3 Year Old Refuses to Feed Himself

Updated on February 09, 2007
L.G. asks from Niagara Falls, NY
5 answers

My 3 year old still won't feed himself...I know it's my fault because I never just put the food on his tray and left him to do it. I don't have the patience and I don't know what to do...Every two minutes im telling him "eat" or "pick up the food". If I don't hassle him, he won't do it himself...
I'm really concerned because I want to start him in pre K in the fall, but no one is going to feed him...If anyone has any advice I would love some...

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So What Happened?

I first want to thank you all for your suggestions...I put the food in front of my son, I didn't say anything, I sat down and started eating, and he followed...it was really cool!

More Answers



answers from New York on

when my 3 yo stays at my in-laws, he comes home and wants me to feed him. i know its because my mom in law feeds him, and he just eats it up (haha). i say something to her jokingly, but wont take it further than that because i know she loves it and she is such a Godsend to me i cant make an issue of it. anyway, i just dont indulge him. he isnt gonna starve himself. its hard, because he eats so little in the first place, but youre not helping anyone by giving in to him. plus, when you hassle him, you are making a thing out of it, which is how food/eating issues start. its sooooo hard to sit by and let them not eat, believe me, i know, but making an issue can really cause him problems later on. you are turning food into a bargaining/control thing, not good, especially for a 3 year old who is just starting to need to assert their independence in any way they can, and is looking for ways to control his world. i would just give him the food, especially his favorites, eat meals together, and when a reasonable time is up, thats it. try not to say anything. limit snacks, be sure he is drinking enough, but not too much stuff that fills him up, my son fills up on milk and then wont eat. i would stick to water for a little while. he wont starve himself. and if it does go too long, a couple of days, i guess? then talk to your doc. good luck, D.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on


You answered your own question. Give him his food, and let him alone with it. Praise him when he eats well, and say NOT ONE THING when he doesn't. No encouraging, no scolding, no bargaining.

Sit down with him and eat, talk to him about his day or what he saw on Sesame Street, but don't keep urging him to eat. Like any other kid, he loves having your attention focused directly on him, and when you have to feed him, he's getting that. If you give him food and he refuses to eat, and you stand over him urging bite after bite, he's still got your attention. By sitting with him and chatting about other stuff while he eats, he will see that he doesn't lose your attention and focus by feeding himself, and gains both independence and praise!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chattanooga on

i agree with everyone else. Put the food on the plate he will eat if he's hungry & telling him to eat will just encourange him not to eat on own.. good luck?



answers from Burlington on

I would give him his food and leave him to it if he doesnt eat then he doesnt get anythign till his next scheduled meal/snack. Make sure to let him know that you know he can do it and that you will help him with what he needs help with, cutting meat pouring his drink ect but putting the food in his mouth is something he doesnt need help with so your not going to help him.



answers from Rochester on

you used the word tray? is he in a high chair? put him at the table in a chair. with a booster if needed, i have a 3 1/2 yr old boy and he eats fine at the table no booster knees if need at times. treat him older if you want him to act that way. no baby anything he is a big boy now!!! i just learned that my oldest is 5 1/2 (daughter) and my 3 1/2 son wants to copy and be big... he lost his babyness since this past summer now he is a BOY

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