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Let your child decide how much food to eat

Here is what might be happening:

  • He’s not hungry. Like adults, children have different hunger schedules. Some toddlers wake up starving. Others are not ready to eat until after they’ve been up a while. Children are good at figuring out if they’re hungry and how much they need to eat. Serve nutritious meals and snacks at regular times, but never force a child who’s not hungry to eat something.

  • He’s not hungry today. Don’t expect your child to eat the same amount every day. Some days your child will be very hungry. Other days he will be less hungry.

  • He’s full after just a few bites. Toddlers’ stomachs are small, and can’t hold much food at one time. That’s why snacks are an important part of what your child eats every day. Encourage him to eat when he’s hungry, and stop when he starts to feel full.

  • He doesn’t like foods with strong smells, crunchy or slimy textures, or sharp flavors. Like most other children, your child may refuse to eat a certain food just because of what it looks like or smells like — without even trying it. It may take 7-15 times before he’s willing to eat it.

  • He’s distracted by something else. Toddlers have very short attention spans. He may not want to eat because he sees or hears something more interesting. Serve meals and snacks at a table, away from toys he likes. Turn off the TV, and don’t answer the phone.

  • He’s trying to get your attention. Children want attention from their parents. If they can’t get that attention through good behavior, they will misbehave to get attention.Spend more time with your child during meals. Instead of using his mealtime as a chance to do housework, sit down and eat as a family. Use the mealtime to talk, and be sure to include him. When he gets your attention in positive ways, he is less likely to act out.

  • He wants to make his own decisions. Toddlers want chances to decide things for themselves. If you try to force him to eat, you are setting up a power struggle. Give him simple choices: choose between the green bib and the yellow one; decide whether to eat the corn or the beans first.


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