Much of how your toddler learns to behave at the table comes from being a part of family meals. So it’s important to make a habit of eating together as a family early on. It’s endlessly easier on the one who’s cooking the meal if you can eat from the same general menu. By making a few tweaks to ensure that foods are both appealing and age-appropriate for your toddler, it should be fairly easy to manage. For instance, if you prefer well-spiced dishes and your toddler eats only bland foods, set aside a portion of, say, rice, chicken, and vegetables for him before you spice things up for yourselves.

While your toddler can eat most of the foods you eat, some foods can cause choking, so take caution with stringy items (celery, green beans), fish that may have bones, and processed white breads, as they can gum up into balls and block his small windpipe. Avoid giving your child foods that are hard or round, such as raw veggies (baby carrots), chunks of cheese, olives, grapes, hot dogs, firm meats, and hard candies. Be cautious with popcorn as well, and if you offer peanut butter, make sure to spread it very thinly. You can put your child’s food directly on his high-chair tray, offering just a small amount of one food at a time, rather than serving him a plateful that matches yours. If he eats the small portion, then offer him something else. At first, mash up some of his food to make it easier for him to pick up and chew safely. Once your child makes the transition from strained foods to semisolids, you can cut up or shred manageable pieces for him. Before long, he’ll be able to eat almost everything that you’re eating.

—Gary C. Morchower, MD, pediatrician and author of The 1001 Healthy Baby Answers: Pediatricians’ Answers to All the Questions You Didn’t Know to Ask

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