Can't get my 3 1/2 year old to eat dinners

Ciara - posted on 08/09/2009 ( 14 moms have responded )

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Constant battle ... tried everything I can think of - choice of meals, presenting it differently, rewarding, fighting, offering something different, even gave him nothing for a day and a half hoping he would be hungry enough to eat but he still wouldn't. My current choice is give him the same as us, he either eats it or he doesn't, and take it up after 20 minutes with no fuss. Have been doing this for 2 months and he might only eat 1 dinner in a week!!!

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Gwen - posted on 08/12/2009

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being a mother of 3 and step mom to 6 more and having 10 grandchildren between them all, I can tell you this- if the child is snacking all afternoon that is part of the problem, and if you allow the child to choose their foods instead of saying here is what we are eating you will eat it too, that is another part of the problem. under the age of 16 kids are not mature enough to "choose" what they eat becuase they wont eat healthy foods, As the mom it is your responsibility to be sure to set rules you stick to - and when kids are hungry they will finally eat what you have for them. quick foods and fast food and snacks are not "nutrition" and you are doing more harm than good by providing them. Good luck!

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Lila - posted on 08/20/2014

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To Wendi - who posted on 08/12/2009
Maybe be a good idea to take him to check with a doctor and/or a psych just in case it could be medical or trauma related in anyway. He might just have very particular tastesbuds, but its usually better to be safe than sorry. Especially if its such a strong reaction to particular textures and tastes. are there other things other than food that he's very particular about ? There has also been an article released not long ago about how they are only now discovering a lot of cases in which children who have PTSD or trauma symptoms have been misdiagnosed with ADD. I'm sorry to be so presumptuous and I am most definitely not implying anything or trying to make you paranoid at all. Its just always good to keep an eye out for that sort of thing, and i speak from experience :) but yeah sorry if i come across offensive in anyway

[deleted account]

I have 2 girls, both of which are not fussy eaters at all, but they have both gone through (the youngest still is going through it from time to time) the phase of not eating dinner. My youngest at this stage eats dinner when she feels like it. What I have found (and I know ALOT of mothers will say not to do it) is she will eat off my plate, but dish her a plate with exactly the same stuff, she won't eat. So yeah, each to their own. I truly believe that kids will eat when they are hungry.

Trina - posted on 08/12/2009

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Here's something I do to increase the breadth of the toddler palate: on weekends we juice fruits & veggies. I get everything cut up and set my 2 1/2 year old on the counter, and ask him, "Where's the... carrot?" - with LOTS of excitement. He finds the carrot, and then I shout, "Shall we juice it?!?!" After proper training, he now always shouts back "Yeah!!" When we get to the celery, which I hate but will tolerate I say, "Do we like celery?" And without delay, I say, "NO!!! But we eat it ANYWAY because it's good for us!!! Should we juice it?!?!!!" And then I tell him many times that "Brown juice ROCKS." I FEED these words into his mind, and now he tells me, "Bwown juice Wocks." :) It's not just a matter of the tastebuds, their bodies need nutrition. You need to be as creative as you can (hopefully with some of these tips from the Mom Group), but try to present it as what his body needs, instead of how it tastes. My husband will eat his green beans & act like a crazy, strong man lifting everything around the dining room because his "green bean muscles" kicked in. :)

Wendi - posted on 08/12/2009

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Geez, if only it was as easy as you all make out!! From the age of 3 months when introduced to solids, my 9 year old hated most foods, and it is quicker to tell you what he DOES eat than what he doesnt!! He eats fish fingers but no other fish, spaghetti bol but no other types of pasta, apples but no other fruit, veges (pumpkin, potato, zuccini, peas, carrots & corn) have to be all mooshed up in the mashed potato, doesn't eat rice, meat, eats chicken nuggets but no other types of chicken, BUT doesn't like most junk food either!! Eats only 1 type of potato chips, doesnt like most lollies, cakes, biscuits, soft drink or ice blocks. I have tried so long so hard to get him to try just a mouthful of everything, but if he doesnt like the smell, texture or taste his eyes start to water and you can actually HEAR his stomach start to churn and then he vomits violently!!! He has ADHD & ODD, so I dont know if this has anything to do with it, but he genuinely seems unable to cope with anything he finds distasteful, as I have watched carefully and he really genuinely doesnt seem to deliberately make himself vomit. Any suggestions NOW???????

Amber - posted on 08/12/2009

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My 4 year old does this same thing. He eats a large breakfast, has a healthy snack and a good lunch... but has no interest in dinner whatsoever! Kids go through stages, sometimes they will eat like cows and sometimes it's like pulling teeth to get anything down. My doctor said that as long as he's happy and sleeping well and still drinking plenty of fluids, not to worry about it. This phase will pass and we'll be onto something else new and exciting!

Michelle - posted on 08/12/2009

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PS we routinely serve foods that some of our kids don't like. They aren't going to like everything but the menu isn't catering to all of their personal preferences. It is good manners to have learned to accept what is placed in front of you and then choose whether or not you will eat all of it (we do require that every item is at least sampled, even if it's broccoli and we know they don't like it)

Michelle - posted on 08/12/2009

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Just remember that you are the parent and that if he is running you ragged with eating and not eating, he is winning a battle that must be won by you. Can you tell if he is just being stubborn/strong willed? We have 5 children each with different temperaments and food likes/dislikes and the rule at our house is and has always been you eat what you are served. Period. I don't care if you choose not to eat (it is a choice), but I am no short order cook. Besides, I wouldn't expect to be invited to someone elses house and request them to make something special for my precious pumpkin...the only way to avoid that is to teach them at home the same behavior you would expect them to have at someone else's house. Please remember, healthy children will NEVER starve themselves. Moms worry about that far more than they should and consequently a strong willed kid breaks mom's will instead. It is a battle. Remember that before you self-induce guilt for starving your kid. If he is hungry enough, he WILL eat. Trust me.

Elizabeth - posted on 08/09/2009

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Sometimes you have to offer new things more than once before he will like it. Also if he is in school... what do they prepare for him. Cut out any junk foods if any. If you stick to nutrious food through the day... maybe it will be ok. Is he on the bottle? If he drinks out a cup... limit the fluid intake. I hope this will help some

Jodi - posted on 08/09/2009

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Oh, and don't get caught in the trap of preparing different meals for anyone in the house, unless it is for dietary or allergy purposes. You will just create a fussy child. I know someone who used to do this - a different meal for everyone. Her kids are fully grown and she still does it!! She now feels too bad about it to stop doing it for them. Me, I'd be telling them to cook it themselves, LOL!! But seriously, you don't want to make more work for yourself if there are other solutions.

Jodi - posted on 08/09/2009

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I do the same as Corina. Our kids all get treats (yes, even the older ones, right up to age 17!!) if they eat most of their dinner (they show me their plate and I judge whether they have earned their treat, I don't force them to clean their plate, as long as it has been a balance of what was dished up on their plate).



I find, with my 4 1/2 year old, that she often refuses to eat. There are more interesting things to do. I don't clear her plate away - I leave it for a while, because she always ends up eating when she sees the treat everyone else is eating. I hand out the treat to the others, and she looks devastated when she doesn't get one, and once I tell her she can have one too if she eats her dinner, then she is all for it. We sit down and negotiate how much of her dinner she has to eat to get the treat (i.e you have to finish your carrots, have those 2 pieces of meat, eat that piece of potato, etc).

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What we do in our house with our four kids, is that you eat what everyone eats or you don't get anything else except water. I have a little girl who is 4 and she is very picky and does not like to eat veggies, we tell her if you don't eat all of your food then you won't get a treat like everyone else! If you start making different things for everyone then you will always be doing it! Eventually they figure out that they better eat their food or no treat! It is hard for me to see my little girl cry when she doesn't eat her food and we go to Dairy Queen to get desert and she doesn't get one, but then the next time we eat, she eats all of her food and gets to get her treat! I hope this advice has helped, just remember don't give in!

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you can also trying having him help you cook dinner. my four year old loves it. it is messy but she does try it more willingly when she makes it. i go to my local health centre and they have parent and kid cooking classes. i know that there are many please out there that do that it is just a matter of finding one near you. i would not worry to much of you child eating their dinner as long as they are eating through out the day healthy and that they are not under weight for there age and body size

Sarah - posted on 08/09/2009

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Are there certain foods that he likes? What does he eat for breakfast and lunch? I would offer foods he likes with something new on the plate. Eventually he might just try one of the new items. If not the food he likes will appeal to him and should eat. Even offering it in different ways. Like cut into different shapes, bowls he likes, making non-finger foods into finger foods. Like cutting up meats into strips so he can handle them with his fingers and maybe dip if he llikes. I will say my kids went through chicken nugget and hotdog phases that I thought would never end. But it did, and we added some new stuff along the way as well. Also my kids never liked to sit at the table and eat. I was advised by my doctor to put the food down at there level and let them come and go from it. This drove me CRAZY for a while but they did come around and eat with us. Hope this helps.

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