick to them as much as possible. Regular meal hours provide children with a sense of structure and predictability, reducing their anxiety and the likelihood of meltdowns.

  • Try to involve your little one in the routine by allowing them to participate in setting the table or helping with simple food preparation tasks (e.g. cutting an apple, pouring some herbs into the dish). This sense of ownership can increase their engagement and cooperation during mealtimes.

Create a Pleasant Environment

A calm and pleasant environment can significantly impact a child's behaviour during meals. 

  • Ensure that the dining area is free from distractions, such as excessive noise, electronic devices, or toys that may divert their attention. Additionally, this will help your little one focus more on what they are eating and that they eat with care. 

  • Try to avoid using your phone or watching something on the TV whilst you are spending time with your little one at dinner, as this is great quality time!

  • Why not talk to them and ask them what their favourite part of the day was (you can give them some reminders to help them!).

  • Dimming the lights slightly and playing soothing background music can also contribute to a relaxed atmosphere. 

  • You could also consider incorporating small decorations or colourful placemats to make the dining experience more appealing and enticing for your child. A visually appealing space can help shift their focus from potential triggers to enjoying the meal.

Offer Age-Appropriate Food Choices

Providing age-appropriate food choices will empower your little one and give them a sense of control over their meal. 

  • Allow your little one to have a say in deciding what they would like to eat within a pre-selected range of healthy options. For example, you could offer them either an orange, banana or kiwi fruit for pudding.

  • Ensure that the meals are balanced, including a variety of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and grains. 

  • Offering small portions of new or unfamiliar foods alongside familiar favourites can also encourage them to explore new flavours and textures. By involving them in the decision-making process, you can reduce the chances of resistance and power struggles at the table!

Practise Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is an effective tool to encourage positive behaviour during mealtimes. 

  • Praise and acknowledge your child's efforts and good behaviour when they exhibit positive eating habits, such as trying new foods, using utensils, or sitting patiently at the table. 

  • Offering incentives, such doing their favourite activity with you after finishing their meal, can also motivate your little one to stay engaged and cooperative during mealtimes. However, it is essential to avoid using food as a reward, as this may contribute to unhealthy eating habits in the long run.

Remember, every child is unique, so be flexible and adapt these strategies to suit your child's specific needs. With time and practice, you'll find a method that works best for your family, fostering a healthier relationship with food and enhancing family bonding during mealtimes.


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