Q: My child has been refusing to eat dinner and then begs for something else to eat 15 minutes later. What should I do?
A: Dinner can be a tough meal for young children because there tends to be more grown-up food on the table. Here are some things to try:
- Be sure to stop snacking for at least two hours before dinner so your child builds up an appetite for dinner. See How Many Times a Day Should Kids Eat?
- Consider developing a side strategy so there are one or two items you know your child will eat at the table. It can take time for young children to learn to like foods so having sides can help them fill up while they’re learning. See The Side Strategy That Has Saved My Family’s Mealtime.
- When choosing meals, consider the whole family. Sometimes your child gets his favorite and other times someone else does. This way everyone gets a turn. See 6 Simple Strategies for Pleasing the Whole Family at Dinnertime.
- Don’t allow snacks after dinner as he may hold out for them. If your child goes to bed a while after dinner, consider adding a bedtime snack. That way, when he asks for food after dinner you can tell him his bedtime snack is coming in a couple of hours. If you stay consistent, your son will catch on and will stop asking for food right after dinner. See How to Bolster Your Child’s Self-Control Muscle.
- Toddlers’ appetites are erratic so sometimes they are just not hungry for dinner and that’s okay as long as his growth is on track.
For more on how to meal plan and cook for a family, check out Maryann’s book The Family Dinner Solution: How to Create a Rotation of Dinner Meals Your Family Will Love