13 answers

3 Year Old Will Not Eat Dinner

I have a 3yr who absolutely refuses to eat dinner. Can't even get him to sit at the table. His best meal is breakfast and sometimes lunch. Any suggestions?

1 mom found this helpful

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Hi C.,

What does he eat for breakfast and lunch? Does he have snacks in between? Do you sit at dinner together as a family or does he eat at a different time? Whatever you do don't beg him to eat! Sometimes little ones like the control and enjoy seeing YOU squirm. Be patient and never let him see you sweat. If you do have dinner as a family, tell him that he should sit with the rest of the family but he does not have to eat. I'd be more than happy to help. You can email me at ____@____.com't worry he will come around!

More Answers

Maybe dinner is too late or too close to lunch? Maybe offer breakfast food for dinner a few times (waffles?).
Seems like a battle of wills so u can find a way around this strange stance. 3 yp can helpmake dinner!

1 mom found this helpful

Preschoolers are so up and down with their activity levels and growth spurts that they are going to have pretty big swings in appetite. He is probably getting all the calories he needs during the day (if you are concerned about weight gain/loss, that would be a different issue). I would continue to reinforce dinner as a routine and family time by calling him to the table when it is ready, offering him small portions of what everyone else is eating, and letting him eat as much or as little as he wants. At this age, it is more important that he learn to sit politely at the table with the family. Children also have very short attention spans at his age, so don't force him to stay too long if he is "finished" eating, but do start teaching him to be excused when he is finished or to start staying longer and talking with the family. Right now, my 14-month-old seems to eat back-to-back meals all day (at least 3-4 full meals and several snacks) while my almost 3-year-old grazes at several meals and then at the end of the day is "sooooooooooooo hungry" he has a mini-meal for a post-dinner snack. Keep encouraging him to eat when he is hungry and to eat a variety. :) Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

Just read an article about this in Parents magazine (Oct issue) - they say that many toddlers eat most of their food early in the day, so it's no surprise that dinnertime is the meal they fight the most. They suggest making sure to directly engaging the child during the meal - that means having conversations with him rather than reading the mail or paper, watching TV, etc. Also allow him to bring a small toy with him that he can play with while he eats (but he must eat if he wants to play). Also, in terms of what to make, they suggest separating ingredients for him so he can choose what he wants rather than combining it all (i.e. for pasta, keep the sauce, toppings, cheese, etc. separate, and let him choose what he wants to put in it). If he refuses, then offer him leftovers, but don't make him anything else. If he still refuses, don't worry - he won't starve. Just give him a big breakfast.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi, our 3.5 will not eat dinner, so I give him
multi-vitamins mixed with his juice. Also, he loves franks, so I give him that and anything that he likes: pancakes, and pasta mixed with baby greens. It's very hard, but we do what we can.

I was about to post a similar question to yours 2 days ago, but my 2 yr old son ate huge dinners the last 2 nights, so I'm going to keep experimenting with schedules.
My son eats a good breakfast, goes to daycare where he has fruit/cheerios for snack around 9:30. Then he eats a huge lunch. And yogurt snack at 3. I have been unable to get him interested in dinner at all for the longest time. I figured he just was hungrier during the day.
2 days ago he refused the dinner I served at 6, but then was asking for cookies at 7. So I reheated the dinner, and we got him to eat. We tried the same schedule last night - dinner really late, and he ate a ton.
So I'm going to change our schedule to have a little snack when we come in from playing at 5:30 and hold off dinner until late.

The bigger the fuss you make over this the bigger the problem may become. He is asserting his independance. Ignore the behavior. If he doesn't want to sit, don't force him to. However, explain that "we are sitting having dinner. Please, don't talk to us or ask us to play with you". When he gets hungry, give him his plate with dinner that was served and leave him alone to eat it...in the other room, not too far. This is a behavior issue not a food issue. 3 yro. figure out that they have control over a few things and food is one of them. I guarentee if you ignore the behavior it will stop more quickly than trying to make him do something.

Good luck.

first he must sit with you.. put a few things on his plate... just do it.. if he eats only one pea.. so be it.. maybe a slice of an orange.. but he must sit for at least 10 minutes.. then no snacks later on... dinner is dinner.. eat it or go to sleep without.. it will catch on.. good luck

Hi C.,

What does he eat for breakfast and lunch? Does he have snacks in between? Do you sit at dinner together as a family or does he eat at a different time? Whatever you do don't beg him to eat! Sometimes little ones like the control and enjoy seeing YOU squirm. Be patient and never let him see you sweat. If you do have dinner as a family, tell him that he should sit with the rest of the family but he does not have to eat. I'd be more than happy to help. You can email me at ____@____.com't worry he will come around!

Make sure he is eating on a schedule. i.e. Breakfast at 8, lunch at 12, dinner at 5. Make sure he is eating his other meals at the table as well. Don't give him snacks between lunch and dinner. This includes drinks. (Make him finish his milk at lunch after lunch that's it, nothing until dinner) You want him to be hungry at dinner time. If he won't sit at the table and eat then I'd remove him from the table and put his Jamies on and put him to bed. Let him know if he doesn't want to go to bed he is welcome to sit at the table and eat like a big boy. Make it his choice. If he is stubborn and decides to go to bed let him. If he comes out after dinner is put away I'd give him something to eat but he has to sit at the table to eat it. Be consistent. He will choose to sit at the table before long. And it won't be because you are making him. It will be because he wants to.

C.,

you have a ton of great advice here. Just wanted to add that perhaps your son is too tired at dinner time. I have found that on nights where my 3 yo is overtired she just doens't want dinner but its too early to put her to bed. I would resist the urge to offer him different foods just to get him to eat. I agree with the poster who said to make it his choice. I have told my picky eater she has to try 2 bites of new foods before declaring she doesn't like them or getting seconds of the foods she likes. She resisted at first but now is sitting with us through meals and is trying new foods. Be consistent with whatever you try. Decide on a new technique and use it for a week before changing tactics. Otherwise your son will see that you are not sure and will continue to fight you. Hang in there!

Hi C.,
My son (now aged 10) was like that age 2 and 3. He would eat lunch and breakfast, then graze his way through the afternoon - healthy snacks, and I could not see denying him healthy foods when he was hungry, but the result was picking at dinner because by then he was not hungry. He did have to sit at the table with us, and we did institute a rule about no snacks an hour or less before dinner even if it was a fruit that he was asking for, and eventually he did start eating at dinner time.

Try eating a little earlier. I know it's difficult to change an evening routine, but we now sit down between 5-5:30 for dinner b/c if we wait too long, our little one is tired and won't eat (also cries and asks to be held). It's a very early dinner time, but he won't need to eat so early forever!

We are in the same boat. AIdan is a big breakfast eater and then snacks during the day, sometimes he will eat a great lunch others no. Dinner is iffy. I bought the Nutrapal shakes to make sure he gets enough vitamins and minerals in a day! Not much advice just know you are not alone~

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