Should I offer rewards to get my picky toddler to eat? Picky Eating

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If your child is picky, you might feel desperate to get her to actually eat something healthy. Here's what experts and other moms have to say about rewarding picky kids for eating.

Rewards Can Have a Negative Impact

"Yes, food can be fun and should be enjoyed, but associating food with good or bad behavior can interfere with a child's natural feeding cues, which could contribute to obesity or other issues later in life. For example, a child may eat when he or she isn't hungry because there will be a reward. Assuming your toddler is healthy and growing, it's okay if they don't eat much for a particular meal. This is actually quite normal for toddlers. Keep a routine so your child understands there will...

"Yes, food can be fun and should be enjoyed, but associating food with good or bad behavior can interfere with a child's natural feeding cues, which could contribute to obesity or other issues later in life. For example, a child may eat when he or she isn't hungry because there will be a reward. Assuming your toddler is healthy and growing, it's okay if they don't eat much for a particular meal. This is actually quite normal for toddlers. Keep a routine so your child understands there will be another opportunity to eat at snack time or the next meal." -- Jessica McGee, MS, RD, clinical nutrition manager at Children's National Health System

Praise but Don't Reward

"I wouldn't necessarily give rewards, but I'm all for positive reinforcement when kids try new foods. You don't want your child to expect a toy simply for eating. I would suggest figuring out a way to find foods your child actually likes. You want her to develop healthy habits and the earlier the better." -- Alison Mitzner, MD, pediatrician, New York, NY

Don't Bribe With Treats

"I don't bribe my daughter with food, but I do ask her to try one bite of something she thinks she doesn't like. Then I praise her and tell her I'm proud of her for trying it, whether she likes it or not."

Forget the Fight

"I'm not going to fight over food or try to bribe them. If they don't eat a meal, they have to wait for the next snack time. This has made mealtime a lot less stressful in our house."

Sticker Rewards Work for Us

"Our son loves stickers, so I got a few packs of character ones that he likes and explained the new dinner rule to him. If he eats at least one bite of everything on his plate, he earns a sticker. Slowly but surely it's helping."

The advice on CafeMom aims to educate, inform, and provide a range of solutions to the issues moms care about. It is not a substitute for consultation with a medical professional or treatment for a specific condition. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified professional. Please contact your health-care provider with questions and concerns.