Toddlers have small bellies and growing bodies. They also have a budding sense of independence. As a parent, this can be both delightful and exhausting, especially at mealtime!

Helpful tips

  • Let your son/daughter explore new foods and textures. Let him/her touch, smell and taste a new food before trying it.
  • Be patient, loving and consistent. Children who have Down syndrome might take a little longer to try new foods. This is normal.
  • Stay neutral. This means not reacting or overreacting if your toddler becomes fussy or refuses a new food.
  • Eat together without distractions. Set a good example by eating together as often as possible.
  • Turn off the TV and put away cell phones.
  • Pair a favorite food with a new food. Offer the new food as a side dish. For example, if your son/daughter likes pasta, offer a side of broccoli. If he/she likes peas, offer carrots on the side.
  • Offer healthy foods over and over. These include fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. It can take some time for your son/daughter to get used to the new textures, flavors and temperatures.
  • Add a dip! Dipping can be fun. Offer a side of hummus, dressing, guacamole or nut butter for him/her to dip new foods in.
  • Try, try and try again. It can take more than 10 times for your son/daughter to try a new food and even longer to like it. It can take some time for him/her to get used to the new textures, flavors and temperatures.

What is normal behavior while my son/daughter is trying new food?

  • Playing with or spitting out food
  • Making faces or grimacing. Toddlers often make faces when trying new foods. This means they are learning about a new taste or texture. It does not mean they do not like the food.
  • Feeling more or less hungry at different times. Toddlers’ hunger may not yet follow meal times. It is normal for a toddler to refuse a meal.

When should I seek help about my son/daughter's feeding behavior?

  • If he/she does not try or like an entire food group or texture for more than 2-3 weeks
  • If he/she eats fewer than 20 different foods
  • If your child cries, fusses or screams often during mealtime.
  • If he/she persistently gags when eating foods.
  • If he/she shows signs of a food allergy, like a rash, diarrhea or anaphylaxis (when the throat swells and closes after eating a certain food)

Who can I call with questions or concerns?

  • Your son/daughter’s doctor. He/she can answer questions about feeding behaviors or help if you notice symptoms like coughing often while drinking.
  • A feeding therapist or a registered dietitian. You can schedule an appointment in the Down Syndrome Program by calling 617-643-8912. You can also search online for a local registered dietitian at

Rev. 10/2017. This webpage is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.