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how long for a 6 and 4 yr old to eat their dinner?

(22 Posts)
elliott Thu 04-Sep-08 11:49:22

that's all really. how long do you think is a reasonable time to allow a 4 and 6 year old to complete their evening meal (main course and pudding) before you draw a line under it?

RubyRioja Thu 04-Sep-08 11:52:20

15 mins per course
otherwise I lose will to live (and it is cold anyway)

elliott Thu 04-Sep-08 11:55:17

do you remove the course after 15 mins?

I wrote a long post explaining why I wanted to know but then thought the direct approach better - I will 'reveal by stealth' if necessary!

psychomum5 Thu 04-Sep-08 12:01:53

with mine I give used to give them 20mins for their dinner, unlimited for pudding (altho they always finished that superquick so did not need the unlimitedwink).

RubyRioja Thu 04-Sep-08 12:03:07

I do otherwise it drives me mad.

misdee Thu 04-Sep-08 12:05:03

however long it takes them.

elliott Thu 04-Sep-08 12:06:37

What do you do when the time is up?

I've been inspired by Twiglett's thread to try to get to grips with dinner times, which can descend into too much nagging/cajoling ds1 (in particular) to eat, which I recognise is NOT GOOD (though I don't really think he's developing ishooos about it!). Currently we don't allow pudding unless a good go at main course has been attempted. We can easily still have nearly a full plate of food after 20 or even 30 minutes, so we sometimes set a 5 min time limit at that point which feels uncomfortably like making someone eat under time pressure which I also feel is NOT GOOD. So i thought we might try a new tactic of setting a longer time for the whole meal (say 30mins) and then trying to 'wordlessly' (ha!) take it away at that point.

elliott Thu 04-Sep-08 12:07:40

misdee if we did that we could easly be sitting for an hour or more, and then they would be late for bed...plus dh and I would be goign mad with frustration...

seeker Thu 04-Sep-08 12:08:05

I would say about 15 minutes or so. Or if it's only one child messing about and not eating then as soon as everyone else has finished. Unless it's been a very chatty meal - our dinner last night took ages because there was lots of first day back at school stuff to talk about. But on a normal day 15 minutes ish.

seeker Thu 04-Sep-08 12:09:13

I agree absolutely with the wordless take away (one of my many hobby horses, this one!)

psychomum5 Thu 04-Sep-08 12:10:50

with mine, when time was up and they were playing with the food rather than eating, I would ask them to have 2 more mouthfulls (or 4 if they had not eaten what I classed as enough), and then let them take their plate out and have pudding.

they did sometimes have longer if we were all chatting tho. dinner is as much a social time as eating in our house (or should I say loud timehmm.......wink)

elliott Thu 04-Sep-08 12:12:22

Yes I think it was your approach that I wanted to emulate seeker!! Sounds great, I just don't know if we'll be able to stop ourselves ('remember ds1 you have only 5/4/3 minutes left'...!!)
ds1 is the world's slowest eater though. Especially if he is not very keen on it.

elliott Thu 04-Sep-08 12:15:40

So shoudl we just let them have pudding anyway? Generally I take the 'if they aren't hungry enough for first course...' line. I'm not sure why though. I suppose I don't want them to end up filling up on pudding, though that's not very likely really since we don't often have big puddings.

Othersideofthechannel Thu 04-Sep-08 12:16:21

Meals usually take about 45 minutes in our house (they are 5 and 3). We always have dessert even if it is just fruit. If one child is being very slow, we wait five minutes after everyone else has finished their main course and then the rest of us have dessert.
If they say they aren't hungry, they have to sit with us for about 10 minutes and have a chat and a drink. They usually end up having a small portion anyway.

Othersideofthechannel Thu 04-Sep-08 12:19:10

Elliot, DS is a slow eater and so I have to do the countdown thing at breakfast otherwise he'd be late for school.

babyinbelly Thu 04-Sep-08 12:19:54

I would give them an extra 5-10 minutes after I have finished mine. If they have eaten enough take it away. If they say they are not finished but are just messing around I would leave them sat on their own. (if just the one child) And say you can come through when you a) have finished b) dont want any more.

We dont do pudding so if they dont eat they go without.

psychomum5 Thu 04-Sep-08 12:19:56

don;t you often get a little bored with what you are eating tho??

and do you always finish what you have on your plate??

and

if you don;t finish, do you then deny yourself something else later???

I know I often don;t want everything on my plate, and not just thro being full. sometimes just because I don;t fancy it, or that I have had enough.

and I still will have puddin if I want.

MmeLindt Thu 04-Sep-08 12:24:35

I allow about 15 mins for a main course, and do the countdown thing in the morning or when we have to be out of the house at a certain time. When they have had enough (or say that they have) then I tell them to have two more spoonfuls, they often say, "one for Mama, one for Papa, one for Granny, one for Grandad..." I don't know who started that one but they often eat more than I told them to.

I like the wordless take away tactic. Might try that.

The best way to get them to eat well is not to allow snacks in the hour before the meal. And not too much during the day.

lizziemun Thu 04-Sep-08 12:24:51

When dd1 (4.9yrs) is eating slowly (she goes through stages) i set the minute minder on the cooker for 30mins.

She knows when it goes off all food is finished and thats it until the next meal. If all dinner is eaten before the timer has gone then she gets pudding, if dinner is not eaten then no pudding. She is knows the rules so it takes the pressure off of her and she knows i won't be nagging her to eat.

seeker Thu 04-Sep-08 13:04:29

I think it depends what you class as pudding. In our house, we don't always have more than one course. If we do, the second one is usually yoghurt or the sort of fruit that needs preparing (pineapple or melon or something like that). If you're the same, I would take away the main course plates and dish out the second course - again without comment.

It's the without comment that's really important - if practically impossible to manage!
My mother once said "It is a parent's responsibility to provide healthy, tasty, attractive food. It isn't a parent's responsibility to make anyone eat it" Scary but true.

Oh, and in response to the poster (sorry, can't remember who) who said that if she directed her son to the fruit bowl if he was hungry after not eating his dinner he wouldn't eat anything but fruit - I bet he would if you held your nerve for a while. His body woudl start telling him that it needed carbohydrate or whatever - children's bodies are very good at regulating intake over a period of time!

elliott Thu 04-Sep-08 16:06:27

hmmm, this has got me thinking about what exactly I am trying to achieve here. It is a combination of a) mealtimes that take a reasonable time, i.e. half an hour rather than 45 minutes b) children eating things that aren't their favourites, but are not things they hate, without excessive whinging; and c) an appropriate balance in the diet. And d) avoiding unnecessary waste. What I'm trying to avoid is force feeding. I don't actually have any real concerns about what or how much they eat, its more about making mealtimes pleasant and acceptable for everyone. I think my conclusion is that the denying pudding thing is somewhat pointless, but that I should try limiting the overall time taken. (wordlessly!)

psychomum, I see the principle behind your approach, but personally I think chidlren need guidance in a way that adults don't. For example, I understand that I need to eat vegetables even though I much prefer the other things on my plate and woudl happily leave them, whereas my children don't.

Smithagain Thu 04-Sep-08 20:59:22

My 6 and 3 year old generally take 20-25 minutes for a two course main meal, assuming they were reasonably hungry in the first place. 15-20 mins if pudding is not required.

Which is interesting, because I've got used to thinking of DD1 as a really slow eater, but I guess she's got better over the years. She seems similar to her friends when they come over for tea, anyway.

We all eat together, but if they are really dawdling over it, DH and I don't stay at the table forever. We have a nice coffee together and leave them to it. They usually get bored and go and play pretty soon after we've left the table.

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