Nurturing my toddler: Why I don’t give a damn about manners at mealtime


The world is full of rules when it comes to toddler eating time. They should sit here, eat that, not play at the table, wait until they have finished their food until they get down etc. etc.

The first two are enough to make any toddler’s brain explode, add the rest in the mix and you’ve got potential mealtime Armageddon.

My view is that you’ve got plenty of time to teach your children mealtime manners and etiquette…like for example, within the years that their brain is actually mature enough to comprehend why on earth any of that is important.

Trying to do any of that during toddlerhood is pretty much a kamikaze mission in my eyes, especially with an uber strong headed toddler, like the one I happen to have knocking about at home.

I also believe that the importance of nutrition and how your toddler is nurtured throughout the day far outweighs the rules which we expect them to live by when it comes to eating. After all, it is widely recognised that the nutrition our little ones receive in their early years can affect not only their development but also their health for years to come.

If you are lucky to have a toddler that just sits nicely and shovels food in their face every mealtime then let me say now I am INSANELY jealous. But we are all dealt different hands, and have to work things accordingly.

With that in mind, when my toddler no longer wanted to sit in her booster seat, we ate pretty much anywhere else until the issue resolved itself one day. When she wants to get down mid-way through a meal, we continue the meal elsewhere around the house so she can satisfy her toddler itchy need to be on the move. When it just isn’t an eating day, we read books over dinner or stand up at the window to look for cats. When vegetables are a no-no, we will sit down on the kitchen floor and having a pea eating race out of the sieve. All just so she can be encouraged to eat the good stuff.

It’s true, I have probably become the queen of removing obstacles and creating distractions to ensure eating time is less of a battle of wills by having an attitude that at this juncture, it’s not how but what you eat, and for that, I am totally unapologetic, even if I have made the most ginormous rod for my own back. However, I DO draw the line at letting her watch TV as a distraction at mealtimes, unless she has been ill and not touched a peep for days because that for me is too big a can of worms….

The crux is – I just don’t have it in me to put my child to bed without having so much as sniffed their dinner when it’s one of “those days” (unless there is a very good reason i.e. they are sick), something that to my utter dismay has been suggested to me both in person and on forums. Because, last time I checked we weren’t living in Victorian times!

Do you bend or throw out the rules at meal times to ensure your toddler gets optimal nutrition? Or are you literally tsk-tsking as you read this?


  1. I don’t listen to anyone, a mum knows what’s best for their child and if that’s what it takes to make sure they eat something then bugger the rules. xx

  2. I play it by ear. I’m keen for him to explore food. If he wants to have a bit of a squidge and smell that’s fine, if he’s lobbing it across the kitchen that’s a no no. I don’t want meal times to be a chore so if he wants to get down he can and then if he’s peckish a bit later he can have some more, can’t say I haven’t done it meself 🙂

  3. I tend to encourage my children to sit at the table and eat and always have done from when we first started weaning but I am happy for them to have some toys at the table to keep them occupied if they don’t want to eat very much. Snack times tend to be wherever they are playing at the time though. My eldest can be picky at times but it is much more short-lived if I don’t react to it. Everyone is different though and you know best about what works well with your child – as you say, the manners will come when they are a little older. Mine don’t have brilliant table manners by any stretch of the imagination!

  4. I have always found the more fuss that is made the worse it is. I try to go with the flow. Some days are winners, some days are disasters but it won’t always be like that will it. 🙂

  5. I agree. Whatever works best for your child is the best way. Mine will only eat bananas and blueberries at the moment, but at least those are healthy!

    • You could do a lot worse than bananas and blueberries that’s for sure! I remember when my little one used to guzzle blueberries like there was no tomorrow and now she detests them – rolling with the changes!

  6. I totally agree with you! Every day our dinner starts at the table but my 2 year old has the attention span of a typical toddler so like you, I let him leave half way through and take his food with him (as long as it’s not overly messy!)
    I’d rather that than battles at mealtimes, and he’s pretty good at eating… I don’t want him to stop enjoying mealtimes! Great to hear from someone else with the same approach 🙂
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