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HELP!!! My nearly 3 yr old won't sit and eat at mealtimes

(26 Posts)
2luvlyboys Tue 05-Aug-08 20:35:40

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. DS1 2.11 in driving me nuts at mealtimes. He won't come to the table, won't stay there and announces he doesn't want/like whatever it is. He is up and down constantly. This is despite the fact that I am making a particular effort to only cook his favourites while this is going on. We try starting off strapping him to his booster seat but he always gets down as he says he needs his potty (wk 3 of potty training and going brilliantly!).Theres always 101 things he would rather do - watch beebies, play with toys, go outside etc etc. Had to throw more meals away today. Any advice anyone? This is driving me mad!!

2luvlyboys Tue 05-Aug-08 20:50:39


bubblagirl Tue 05-Aug-08 20:54:02

first no tv before dinner so quiet play while your doing dinner

get him involved as much as possible and then make it fun who can sit at table first who can eat quick

if good with speech get him to talk about something he likes while eating and distract and hopefully will be eating and enjoying himself too much to get down until done

lots of praise and compliments at how big he is how well he is eating and let him eat dinner how he likes even if with fingers as the more comfortable he is the more likely he will eat you can tackle the rest once meal times are established

get a fave cup and plate also that he can sit at the table and set up for you while dishing his dinner up hope it helps worked with my ds

mamamaggie Tue 05-Aug-08 20:55:04

My ds1 is just 3 and we get this every so often, ie our techniques aren't that good because we haven't cracked it yet! Tiredness is a big cause of evening meal problems but it sounds like your wee boy knows he is the centre of the mealtime circus entertainment!Take the attention off him by eating as well. At this age they are old enough to understand the no dinner, no pudding rule so you could try that. Once he has sat down present the meal, get on with yours and if he doesn't like it say 'ok, leave it then but there is no pudding' and stick to this calmly. Make out like it is no big deal. Don't give him snacks in the afternoon, or only fruit, and starve him out!
Sorry, only patchy advice if you come up with anything better tell me!

soph28 Tue 05-Aug-08 20:58:50

First - cut out ALL snacks so that you know he is REALLY hungry.

Secondly- tell him he why he can't have a snack- i.e. because he needs to eat his lunch etc (at nearly 3 he should undertand this)

Thirdly- put only tiny amounts on his plate and praise him for everything he eats. If he makes an attempt at eating his main course and doesn't want any more, give him yogurt or fruit. After this I would then say, 'well done you have eaten really well and sat at the table like a big boy, you can have a special treat'- like a few chocolate buttons or small biscuit.

Fourthly- make sure there are no distractions- turn off tv and clear toys away etc.

bubblagirl Tue 05-Aug-08 21:01:18

oh yes i never gave ds snacks after 2 and only few cups of juice so he wasnt to full

and if he was tiring early i would do dinner earlier or when meals became huge problem cooked his dinner in the afternoon and gave him egg and soldiers at dinner

but then started getting him involved with the meals and he was more excited about eating it also dont overload the plate just put small amount on as ds would never want a dinner if it looked too much

soph28 Tue 05-Aug-08 21:03:54

Agree with Bubblagirl- involve him as much as you can. My ds who is almost 3.5 often chooses what he wants to eat and has done for quite a long time (obv within reason). I ask him what he would like and if it's something I have in I will do it, otherwise I might say, would you like X or Z? He is a very good eater but he always eats better when he has chosen it. ( I know you shouldn't let children rule but I wouldn't like someone else choosing what I was going to eat for every meal grin)

2luvlyboys Tue 05-Aug-08 21:06:19

Thanks for advice! I always eat with him and my 2ds's. DH can't always because of his job. I never offer pudding if he doesn't eat his dinner. So tonight he must have been hungry! Its the constant up and down that gets to me. It really prolongs meal times. However when I try to take his dinner away he suddenly wants it but when I give it back to him he doesn't so it goes back and forth iyswim!!

soph28 Tue 05-Aug-08 21:06:24

At that age a few cups of juice could spoil his appetite. What time does he have lunch?

soph28 Tue 05-Aug-08 21:08:57

If it's constant up and down I would just use the naughty step. I would allow him to leave once and change his mind but warn that if it happened again he would go on naughty step and not be allowed any more of his meal.

2luvlyboys Tue 05-Aug-08 21:17:11

Also I think I am guilty of giving him snacks a few hours after an uneaten meal. For example midmorning if he hasn't had much breakfast he'll have an organix cereal bar or raisins after endless nagging! I always point out he's hungry because he didn't eat breakfast/lunch whatever! He drinks loads of milk throughout the day always asking for milk. As for asking him what he would like it would be peanut butter sandwiches every time lunch tea snack whatever. He likes to eat much more than that but that is what he asks for. He would eat them to the point of obseession every day if given a choice!!!

Pitchounette Tue 05-Aug-08 21:23:28

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Pitchounette Tue 05-Aug-08 21:24:13

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2luvlyboys Tue 05-Aug-08 21:33:34

I gave him his main dinner at lunch time today as dh had like a split shift so was going to be home for lunch but not tea . Gave him his favourite of pasta, tom sauce, mushrooms and peppers etc and cheese on top. Possible up there with his peanut butter sandwich as his favourite but he was up and down constantly. Needed to use his potty (can't fault him for that ofcourse) needed milk and went into the fridge and tried to help himself grrrr, needed to give ds2 a toy - who was quite happy in his highchair watching the entertainment, even I need a cuddle and I need to sit on daddys knee it just went on and on and the result was another thrown away dinner. Tea was a similar story! The only thing I can guarantee he'll have is milk lots of it. Like I said he'll even try to help himself to it from the fridge or try to I don't allow that ofcourse!!

2luvlyboys Tue 05-Aug-08 21:35:57

He's small for his age but inproportion.

fishie Tue 05-Aug-08 21:40:19

is he just eating by himself? ds eats far better in a group, whether other children at cm or with dh and i. if he is eating alone he gets to do it at coffee table in front room and we potter around him, not fair to plonk him formally at table on his tod or with parent onlooker.

Pitchounette Tue 05-Aug-08 21:43:51

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bythepowerofgreyskull Tue 05-Aug-08 21:44:01

the thing that is shouting to me is that at this age you can cut the milk to once a day.

milk - full fat - is very filling. He sounds like he is getting his calorie intake from milk.

he is pushing the boundaries to see if there are any, you have to decide what you want.
If you want him to sit at the table with you you may just have to play hard ball for a while.

Call his bluff on the potty DS1 did this for ages, if he coulnd't be bothered to eat his dinner he said he wanted a wee.
after a few months we finally decided to call his bluff, he just found another reason to get down without actually wetting himself.

We are now at the stage where he doesn't have to eat anything, he does however have to sit at the table with us whilst we eat.
moaning and whinging are ignored.

We have lots of chat build up to a meal, 5 minute warning to be finishing his game, 2 minute warning to wash his hands
He gets to leave the table either when we have all finished or he has finished all his meal and says thank you.

Sorry for the long posting, in essence you have to decide how important this is to you.
Good luck! smile

2luvlyboys Tue 05-Aug-08 22:23:53

Thanks for the advice everyone. Will try to cut down on his milk and praps switch to semi. Not sure how he'll like it though as I've said before he loves his milk and constantly asks for it!! He never eats on his own btw. I always eat with my sons ds1 and ds2 (aged nearly 9months) although dh can't always because his hours vary and is often home late.

bubblagirl Wed 06-Aug-08 10:02:08

i would say as he has got away with being able to leave the table it is a habit that has to be broken

tell him we will use potty before dinner then you must sit at the table mummy will get you what you want just ask

put a stop to him being able to just get down and hgo through stuff

my ds was very much the same and we had to break that habit he will maybe get up once now and ill say have you finished and he'll run back and sit down to finish dinner

try to ignore all attemtps of cuddles etc at meal time are you feeding your other ds could this be his way of having the attention from you as you are giving it to other ds

praise him as soon as he sits down ask him to show other ds what big boys do at the table how they sit nice and eat nicely

LadyPenelope Wed 06-Aug-08 10:35:56

I read this with interest as my ds 3.4 is the same at the moment. We all eat together at weekends, and it's become a real challenge to get him to sit still and to eat. Have decided it's just a stage, and we are being quite strict about it. He must sit at table with us - if he gets down more than once, dinner is over. No snacks till next meal. Amazing that sometimes the same happens at next meal. Reckon they don't need that much to eat! Definitely things are worse if he's had a snack. Our monster would live on bread and butter, chocolate, and cake if he could ...! Milk can be very filling - might be worth cutting that right down for a while to see if it helps. Good luck!

2luvlyboys Wed 06-Aug-08 22:09:32

Just a quick update. I cut down on the milk quite drastically today. I realized I'd been giving him milk to make up for him not eating properly not thinking that this probably made the situation worse iyswim. Today I gave him his what dh calls his "usual" - peanut butter sandwiches and milk for lunch. THats all he had but as my mum says theres worse food he could develop an obsession with! Anyway dh is off today and tomorrow (works saturdays and long hours and therefore has days off in the week). So this afternoon we went out to the local park. This way he worked up an appetite and it took his mind off snacks milk tv etc. Tea time he finished off every scrap of spaghetti bolognese followed by strawberies and icecream followed by 2 cups of milk. I think he deserved it!!! I couldn't believe it. Honestly can't remember the last time he ate as well as this! Amazing! Thanks so much for your advice everyone. Lets hope it continues tomorrow! grin

2luvlyboys Wed 06-Aug-08 22:25:46


2luvlyboys Wed 06-Aug-08 22:26:10


SoMuchToBits Wed 06-Aug-08 22:35:23

I would say cut down the milk (as you are doing, or just give it after he has eaten his meal.

Also, my ds went through a phase like this, as he found doing other things more interesting than eating, so was up and down all the time. In the end I took a firm approach, and just said when he got up, the meal was over - even if he then said he was hungry. After a few times he realised that if he wanted his food, he would have to stay there to eat it! If he didn't, that was fine, and I didn't make a fuss, just calmly removed the plate when he got up and said "ok, lunch/tea etc is over now".

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