22 answers

How to Get My Ridiculously Slow Eater to Eat Faster?

hi, moms! i have a just-turned-three year old little guy who has food issues...we've had them since he was born! our biggest problem now is that he is such a sloooooow eater! he'll just sit there and take a bite and then 5 minutes later take another. he'll sit in his chair for an hour if we let him and he'll just keep eating! we've tried to not talk about it and just let him eat (at the table) at his own pace, but, my word, it is driving us all crazy! we all sit down to eat together and we are all done except for him...then we excuse ourselves from the table and leave him there. we've also tried taking away dessert, bedtime books, playtime...we've tried to set a timer for 30 minutes and then not talk about food and just remove him from the table after 30 minutes (done or not) but it isn't helping to speed him up! he doesn't even seem to care that he lost out on his playtime because he was still sitting at the table. we aren't forcing him to eat, and it is all food that he likes and asks for...it doesn't matter if it is pizza or cake...help! we do not let him snack all day and when he does get a snack, it is a toddler-appropriate size!

any suggestions on how to get my slow poke eater to eat faster?

thanks!

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I agree with the setting the timer (maybe set it for 25 minutes, then for five more minutes, so that he knows his time is almost up) and then getting him down from the table. If a child is not hungry, he won't eat, if he is, then he will. Now, if he doesn't get enough nutrition, have him drink pedialyte first (or in a popsicle) before he gets any food. Now, kids grow in stages. When they are learning physical things, they eat more for the energy they are expending. When they are learning mental things (words, relationships, new concepts), they eat less because they are sitting and pondering these new ideas. That is normal. And some kids just don't eat much. As long as the doctor says that they are thriving, don't force too much on them. That's my advice, anyway. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

How about reading to him after you're done and he's still eating? This would let him eat at his own pace, and you'd be giving him some extra quality reading time. :)

More Answers

I agree with the setting the timer (maybe set it for 25 minutes, then for five more minutes, so that he knows his time is almost up) and then getting him down from the table. If a child is not hungry, he won't eat, if he is, then he will. Now, if he doesn't get enough nutrition, have him drink pedialyte first (or in a popsicle) before he gets any food. Now, kids grow in stages. When they are learning physical things, they eat more for the energy they are expending. When they are learning mental things (words, relationships, new concepts), they eat less because they are sitting and pondering these new ideas. That is normal. And some kids just don't eat much. As long as the doctor says that they are thriving, don't force too much on them. That's my advice, anyway. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Wow, you have already gotten lots of advice. I am sure you have already tried many things, the things I have experienced success with when modifiying my children's behaviors are:
-rewarding with a highly desired item upon completion with desired outcome (eating in a faster amount of time). For my kids, I know what motivates them the best (Wii - they usually only play for 2 games at night if they have kept the house rules). So in this situation I would tell my son, you have 25 minutes (find a time you think is reasonable and you can stick with every day - I choose this because it is a "school lunch time" amount). Give him 1 warning a few minutes beforehand and then take away the food at the 25 minutes.

You need to figure out a few things on your side as well.
Is this a battle you want to fight?
Is there a possibility he could have medical issues (stomach pain, allergies, etc)?
Does he need a support (my son does much better getting ready for school every morning if he has a list to follow). So for a meal it might be 1) eat sandwich 2) eat fruit and 3) eat cookie.
Is it a power struggle (he may know it bugs you)?

Doing the above suggested activity (a high reward item for finishing a meal on your time schedule) should help you to see what the underlying cause could be.

1 mom found this helpful

We have the same problem with our little 4 year old. We tried all of the stuff you did too. None of it worked. All we do is give him his food and 5 mintues after the last person leaves the table we just take the food away and tell him he's done. Also, we give him a little less at snack time( or if he says he's not hunger we dont give him one, he will let you know when he is hungry or not), after a couple of days of this for some reason he seems to be a hungrier or asking for food at breakfast or dinner time. Now, he has been asking for seconds and thirds. Another thing is if he is asking for food but it's not time to eat yet, ill tell him he has to wait. I've noticed to that my son only really eats good 2 meals of the day breakfast and dinner time. so look out for those things, maybe this will help.. GOOD LUCK!

P.S. DOnt forget to get him involved in the cooking process, kids usually love to help you cook or watch and after doing that they are usually excited about eating whatever you guys made together and gobble it up..

1 mom found this helpful

I don't have any advice for you, but I just wanted to say it is always something with kids. My son is the opposite. He eats so fast and puts so much in his mouth, that I spend all of our mealtimes monitoring how he eats. I am tired of yelling at him for shoving half a hot dog in his mouth. I am not looking forward to the day I have to give him the heilich. Good Luck, I'm sure he'll pick up the pace as he gets older. I will say though, eating slow it a good habit to have, maybe not as slow as your son.

we had the same problem with our 3 year old! What we did was turn dinner time into a game where everybody races to see who can finish their peas 1st then their chicken and so on and made a big deal when "oh my goodness you are beating Daddy!" Maybe that will help? Good luck!

HI B.,

While it appears your son eats extraordinarily slow, eating slow is much healthier than eating fast. Eating slow is better for digestion and nutrient assimilation.

Children have an innate ability to understand their own body. He may be eating slow because the food bothers his stomach in some way, in which case I would definitely not try and hurry him. When he is older, he will be better able to communicate to you what is going on inside his body. Until then, I would let him eat the speed that is comfortable for him. If you think there may be something wrong, I recommend taking him to a pediatric Naturopath.

Warm Regards,
G. Van Luven, H.C.
Healthy Habits Wellness Center, LLC
www.HealthyHabitsWellnessCenter.com
###-###-####

i would just let it go. I am completely frustrated with my 5 year old who takes forever and my 8 yearold and even my 11 year old. I told them they can make their own dinner. I'm sick of trying to make things I think they'll like, pouring glasses of milk and them not drinking it, ends up on the floor.
I am so done with mealtime I want to disappear! They take over an hour to eat! that is way too long! I also have a baby to take care of and a house to clean!!!

my 3 you is a very pokey eater too.... it's just something we live with.
Our pediatrician said that as long as he eats 3 bites per item, he's fine & he can take as long as needed.

(one bite per year of age per item of food)

Hey B.,

I want to be sympathetic to you plight, but I think you should just let the boy be and work on moderating your response to his pokiness, instead. If you have somewhere to be, pack up whatever's left of his meal and take it with you, or, it it's a messy thing, save it and offer it to him again when you get home. I would certainly not associate eating with any kind of punitive action-he is eating, after all. What is it about his pokiness that's driving you crazy? If he doesn't mind sitting at the table alone to finish, why does it bother you? I agree with the woman who wrote, "it's always something..." In the big scheme of things, this ain't so bad:0}

Take Care,

A.

We have had the same problem w/ our now 12 yr old daughter since she started eating. It doesn't seem to be something that can be fixed. She may eat faster for one meal, but next meal it goes right back to the same pace. She will even cram food into her mouth and not swallow just to get it off her plate. She does the same thing at school and runs out of time to eat there and comes home famished. There is no solution. You will just need to adapt yourself to it because they will not speed up no matter what you say or do or threaten to take away. It is just the way it is

sounds like you're doing a good job. remind yourself/family that everyone is so different! I would suggest sticking with either letting him eat no matter how long it takes or yes, after an hour letting him know that dinner is finished and it's time to move on.
Sorry it's such a hassle.
Good luck

I agree wholeheartedly with Gina V & Allison S =)
Also, I ate VERY slow as a child & it WAS because it hurt my stomach. turns out I was allergic to dairy whey soy corn wheat....ugh. Thank goodness for my Naturopathic Dr who desesitized me to it all overnight..at 33 yrs old though...
good luck hun!

My 4yo used to do that, always did! It got really frustrating at times, but we let him eat at his own pace no matter how long it took. Nowadays he's gotten better at it but still has his days. It will turn into a power struggle and a battle over food that you just don't want. My dh parents dealt with his slow eating differently and now he scarfs his food down and is overweight. I wouldn't make it a game to see who can eat fastest or the most because then the huger/full cues may be missed. One thing that does help sometimes is to pretend the food is something else. My son likes to pretend his food is dirt or worms or grass or other goofy/gross stuff.

My 2 year old is also a slow eater, we just put him at the table first and let him start, then sometimes he is still the last one there :)
I don't think you can make them eat any faster, let me know if someone finds a solution!

I know how irritating this is... my step-son is 12, and he not only eats incredibly slow - but barely evens eats ANYTHING. He is short and skinny for his age, my 8 year old daughter weighs the same and is taller than he. He's always talking about how he wants to be bigger and stronger - and then eats only sugars and starches like a bird.

So, what I've had to do is stop him from getting an after school snack or any in-between-meals snacks, and he'll at least finish all of his food. As for how slow he is - we have to 'babysit' him with a timer and after it rings (25 mins or so) he is done... no desserts or any other snacks, just wait for the next meal. Maybe there's a reason for why some kids just take forever to eat. Like the act of eating is just sooo good they want to savor it for as long as possible??

This might sound funny but it is how I got my son to not only eat faster but to eat in general other foods. I make it a game. I'll say "I bet I can eat my corn faster than you" and of course kids love challenges. You set the pace so your not scarfing the food. If it works right your kid will only eat fast enough to eat faster than you. Eventually we didn't have to play the game anymore eating faster stuck with him. I hope that maybe this will help. Good luck on this.

I have a slow eater too, and I understand the impulse to rush your little one, but eating slowly is healthier, and in many cultures, meals are a time to sit with family and friends and eat and talk. And I do think it's a positive that he can sit and focus on food for that long.

If my three year old sat quietly at the table every day for an hour, I would enjoy the break!!! :-)

Don't rush him! Eating fast is one reason why America is so obese these days. We stuff our faces and our brains can't catch up to tell us we're full! I say start him eating about 1/2 hour before the rest of the family. That way he's at least half way done before you all start. Don't rush him! Let him take his time.

Whatever you do, proceed with caution! My husband used to get in trouble for eating too slow when he was little. Now he inhales everything! :)

How about reading to him after you're done and he's still eating? This would let him eat at his own pace, and you'd be giving him some extra quality reading time. :)

DON'T - eating slowly allows the body to digest better.

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