My two year old has become a very slow eater. His older brother, nearly 5, will finish a meal in good time, say 10 minutes but Jack will take 3 or 4 times as long. If we take the food away after a time he will complain he’s hungry. He’s like this with all meal times and worse if we go out. What should I do or do I just accept this?
Thanks for getting in touch.
There are a variety of reasons why a child might eat slowly but if Jack seems to be physically able to eat the food, albeit slowly, then it doesn’t suggest that there is any kind of issue with actually eating. In which case, some external motivation for eating a little more quickly could help. Children tend to respond well to sticker/reward charts or putting a number of marbles/pebbles in a jar. Agree a (non-food) reward with Jack, which he will receive when he has a certain number of stars/stickers on his chart (e.g., 10 or maybe 7 – so he could achieve this in a week). Agree a time for him to have finished his meal – you could even set a timer so that he can see it. If he finishes in time (perhaps start with 25-30 minutes and try to work down from there, week by week) then he gets a sticker towards his chosen reward. This can be really effective for motivating behaviour. You could also try being a bit firmer about food being eaten during the mealtime. For example, he has 30 minutes to eat his dinner and after that, there is no more food. Children like to test the boundaries, so being consistent can really help with this.
We hope this helps. Good luck!
Dr Emma Haycraft
Co-creator of the Child Feeding Guide
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