A family of four sitting down at a table for a meal.

You can lead a child to the table, but you can't make a child eat - nor should you! Parents and caregivers decide what foods are offered and when and where they are eaten. The child decides which offered foods to eat and how much he or she is going to eat. (Adapted from publications by Ellyn Satter.)

Feeding children

  • Provide regular meals and snacks. Offer a variety of foods.
  • Provide safe and comfortbale seating. Small children may need an elevated seat to reach the table and food.
  • Let the child serve part or all of the meal themselves.
  • Encourage children to try new foods. Serving a new food with a favorite food may encourage tasting. It may take 15, 20, or even dozens of times for a child to accept a new food. KEEP TRYING.
  • Don't force a child to eat.
  • Food should not be used for a reward or punishment.
  • Eat with children. They learn manners and eating behaviours from adults.
  • Make meal times fun and interesting. Turn off the TV and eat together. Keep mealtime conflict free.
  • Young children like plain, simple foods that can be finger-fed. Favorite foods are moist, smooth, crisp, mildly flavored, and at room temperature.
  • Snacks should be nutritious and satisfying but not offered too close to mealtimes.
  • What appears to be finicky behaviors may be attempts at assertiveness, a natural part of growing up.
  • Children are more likely to eat foods they helped prepare. Let them help plan a meal.
  • At mealtime, include at least one food your child likes. Don't make different foods for individual family members.
  • Most of all, relax. Enjoy this time you spend with your family.

Featured Recipes

Coming soon.

The recipes on this factsheet are foods that children can help prepare with adult supervision. Check out our factsheet Cooking With Kids for more tips on how to cook safely and successfully with your child.