20 answers

My 3 Year Old Wants to Eat Day and Night!!!

My 3 year old has been a drama king since the day he was born. He's our 2nd son, so I was caught off guard with this one. He not only whines and cries constantly since day one (God bless him) but now he's gotten into a horrible stage of wanting to eat constantly and it's driving me crazy! Now, don't get me wrong, I don't give into him but when I don't give in he will scream and cry and kick and yell forever! I don't know if this is a growth spurt of some kind but I doubt it cause the only thing he wants to eat is the "good stuff" and not so much of the real good stuff. He wakes up begging for me to feed him and then immediately after breakfast, he's asking me if he can eat now. Just as I write this, he's coming over to me and asking again for cheese and crackers. I said no, and for now he's ok but he'll be back over here asking me again in a few minutes. I have a few ideas of what may be going on but I'm not too sure. It may be a normal part of being a growing toddler boy but I don't know. You'd think I would know it all being as though I've been working with children for 11 years AND I've had one other boy before this one but I'm getting so stressed out over it. My son's day starts off the same, He wakes up before I do, runs downstairs to the kitchen, opens the fridge and grabs a yogurt to eat and or fruit snacks. I then come down to the kitchen and give them their drinks (half juice and half water) and the 3 year old still cries that he wants to eat cereal. I've learned now to only give him a few tablespoons of cereal and milk since he doesn't always finish it. I don't think he's starving, he's an average sized 3 year old, not overweight in the slightest. My boys are both very tall guys and not petite in any way but very lean and healthy looking. I just don't know what to do and I don't seem to get anywhere at the Doctor either. So, any suggestions or ideas would be greatly appreciated but please no words of judgement..I just need some friendly advice..Thanks!

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Thanks for the fantastic responses. I will definitely try the suggestions mentioned. Thank You!!!

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My 3 year old went through the eating all the time phase. I'm not sure if she was actually hungry or just bored. My solution...I made up containers of snacks that I could live with her eating (sliced or whole apples, carrots, graham crackers, fruity cheerios, etc.) I left them in the pantry on a low shelf or in the refrigerator on a low shelf and she could help herself. When she was out of snacks for the day...that was it (of course she got her 3 squares a day too). She's also allowed to get water whenever she wants. It allows her to be independent and choose her snacks, with the added benefit of not annoying me. :) Now, she rarely goes in to get a snack, but does get water throughout the day. I explained the process to her each morning for a few days and billed it as a big girl type of thing (not sure if that would work for you or not, but I'm sure you can adapt). I might have even picked up that suggestion from this site. Good Luck!

2 moms found this helpful

From my experience with my second child if I let her eat foods with sugar in them, she fills quickly and then is hungry again very quickly. The sugar triggers a full response in her quickly but then it wears off quickly and she's starving again soon.

If I feed her cereal in the morning, you can bet she will be begging me for something to eat in an hour.

On the other hand, if I feed her a scrambled egg and a piece of sausage she isn't hungry for hours. I have found that I have to make the main part of her diet protien with just a little sugar.

I can give her toast with jelly with the above breakfast and it's fine, but she has to eat all of her egg and sausage or she' hungry fast.

If she eats even one hershey kiss or a few chocolate chips I can't get her to eat her dinner an hour later. But then an hour or two after that she's crying because she's hungry.

For her I have to limit her sugar...I try to get her to eat her pancakes with applesauce instead of syrup. I make the pancakes with pumpkin to add some nutrition.

I make the kids grits with butter and salt...no sugar.

I limit cereal to about 1/4 of a cup and just as a snack...and only maybe twice a week.

If I give her a fruit snack pack, it's after she's eaten a good lunch with lots of protien.

My second child is very tiny and very petite. She has a terrible sweet tooth though. I don't have as many problems with the oldest child.

It's tough.

Only other question I would ask would be: is he eating everything you put out for him...or just picking at it and then telling you he's full. If he's just grazing, that's why he's always hungry.

I know the general consensus these days is to let little ones eat very small meals five to six times a day, but I think we are doing our children a huge disservice by allowing that. Once they start first grade, they won't get a mid-morning snack. They will have to eat breakfast, lunch, and maybe a snack when they get home before dinner. That's three meals and a snack. That's pretty much how we will have to eat for the rest of our lives if we work.

My opinion is that we serve them better by training them to eat in that pattern pretty much from the start. If a child is hungry between meals when they are tiny, then give them a healthy snack but one that is very small (they do have tiny tummies after all)....but as they age and get ready for school they need to eat like they will have to eat for the rest of their lives.

I generally put a tablespoon of three or four things on my children's plates. They must try everything on their plate, period. If they don't care for something, they don't have to eat it all...but they know if they don't clean their plate they don't get a treat and they aren't allowed any kind of snack between meals.

My oldest, who is six, has learned to eat everything regardless of whether she likes it or not. She will just clean her plate 90% of the time. She wants that little treat which might be a tiny scoop of icecream, a cookie that we made together, a popsicle in summer, a piece of candy during the holidays...

It's tough and every child is different.

The important thing is trying to get them to eat healthy foods, not use food to medicate themselves when they are sad or bored, and not over-eat just because it tastes good.

Could he be bored? Is he seeking your attention maybe? Does he have lots of games and activities to keep himself busy? We bought our girls a bounce house for the basement this past Christmas (actually grandma did). That has been a great investment. The kids jump in it constantly. Not only are they getting exercise, but it keep them entertained in the winter months when they can't go outside. It's great.

Oh well, let me stop rambling.

1 mom found this helpful

It may be that he needs a solid routine of what he can eat and when. I know that when my kids are home and inside on these cold winter days, they would eat all day if I let them - and they love fruits and vegetables, but I still think some of it could be boredom or just comfort. So instead, we have basic parameters on what and when they can eat.

Set up a picture calendar for the days activities, including meals and snack times. When he wants to eat out of the schedule, remind him and distract. Give him plenty of water since he may just be thirsty.

Also make sure his meals are complete with proteins, carbs, etc.

Has this been going on for a while, or is this something that recently started? I have a son who just turned 4 and for about 2 months he was the same way. I think it was a growth spurt or something though because all of the sudden he stopped being hungry all the time. I swear, for a while there every time I turned around he was asking for more food! This is of course just a suggestion, but give it a couple months and try to get him to snack on as many healthy things as you can. (We had a lot of goldfish crackers, raisins, and other fruit around the house for a while.) That's about how long the stage went for us. Other than that, I don't really know what else to tell you.

I highly suggest the book, Love and Logic. Christian based parenting ideas and they work. My son sounds very similiar to you..one idea I used was to have a shelf in the fridge and one in the cabinet of "free foods" that he could eat at other times than meals. They were all low calorie, healthy snacks. If that didn't satisfy him, then I would gently say,then you must not be hungry. Sometimes he ate, sometimes it didn't.

My son is almost 3 and is doing the exact same thing!! I thought I was the only one. He rarely eats a full meal at one time, he mostly "grazes" as I call it all day. He too is constantly asking for something to eat, he is not overweight by any means and is perfectly healthy according to the doctor. My 4 year old daughter is not like that. I am not sure what to do either so I am looking forward to the responses you get.

I would say that a yogurt and 1/2 a cup of orange juice is not enough food for him. Give him oatmeal or peanut butter and jelly toasties or eggs and sausage with toast. Do not let him have any snacks between meals if you are making sure he is eating enough at each meal. Maybe one late morning and one late afternoon snack of healthy items only, such as apples with nut butter, mozzarella sticks and crackers, trail mix and a glass of milk, yogurt with granola, carrots or veggies with dip,turkey slices with a cheese stick or slice of cheese, a fruit smoothy with a small bowl of dry cereal, fruit with yogurt dip...there are so many snack choices that are "real food"and "healthy food". Do not buy sugary snacks or chips and junk. He will learn to eat healthy foods and he should be satisfied longer. Also, just one glass of juice per day is what our dentist told us...I did that anyway! Offer milk or water after the one cup of juice. Good luck to you!

Hi C....I read a few other posts and there are some great ideas...one thing that I have to agree w/ is the "buffet" idea. I run a home daycare and am an asst. girl scout leader and we recently had a guest speaker come to a girl scout meeting and discuss eating habits and health and one thing we learned was that "grazing" is actually ok and good for little ones. They might be more likely to try new things and may actually eat more than they would sitting down to a meal. I am all for teaching kids to eat at the table as a family and not making special meals for those who may not like what we are eating, but...for your own child...he may just not eat a lot at once, but need to eat more often. One suggestion I learned was to take a 12 cup cupcake tin and fill each cup w/ a different fruit, veggie, nut, whatever...keep it colorful and introduce new things...and leave it out for awhile and see what happens. You might be surprised! This is one of the most frustrating things...eating!!! So, best of luck!

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