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Kids not Eating food you give them? Tips for parents

Updated on July 15, 2011

Are you struggling to feed your toddler a nutritious healthy diet or get them to eat at mealtimes?

Here are a few quick parenting tips from experience and a few insights I've discovered from reading that will help put things into perspective for all those parents out there doing it tough.

First of all...

Whose idea was it that kids should NOT eat from YOUR hand. Have you noticed (we have with our four kids under 6), that your kids eat off your plate but not if given a plate of their own?

This can be very frustrating but what is this about?

My guess is that it probably has something to do with a self-preservation instinct, a frustrating one perhaps, but one nevertheless. In the wild, I would say, eating only food an experienced parent eats is HIGHLY LOGICAL as it means the offspring has less chance of eating a poisonous or toxic food and hence a greater chance of survival.

When you think about it - you wouldn't want your kids just going around eating on their own and in the early childhood years, us parents probably train them to be SCARED of FOOD when we react to finding our child putting something BAD in their mouth.

Of course, as kids get older they use food as a way to bond - you feed me mum or dad - I want some time with you. Your child senses how concerned you are to make sure they get a good diet so they've got YOU while they're playing the 'game' of not eating or eating very slowly while you have to feed them!

Secondly, whose Idea was it to have 3 meals a day rather than little snacks frequently from the hand of your parent?

KIds naturally 'graze' throughout the day and this stands in contrast to mealtimes defined by adult working life.


Our eating habits have come to be created not for our convenience but for the convenience of our working life.

Did you know, breakfast did not exist according to the history of mealtimes or at least the account of

Food in Early Modern Europe by Ken Albala.

From reading mealtime history, it appears that supper in Europe and America has moved from earlier to later...and later in the day.

One reason for this appears to be changing working patterns.

The evening meal becomes more of a social after work get together rather than a dietary need!

Understandable of course; it's the main time a family can be together but little bodies may take time to actually adjust to this social requirement.


Part of the challenge lies in kids not having power over much in their lives especially toddlers, so refusing food becomes their way of asserting their will in a world ruled by adults who want kids to eat what they are given at times to suit them not the kid.

It may sound strange but actually NOT feeding children can be beneficial to their eating as when you finally do offer them a choice of (healthy) food they will FEEL like it.

If you work with a child rather than enforcing food and mealtimes you will find they do eat and if the choices are good they will eat a nutritionally balanced diet.

It is a good idea to offer them new tastes too, so that they get used to trying new healthy things they can discover.

The other side of this is to stop stressing out as parents when our children do not appear to eat enough at mealtimes even if it means catching your child in the peanut butter jar with a spoon late at night!

Having said that, one of the best incentives for mealtime eating is DESSERT. Children who do not eat their dinner do not get DESSERT.

This is a good rule and over time it becomes a guage for actually how hungry your child is or is not.

Ask if he or she wants some dessert (say chocolate) and then say "After you've finished your dinner, you can have some."

If your child isn't eager for dessert you know he or she is off their food so let their stomach have a break.


Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve. ~Roger Lewin

Another good technique: reinforce the association between eating good stuff and the MESSAGE: how the child feels afterwards. Also the association between eating too many sweets and how you feel afterwards!

When children eat lots of sweets, they soon get over the initial excitement and learn or rather realize what happens - the point is they learn when non-domineering parental advice is placed out of their way and the messages are delivered by themselves to themselves!

By giving them the power to find out for themselves, they soon make the association between eating too many sweeties and why they are feeling so miserable or sick.

Their best friend - you the parent - did try to tell them so next time their "listening ears" will more likely be on!


Your child should eat from ALL these groups each day.






further reading:


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    • profile imageAUTHOR 

      6 years ago

      Cheers KDF - picky eater - sums it up - I'm not sure but it might actually apply to ALL kids!

    • profile imageAUTHOR 

      6 years ago

      Thanks for dropping by Sophie - good to know others understand this!

    • KDF profile image


      6 years ago from Central Illinois

      Good information, voted up. Hopefully, the picky eater syndrome goes away with age. I know it did for me

      Thanks psychicdog

    • profile imageAUTHOR 

      7 years ago

      take it or leave it so it doesn't become a weapon - that's one tip I'll definitely take so thanks very much Les Trois Chenes for your very helpful suggestions.

    • Les Trois Chenes profile image

      Les Trois Chenes 

      7 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

      This is a great hub. I'm interested in food and kids and, although I am lucky with my son who had his little mouth open for food from the word go, I also did the following:

      made my own baby food simply by blending our dinner which I cooked without salt. He had plenty of 'real food', variety of tastes and textures from the start. I also used the dessert trick which works excellently. I tried not to show much concern around food. Take it or leave it so the child can't use it as a weapon. I encouraged him to eat everything, but also made it clear if there were things he really didn't like, he didn't HAVE to eat them. Sweets after a good dinner in the evening and before tooth-cleaning. He's a little gourmet now.

    • profile imageAUTHOR 

      7 years ago

      Thanks Sophie but...Oh I wish I had mastered this as good as I write about it - the power struggle over food. You know kids have a special sense for knowing what makes you tick - tonight I ended up feeding All my kids (I gave in!) - sometimes it becomes a need for time with us parents and that is the REAL ISSUE I think - they know we want them to EAT so if they don't they know they'll get us in the end!!!

    • sophie_allen profile image


      7 years ago from Washington D.C. USA 20002

      This is very helpful. Thanks for sharing. I feed my son myself and he actually likes it. I guess as long as they see you enjoying your food, they will get curious and try it themselves. The no dessert until you finish your meal really works. Thanks for sharing! Useful hub!

    • profile imageAUTHOR 

      8 years ago

      absolutely Lady_E., but McDonalds does serve healthy choices too and the kids love their icecream cones! thanks for dropping by.

    • Lady_E profile image


      8 years ago from London, UK

      Very useful tips - they must realise that it can't always be Macdonalds...


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