How do you get a 5 year old to eat without playing with the food?

Chrissy - posted on 10/17/2009 ( 3 moms have responded )

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my 5 year old plays with her food and can take up to about 2 hours to eat a burger. She complains it is too hot, so we give her something on the side like yogurt or tomatoes or cucumbers or something so that she can start eating with us, then makes her food into art shapes or whatnot. And chews slowly, and takes tiny tiny bites. She just plays and I am going insane lately. Oh and we tried a reward system with little rocks "gems" and when she eats 20 meals properly within a descent amount of time get gets a gem. Then when it has all 20 gems in the jar she gets to do something special like go to Dairy Queen for icecream. But lately she just says "I dont need a gem this time, lets try again tomorrow"

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Nicole - posted on 10/18/2009

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My daughter's 3 and I had a similar struggle with her. She'd just poke at her food and say it was too hot, she wanted sauce, or she wanted a spoon if I gave her a fork, ect. Then she'd say she had to go to the bathroom, even though I make her go before she sits down.

She was driving me nuts, then I realized she was doing it all for the attention. My daughter wanted all eyes on her. This may sound a bit harsh, but I sent her to her room and told her she could come out when she wanted to eat dinner with us. I had to do this for about 3 days, and she would get upset, but she hasn't given me any grief at the dinner table since. It's been months.

Sarah - posted on 10/18/2009

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My suggestion would be to have a good setting for eating. Like eating at the table as a family with as little distractions as possible. Then I would explain that now is meal time and we need to eat our food and not play with it. Let her know that when meal time is done the table is cleared and that will be all the food she will get. Then eat. I would not say too much during the meal about her playing/eating. The first time she will probably play for most or all of the meal time. But once everyone is done and you feel you have given her enough "reasonable" time to eat then clear the table including her plate. Let her know that meal time is over and that she can have her meal when it is the next time. (If it is something you don't want to or can't save you can just say she can eat at the next meal time.) If she is anything like my daughter she will cry and not like it. Just like tantrums ignore it and go on with what you are going to do next. Then there is no food until the next meal time. Again letting her know the rule about eating and time allowed at that next meal time. This allows you to have control over the time that is allowed for eating, but for her to make the choice to eat or not eat. Once she realizes that she is not going to get her way in allowing it to drag out she will start eating her food without playing with it.

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