Very few parents would dispute that toddlers can be difficult to read. While they might be able to communicate more than they did as babies, many of them still aren't able to use the exact words necessary to get their point across, and they definitely have difficulty with concepts that are a little more abstract, like hunger, for example. That's exactly why you need to be on the look-out for these signs your toddler is hungry, not tired, because they're not very easy to tell apart.
We all do it, offer our kids a snack when they're hanging onto our knees whining something unintelligible. But experts say that it's important that you know your kid is hungry before blindly offering snacks. Pediatric dietitian and nutritionist Susie Burrell explained on Bellamy's Organic's site that that toddlers and small children actually have a difficult time understanding the true feeling of hunger. Giving a child snacks when they aren't truly hungry can be problematic for them in regulating and responding to their feelings of hunger as they grow older. In fact, according to Burrell, "This results in a child that learns to eat in response to a number of feelings (not just hunger), which leads to overeating." And that, in turn, can lead to an adolescent or adult who eats in response to their emotions, rather than their hunger level.
Differentiating between hunger and exhaustion with a toddler is easier said than done, but here are a few tips for figuring out exactly what your little one needs most — and for teaching them how to know when they're actually hungry or not.