Meal times with toddlers can turn into frustrating battle-of-the-wills marathons. We've put together a few pointers to encourage your little one to sit and eat.

1. Keep expectations in check

As a general rule, your toddler should eat a tablespoon of food per year of age. For a 2-year-old that means 2 tablespoons of chicken, 2 tablespoons of rice and 2 tablespoons of veggies at dinner. If that doesn't sound like your toddler, don't worry. Kids frequently don't eat in such a balanced way and often stick to just one or two food groups per meal. Some days your toddler may amaze you with how much they eat, other days they'll frustrate you with how they just sit there picking at food. The important thing is how much they are eating over the course of the day.

2. Get the timing right

It's important to make sure your child is actually hungry and ready to sit, otherwise mealtime will be a frustrating battle of wills. Try and schedule meals and snacks 2-3 hours apart with only water in between. If your little one is running around all day with a sippy cup of milk then they'll never get the chance to become hungry. Think of milk as food, not as a drink, and know that toddlers need just 2-3 servings of dairy per day. Don't force them to go straight from running around the house and playing to sitting in a chair. Try and calm them down a bit before they sit at the dinner table.

3. Involve your child

If your child comes grocery shopping with you, encourage them to pick out things like brightly coloured veggies (capsicum or purple carrots) and talk about it. Cut them into fun shapes with your child watching so that they become engaged in their food before they sit down to eat it.

4. Set the mood

Make sure your little one is sitting in a comfortable high chair or booster seat with foot support until they're at least 3 years old. Although they love sitting on big chairs, lack of proper support makes toddlers extra wiggly and tires them very quickly. Switch off the TV, put away the smartphones and tablets so that there are no distractions. Being an active role model and sitting at the table with your child can go a long way to setting the kind of example of good behaviour that you want to see in them.

5. Be consistent and yet flexible

Forcing your child to eat food when they are not hungry won't work. Being consistent about when you have e.g. afternoon tea and dinner time is important. However realize that if your child is just going through a stage of being a picky eater, it's generally just a phase and it will pass.

How do you encourage your little one to sit at the dinner table and eat?