I sometimes joke that the easiest way to get your toddler to eat something you want them to is to put it on your plate, not theirs—because they always seem to want what’s not theirs! Here’s how to use this impulse to your advantage.

parent and kids roasted sweet potato taco plates

When Your Toddler Prefers to Eat Off Your Plate

While letting them eat full meals off of your plate is not the best daily strategy—and it can obviously interrupt you feeding yourself—there are ways that this can be helpful in the overall goal of raising kids who eat a variety of foods. Here’s how to use this to your advantage if it’s happening in your house.

1. Try a Family Snack Plate

We tend to do this when we want to have picnics on the porch in the warmer months or when I need a super simple, yet satisfying meal. Put an assortment of food—try a cheese plate with fresh veggies and fruit, sliced cheese, thin salami, crackers, and the like—onto a cutting board or large serving platter and let everyone, even the little eaters, take what they want as they want it. (The adults do the same!)

TIP: This lets the little ones pick and choose what they want from what’s on offer, but there’s no temptation to eat off your plate since you don’t have one!

2. Serve Food Family-Style

The next time you serve dinner, instead of dishing up plates by the counter, bring all of the components of the meal to the table and let everyone serve themselves. Ask your toddler what they want—even if they aren’t too verbal, they can point. With all of the meal right there, the little one can let you know when they want more without needing to take it from your plate…since whatever is on your plate should also be on the table.

TIP: This can be a great way to give more power to your kiddo so they feel like they have a say in their food. Find more about family style meals here.

3. Cook One Meal

Skipping short-order cooking in favor of just one family meal can go a long way towards eliminating plate grabbing. I know that there are times that you might want something different than your little one, but if you serve just one meal most of the time, everyone will adjust to eating the same food and any potential drama will be lessened—simply because everyone has the same food.

TIP: We sometimes have optional sides—like salad or fruit—so that can be a way to add in variety if you need something else for yourself.

These three tips can help to even things out at the table when used along with the feeding approach known as the Division of Responsibility in Feeding.

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