Laughter on the Menu

Playfulness is one of the most important ingredients you can include when encouraging an 18- to 23-month-old to eat, according to dietitian Sandra Nissenberg. Some of her advice might surprise you. “Kids should play with food,” she says. “Don’t get hung up on the mess!”

She dishes up these six ideas for tempting a finicky eater.

1. Sandwich This In: Use whimsical cookie cutters to make sandwiches look more enticing.

2. Tall Tales: Make up silly stories-pretending a favorite book character eats a certain food for example.

3. Let’s Face It: Form fanciful faces on the plate with cut vegetables

4. Designer Plates: Serve food in plastic plates or bowls with designs that are revealed as your toddler eats his way to the bottom.

5. Zip With Dip: Try these tangy dips: ranch dressing, low-sodium soy sauce or a mix of plain yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt.

6. Little Chefs: If you cook, have your toddler add pre-measured ingredients to the mixing bowl. Later, he’ll want to sample the results.