How long does a toddler take to finish his meal? My 3 year old takes an hour!

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Michelle - posted on 10/03/2011

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I've never had this problem personally, all my kids love their food too much but I would give him a time limit. Maybe set a timer and let him know that when it goes off his food gets taken away. Start off at about 30-45 mins and gradually reduce the time. Let him know when he has 10 mins, 5 mins etc.

Do you eat with him? We have always sat down as a family and the babies have always picked up when everyone else has finished and either hurry up or let us know they have had enough.

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I just make her sit there until she eats it all (or 3/4) No matter how long it takes, she needs to eat more other than animal crackers lol.

Jessica - posted on 10/04/2011

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You know sometimes I feel tat they just enjoy annoying us! So I decided to ignore my son when he runs away from the table & just continue eating. My husband & I wud pretend tat the food is very delicious and just totally ignore him.

Then we create stories about how his fav cartoon characters love eating those food tat we have on our table. After doing this couple of times, our son now sits with us until he finishes 3/4 of his food.

He then runs around for a while and comes back to finish his food. Hence in total it takes about an hour for him to finish his meal.

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Trista - posted on 11/04/2011

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My kids are both this way my 4 year old started kindergarten this year and it was a big concern of mine! But since he's started kindergarten at diner we set a timer, if he finishes the food before the timer goes off he get a reward if he doesn't then no reward but of course no punishment. I didn't stress it until he started real school and I pack his lunch everyday so I know how much he eats in school. I hope this helps and remember your not alone :)

Karleigh - posted on 10/29/2011

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my daughter will be two in january and it will take her almost two hours to eat only half of her meal. if i dont make her sit there she will loose weight

Sandy - posted on 10/16/2011

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I think it depends on the child in some part. My child used to take a long time to eat also. We then started giving her smaller portions, so it wouldn't seem so daunting. We also had to take away distractions. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Skittlesinsocks - posted on 10/16/2011

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Heh. My 3.5 yr old has taken an hour and a half a couple of times. She averages out at about 45 minutes. Drives my husband BONKERS. Her problems are distraction and the fact that she just doesn't eat enough to make him happy.

Leanne - posted on 10/09/2011

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It can take up to an hour or longer for my son (who is 3).He is a grazer, I have a blended family, so when his older brothers are over (every 2nd weekend) my son tends to eat with them.When they aren't there he will eat 1/3 of his meal and keep coming back to it .If i limit his drinks he eats more and doesn't take as long.

Angelwispers81 - posted on 10/08/2011

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i know that it sounds bad, but i set my timmer on my stove. i put it on for 30 miniuts the same as the school, sets theres for and when it goes off every things cleanned up and we move on with our day. we dont get anything else until snack or the next meal. it took a month or so but i got all the kids to eat there meals that way.

Jessica - posted on 10/04/2011

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But this same trick is not working with my 14 mths daughter as she does not understand yet. So I let her run around & I run after her just to get 1 spoonful into her mouth!

Feel like spanking her at times but her smile just melts me each time. I have no idea how i will ever get her to sit in her chair!

Marie - posted on 10/04/2011

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Yes, about the same here. Mine will take a huge bite then run through the room with it in her mouth and stare at me with rolling eyes when I say 'sit down and eat.' She is eating.. but sitting is out of the question. We have been firm. We have taken the food and put it in the fridge when she left it alone. She even had the dog get the whole plate before - and she has not yet learned to sit still and eat. We always finish our own food much earlier than she does - but I will give her points for sitting and eating her food better while we are still eating ours. Not a lot of advice - but know it is a common problem! (47 month old girl)

Jessica - posted on 10/04/2011

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Ok, Kalpana. I can really understand how you feel. I spoke with many mothers these couple of days & guess wat? The conclusion is tat 45 mins to an hour to finish one meal is very common even with fat kids! So, Iooks like we just have to accept this!

But for ur 6 yr old, have you deworm him? It cud be worms in his tummy or air in his tummy. I deworm my kids twice a yr.

I also give them warm water in the morning to get rid of gas & promote bowel movement. Another thing I found out is tat kids who lack apetite might also be lacking B12. You can spread some marmite on his bread as it is good source of B12.

Other than tat, I did my own experiment & found tat exercise helps a lot. I made my kids run last evening & they finished their dinner in 30 minutes!

Laurie - posted on 10/04/2011

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Kalpana - it is possible he is just really skinny with a high metabolism. My brother was that way. He was literally skin and bones despite eating lots and having lots of energy for play and he didn't really fill out until he was in high school and started working out at the gym, at which point his muscles filled out amazingly.

For you, I would suggest perhaps not worry to much about getting rid of snacks altogether and try to find snacks that he can eat on the go at school that are calorie rich and still reasonably healthy and not messy. I would suggest things like nuts if his school will allow them as they are calorie dense to give him the energy he needs without the calories coming from sugar. I know a lot of schools won't allow kids to bring anything nut related due to extreme allergies of other kids at school, but if he is allowed it would boost his daily calorie intake. If other nuts but not peanuts are allowed you might try almonds as they are also a good source of calcium. If they won't allow nuts - perhaps dried fruits (raisins, cranberries etc.) that preferably don't have tons of added sugar or preservatives (like msg). You could try drying your own fruits in the oven (spread cut up chunks of what ever type of fruit you want on a cookie sheet, cut up into fairly small pieces and dry them in the oven overnight on the lowest heat setting (about 130F) you could do different fruits very other week or so to give him some variety. He doesn't need much in the way of dried fruit for a snack to get a fair amount of calories and it won't get his hands all sticky.

Of course, if anyone else has any ideas for getting her sons to eat more at meal times faster I'd love to know as well since my 2 year old and almost four year old are pretty slow. Although setting a time limit and saying that they can't have desert until all their dinner is eaten tends to speed things up if you start nibbling on "their" desert once the time limit is up. Sometimes my husband eyes the desert (like ice cream) and says as long as you are actually eating it is safe but when you stop to chat or otherwise get distracted then he takes a (small) bite of the desert. Tonight my husband got half the banana bread slice eaten before Eric finished his dinner and ate the rest himself.

Kalpana - posted on 10/04/2011

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Hi Laurie,

My son (6 yr old) is actually below the 25th percentile in weight for his age and height. He is really a skinny little fella. He eats way less than my 2 yr old. He is not putting on weight as much and as fast as he should (so says the doctor). So I don't think I am giving him more than he actually needs. Even his fav foods he takes that long to eat. My boys are both very active. They can't sit still for more than 2 minutes.

I don't want him to get into the habit of snacking too much in between meals as when he starts school next year, he is pretty much in school for about 7 hours in which they have only half hour break for recess. He will not get to snack like he can when he is at home. Hence, the desperate need to get him to finish his food (all of it) in the shortest time. I don't want him losing even more weight especially when he doesn't have the luxury of snacking in school.

School starts at 7 so he needs to be out of the house at 6. I can't get him to wake up at 4 just so he can finish his breakfast, now can i?? :(

Laurie - posted on 10/04/2011

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Jessica, In my opinion, that is a fairly large sandwich for a three year old although if it is the only thing they are having for lunch it is doable. My almost four year old will eat a whole peanut butter and jam sandwich in one sitting although it can take up to an hour. He doesn't usually eat anything else afterwards so that is about the upper limits of what he can eat at one time.

You might try some variety at lunch - I find that they eat better if I give them small, different "courses" as it were. You might try half a sandwich plus some apple slices or a handful of nuts or carrot sticks or raw green beans or whatever else you have around that is healthy and they like to eat. I give mine about 6 slices (1 cm each maybe) of hotdog occasionally (the all good all beef ones that are about 2-3 cm in diameter) since that is one of the few kinds of meat he will eat. He won't eat the bread part - he just likes the hotdog wheels and ketchup. Give him his half sandwich first (which you want him to eat all of no matter what) then ask if he is still hungry and if so (probably will be after a half sandwich) then give him something else and repeat until he is not hungry any more. There will be days when he stops at the half sandwich (if he wants more an hour later then either give him the rest of his lunch selections - whatever you were going to give him for lunch - or tell him no - he should have eaten more at lunch and that snack time isn't for another xx amount of time so it will encourage him to eat until he is full at lunch time and not just "not hungry") and other days when he eats the sandwich and several other things besides and you will wonder why he is so hungry. I find that if I give him some healthy choices in what he eats (i.e. do you want to have some strawberries or grapes now that you have finished your sandwich?) helps in getting him to eat more and faster.

My general philosophy is that if they are hungry and you offer healthy choices, they will eat enough so that they are not hungry. You have to be careful about insisting they eat long past the point they are not hungry (i.e. you force them to eat the amount you think they need, not what they actually need) as you run the risk of having an obese child eventually because they will learn to override their own feeling of being full to satisfy your demands that they eat whether they are hungry or not. For Kalpana's dreamer son though the problem may be the opposite, you need to take it away after a set time period (say 30-45 minutes) and if they are still hungry then you remind them that they should learn to eat faster. If they don't complain about the food being taken away (and are generally not losing weight as a result) then more than likely the problem is you think he needs to eat more than he needs to, not that he is dreaming and not paying attention to his food.

Charmine - posted on 10/04/2011

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My son is 2 and was having the same problem for awhile. I found that he doesn't always want the bread in his sandwich, so I take a couple pieces of lunch meat and a slice of cheese and roll it together, then give him some fruit or veggies to have with it. It seemed to help a bit, he does also get distracted when he is eating and doesn't like to stay in his chair for an entire meal. I try to leave something he can snack on when he is feeling hungry so he can come and go from the table. After about an hour if he hasn't finished I will take it off the table. It could also be something with his teeth, if he has some that are bothering him he isn't going to want to chew. This may be something you could discuss with your doctor and dentist as well when he is in for his next check-up. They may have more ideas for you to try. But you are not alone, and a lot of children go through this, many times its just a stage they are going through.

Kalpana - posted on 10/03/2011

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Good suggestion Jessica! We usually have porridge for my boy. Our own meals are mainly rice so he gets the same, only mushier. In the porridge will be potatoes, carrots, broccoli and either chicken or fish.

He used to eat a few months back 3/4 of an IKEA bowl of this porridge. Now getting him to eat 1/2 is a big deal! Like i said earlier, my helper kind of slowly reduced the portions and so he has lost weight because of it and now he doesn't want to eat much anymore.

Breakfast it is either cereal with milk or wholemeal bread (1 slice) with one slice of cheese or chocolate spread or 2 pancakes.

I was surprised that someone mentioned a sandwich is too much for a 3 yr old. I was thinking it is too little. :P Ooops.

Jessica - posted on 10/03/2011

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So to start, is one whole sandwich really too much for a 3 year old? The sandwich is made of 2 slices of bread spread with peanut butter, some sliced cucumber & tomato slices and half a slice of cheese. Is this too much? Should it be just one slice of bread?

Jessica - posted on 10/03/2011

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Ok, so it looks like meal time is a constant battle for all! Maybe we should discuss the portions as well as the recipes. Brainstorm some ideas and each of us can try one.

We can then share with each other. Wat say?

Heather - posted on 10/03/2011

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He is 3! He probably should only eat 1/2 of a sandwich. Maybe he doesn't like the bread, or what's in the sandwich? Maybe try giving him only the cheese and meat that in the sandwich? Maybe try only feeding him half of what you normally do? One whole sandwich for a 3 year old is A LOT of food for him, that's nuts!!!

Kalpana - posted on 10/03/2011

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My boys are almost 2 and 6. Both take an hour or more to eat. If I were to take their food away after some time, they are more than glad!! My older one is happy to go without any food. He occasionally wants a sweet but if he is not allowed that, he is more than glad to be without any food. It's as though he doesn't get hungry.

Even his fav food, he take an hour or more to eat. A cookie can be in his hand for half an hour. He sits and dream in front of the plate.

My almost 2 yr old has started this habit recently. He used to be a fast eater but I had a lousy helper looking after my kids and she would reduce the amount of food she gave my son and since I caught her doing it and have gotten him to eat his usual amounts, he has started being very slow in his eating. It's a battle every day!!! Every meal!!!

User - posted on 10/03/2011

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My son is 16 months old and will eat anything and is a quick eater but my daufhter is 4 and can easily take over an,hour to eat if you dont get after her. Its a constant battle to get her to eat. So if you figure out how to speed up the process let me know lol

Laurie - posted on 10/03/2011

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My almost four year and two year old have this same problem - it can take more than an hour to complete a meal. Not much you can do to speed the process up but do make sure you are not giving him too much food at one sitting. Don't forget he's not growing as fast as he was and you may still be trying to get him to eat as much as he did when he was two or so and still growing very fast. My two year year old eats more than the four year old most of the time but she is growing about an inch a month where as he's down to about a quarter inch a month. It might be better to have several smaller meals closer together than to have three meals that take an hour each. I also usually have to threaten them with being sent to bed to get them to eat. With the two year old, she does usually end up in her crib for a couple minutes or so (like time out) and then she is usually much more willing to eat. The timer would probably work if you tried it as a game - he's likely to eat enough to be full in the first half hour and and after that he's just playing with it.

Jessica - posted on 10/03/2011

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he keeps his food in the mouth and takes very long to chew. I'm really getting sick & tired of feeding him. I've tried many different recipes, varieties & I even try to entertain & distract him while having his meal but nothing works.
It still takes an hour even to finish just 1 sandwich!

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