Recently the following question was asked by one of our PIC parents, “My 3 yr daughter takes forever to eat. She’s not picky, but is easily distracted. At home during meals there is no tv or anything on but she doesn’t want to sit still. At daycare she will sit at the table but zone out and still be at the table when all the other children have finished. what should I do?”
It’s great that you don’t have the extra distractions on at home, like the television. Feeding in a calm, quiet, relaxed environment is a good thing! So that is great you are doing that! Secondly, a reasonable dinner time with small children might be half an hour or more. Let her know how enjoyable dinner is and the reason for dinner, to eat and spend time together. Discuss fun things you did that day or events coming up. Talk about a special craft project you have planned when she is all done eating or a special treat if she fills her belly.
Then… at the half an hour mark or when you feel like she has eaten enough, you can show her with a timer or the big hand on the clock, we are done. (Possibly let her pick out a cool timer at the store or simply if you have a baking one just use that one. If she picks out one herself though, she might be excited to try at the next dinner.) If she has finished her meal.. great, if not breakfast will taste even better for her. For the next couple of nights make sure to let her know that…supper is for eating and the next time we eat is at breakfast…unless she ate good of course and you promised a dessert of some kind.
I would clear the table, clean her off and move into whatever is next. She will likely be hungry in a short while and you can say something like, “Breakfast is when you wake up and we can eat again.” Don’t make a big deal of it although she might.
Also, NO snacks in between preparing the meal or before serving it. Try to limit snacks at least a good hour and half before dinner so that she is hungry at that time. If she’s not a big eater in the first place, limit it to 2 hours. A hungry child always eats better than one that has been snacking. Furthermore, I would consider a small glass of milk before bedtime, but not enough to make a complete meal.
It is a journey and also part personality. I would see if this makes a difference in a good way. Also, do not stay at the table past that time that you decided on and try not to nag. If these suggestions have not worked here are some other ones as well.
* You cannot really rush them to eat, but you can get them to focus on eating by focusing on them! Example…Try counting the remaining bites or making a game out of that by counting out pieces of food and subtracting with her. Although, she is too young for the subtracting part..she will be focused on her food while you are counting with her and distracting her with her food.
*Eat together as a family. Eating alone can be boring and kids will definitely become distracted easily by what everyone else is doing.
*Sometimes when kids help make the food they become more interested in eating it! Therefore, if she’s more interested in her food she might not be so easily distracted by other things. For example, if you’re making homemade pizzas..set out the peppers, olives, meat, sauce, cheese etc.. let her create her own : ) Also, for her lunches at day care or after she’s eaten a good dinner in the time alotted..when you are grocery shopping, give her a choice of three healthy snacks. Let her make the decision on what her treat will be after she is done eating. Maybe she will eat a little quicker because she’ll be excited to eat her treat.
*Try reducing the portion so it doesn’t seem like so much food for her to eat. She could possibly sometimes be overwhelmed at how much she has to eat. Not saying you do this, but she can always have more, right!
* When you are eating with her, play the copy game. You will eat whatever bite she picks up. If she picks up the peas, you grab a bite of your peas too etc..
Many factors play into why kids eat the way they do or why some meals they eat more or less, faster or slower etc.. personalities, growth spurts, whether they are tired or not, etc.. As long as we are providing a well balanced nutritious meal for our children (okay of course sometimes just pizza, right!)and they are eating it, that is a good thing! Although it might take her longer, enjoy those conversations and time with her. They grow up fast and sooner or later they will be eating quick and out the door to their next activity. I hope some of these tips will be useful. If not, please write back and we’ll try and find some more solutions!! If any of you PIC parents have any other suggestions, please share : ) Thanks! Good luck and enjoy your meals together : )
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Picture courtesy of Daily Plate of Crazy