8 Year Old Will Not Sit to Eat Lunch.

Updated on September 06, 2016
R.P. asks from Studio City, CA
21 answers

Do any of your boys or girls just want to play and not eat. My son is not picky at all. He will eat anything,he has an interesting palate like dad and I. He eats anything I make -in addition to sushi, fish, anything I make, healthy, not healthy but when it comes to school he just won't eat lunch! We provide great lunches healthy, good choices that he chooses we shop together etc. we make the lunches and the main lunch comes home but he eats maybe one snack.. He's very athletic needs food for energy as he runs after school or plays on a league. I've aske him what's going on he doesn't have an answer except he will say he didn't like something when he eats it at home no issues. I explain he needs fuel like a car for energy. I'm at a loss. I explain that it costs money to buy things etc etc. I just looked into maybe doing more of a snack box type lunch have him help me but I've tried it all. We do salads, sandwiches warm lunch etc. he does like soup or salads best. But he also comes home with it sometimes.

Ideas or do I just give up and keep trying to change things? I think he'd rather play then eat is my guess

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone. Going to focus on not worrying about it he does come me home tired and cranky and hungry and he's allowed to eat what he didn't for school..I'm sure it's the social aspect and wanting to play. I like the idea of letting them play first then eat, makes good sense but most don't allow that. My kid is very active so he can't wait to hit the playground. We usually allow a hot lunch once a week. He gets to choose the day of menu he likes and with good grades behavior it's a reward. As he gets older it will be more common theme to just get lunch as he's a good eater that makes good choices now just hope it stays. Thanks. Love the snack ideas, small stuff. Saw a great site clean food crushers great ideas!

Featured Answers



answers from Portland on

I experienced what Nervy said too.

My kids were rushing through lunch to go play. And there wasn't much time to eat.

When they got home, cranky and starving. So they ate the remainder of their lunch. I found that the easier stuff to eat, the more likely it got eaten.

Also - mine would shove some lunch into their pockets and head out doors. Cheese strings, etc. At least they got some in.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

It's pretty common. Pack some quick foods and have him eat a more substantial meal when he gets home. My oldest didn't really eat lunch at school for years and years.

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Norfolk on

So let him play.
He'll eat when he gets hungry.
He might be in between growth spurts and as soon as another one starts up he'll be eating everything in sight.
Just wait till he's 16 - he won't even stop to chew - they just open wide and swallow.
Watching teenage guys eat is scary!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I think lunch is the time during the day when kids get to interact with one another freely without expectation that they will be "on track". Your son may be talking to his buddies, having a great time, and by the time he focuses on lunch, lunchtime is over.

We pack a protein bar with our son's lunch. Our favorite is Quest (which you can get on-line on Amazon). It isn't cheap, but it gives 20 plus grams of protein and 10 plus grams of fiber to practically no sugar. If he doesn't eat the rest of lunch Mom so lovingly prepares, he'll always eat the Quest bar since it is quick.

Also, I can always tell when his best buddy missed a day at school...cause the whole lunch is eaten since there is no one to replay their favorite Simpsons' episodes with!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I think it's great that your child eats such a wide variety of foods! Pack things for his day that can easily be saved and easily eaten at any time. My youngest hardly ate much at lunch in middle school for a variety of reasons. Lines too long, too much socializing, etc. So I packed her healthy, portable snacks that sometimes got eaten before first period, sometimes certain teachers were flexible and allowed eating, and sometimes she ate her snacks after school before volleyball practice, or whenever she got hungry and needed them. And sometimes she didn't touch the food I sent because one of her friends shared some other foods, or they made something in class, or she just got busy and wasn't hungry. Her school day ends at 2:00, and sometimes she comes home and instead of snack, basically eats a "late lunch" because once she is home and has time away from all the stimulation, her system finally kicks and and tells her she's on empty and needs to eat.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Are you sure he's actually hungry? One of mine LOVES breakfast. He eats a pretty big breakfast every day. And many days he skips lunch except for something small. Then he eats again at dinner.

Because I know this is how he is, I make sure he has a healthy breakfast - he gets scrambled eggs almost every day, in addition to whatever else he chooses, so that he gets protein and not just carbs. Other than that, I don't worry about it. I send in a lunch every day, and I figure that if he's hungry, he'll eat it. If he's not hungry, that's his choice.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I'd look into the lunchtime situation at school. Last year my son had about 12 minutes in the cafeteria-- his teacher was routinely late at getting them out of class to lunch and they had a limited window of time before the next wave of students needed to be seated at table for their meals, so yeah, short lunchtime. So, ask about that first.

I really wish they would have recess first and then lunch. I believe some kids have conflict in that they want to play with their friends, talk, and do the things they couldn't do in class right away. So, lunchtime gets frittered away in favor of that.

Also, when my son didn't finish something from his lunchbox, those were the things he was allowed to eat after school. So consider re-serving it. If he gets hungry after dinnertime, then that's a great time to say "well, if you are hungry you can have (what's left over)", so he gets used to the habit of eating the food presented. We did this with Kiddo-- and still do (he's always starving at 8, even with a big dinner). You don't get to ask for food and then just not eat it.

I can understand hot lunch being a treat; it was in our house growing up. The cost per person per lunch is so much less when we brown bag it.

ETA: In the world of amazing coincidences, I only just received an email from my son's old school. (we homeschool now.) Turns out they DID move recess before lunch! What good news! All that to say, it can be done and there is a school district which approved this shift. :)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

I sometimes go eat lunch with my 7 year old daughter. The kids are all being very social. They talk, wave at friends at other tables, use the bathroom, and basically get extremely distracted. When I am there I constantly remind kids to eat. They just forget! This could be what is happening with your son. Maybe a bento box type lunch where everything is small and snack sized. Cut the sandwich up into wedges or strips, a pickle, cheese or meat squares, apple pieces and grapes, little pretzels or little crackers. Maybe the small portions will help? I would go meet him for lunch a few times to watch and see what is happening.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Oh man when I worked at the elementary school this was so frustrating! I did lunch duty every day for grades K thru 5 and I can't tell you how much food was thrown away. Nice, healthy, homemade lunches, popular school lunches, even junk food. Some kids just do. not. eat. For many reasons. Mostly though they were just too distracted and anxious to eat. They had 20 minutes at the table followed by 20 minutes to play outside. I spent so much of that 20 minutes at the table, trying, encouraging these kids to eat but some of them were so wound up!
If he's not eating not much then don't pack him too much, just a few healthy items and maybe a small treat that you know he'll like. Encourage breakfast and have a good after school snack and healthy dinner, that's really all you can do.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

My kids are the worst lunch eaters ever! The both hate sandwiches and my daughter has a late lunch so she doesn't want to take anything cold that will end up being warm (we live in AZ so ice packs are basically useless lol).

So I have "snack" items for them to take and they choose 4-5 of them and pack it themselves. Here's what I can think of: lunch meat, cheese sticks, yogurts, crackers or chips, fruit cups, applesauces, beef jerky, hard boiled eggs, nuts, trail mix, dry cereal, real fruits and veggies with dip.

They just put a few in their bag with a water bottle. There is enough choices that they get a variety and still have the 4 food groups, or pretty close. Good luck.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Schools usually require students to sit at the table a specific amount of time to eat. Perhaps snack type food would help. My grandchildren's schools welcome parents to come for lunch. I discovered that my granddaughter talked and talked. She took bites now and then. Perhaps if you went for lunch, you'd have an idea why he doesn't eat. You might be able to work around that.

I also agree that eating very little is not a problem. You can be sure he has a nutritionAL breakfast and dinner. If he's home after school, provide a good snack. If he's in after school care, they give him a snack. Kids will not go hungry if food is available.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I was going to suggest "snack lunch" too, easy to play and eat quickly. "Finger foods", pieces of cheese, etc. But if he says he likes soup or salads best, I am not sure what to suggest! Campbell's soup makes a product that is drinkable soup, no spoon required...maybe try that?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Is it possible that he's embarrassed about what is in his lunch? I know my kid stopped eating a few things after something was said to her about the food (not nice).
Otherwise I'm sure he's just distracted. Lunch rooms are noisy, and almost have a competitive environment for who's sitting where, and who can get the most people to listen to them. None of that is good for actually consuming food.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

why is the school lunch a reward? does it cost money? can he just have that? it may be that all his friends get school lunches and hes got a prepacked one... so hes embarrassed and does not want it.i allow my 6 yr old to choose if he wants a packed lunch or a school one. school lunches are free and usually better than what i offer (more variety and healthier options) so i told him he could eat whats packed or leave it inhis bag and get teh hot lunch if he thinks it sounds better. today he asked i not pack a lunch so he could go with kid from class and get hot food. as long as he eats i am happy.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i woud not turn this into a battle. he seems to be suffering no ill effects from his choice whatsoever, and i'm assuming he's a intelligent young fellow who has heard and understood your explanations.
you can't reason a child into being hungry.
send a protein bar with him, and tell him that if he wants bigger lunches to simply let you know.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Beaumont on

I believe in the 80/20 concept of as long as you are good 80% of the time, you can indulge or make not such healthy choices the other 20% and you're doing good. At his age I think you're doing GREAT by getting to eat so well. I'd just do "whatever" for lunch or let him eat at school to be like the others (that might be part of the problem too, he's "embarrassed" by taking his lunch?).

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

It's too bad your school district isn't doing what ours did: put recess first, let the kids work up an appetite, THEN bring them in for lunch. It's been a huge success. Kids are busting out of their seats by recess time, so they get to go run around without having to sit still to eat first. Then, once they're good and tired, they come in to eat. When they get back to the classrooms, they're not all riled up from recess and they can get back to work mode faster. It's one of the best changes the schools made.

If your son is allowed to eat when he gets home, when he's actually hungry, and everything else seems fine, I wouldn't worry about it. He seems like a typical active young man and you've already lucked out with him not being a picky eater. I'd really just let things ride the way they are. If he's hungry, he will eat.

And I'd also talk to your school about getting recess first. Obviously many schools have done it, so it's doable. They might not make the change, but at least the seed may be planted and they might consider it in the future.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boise on

My 7yo son won't eat sometimes -- he's just too interested in getting to the playground, as your son probably is. He did go through a period where he wouldn't eat one of his favorite foods, hummus, or other healthy foods he liked, because another kid teased him about it. But with time and conversation, he gained the confidence to ignore what other kids said about his food choices and went back to eating what he likes.

I ignore it for the most part but I know he gets low blood sugar (this and diabetes run in both sides of our families) and is really "hangry" by the end of the school day. So we talk about needing to eat so he doesn't end up with negative consequences. His "hangry" generally pushes him WAY beyond just needing some food...

Anyway, his school allows kids to take "portable" snack food out to the playground at any recess, so I try to pack things he can carry outside like a banana or grapes, cheese sticks, maybe a fig newton type cookie, sometimes a ham & cheese roll-up. Their rule is you have to take it out with you first, and you can't run in and out with containers so it has to be packaged in something that can be thrown away.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Why can't he eat lunch from the school? He might not like having something different than his friends. That was why my youngest wasn't eating. Once we let him eat school lunches he would sit down with his friends and eat.

I'd say stop putting so much in there. If you're wasting money then stop. He isn't going to eat it. You can't force him.

What is going to happen is he's going to figure out he can just dump everything and when you ask he can say it was good. Then he doesn't have to listen to you anymore and he can take 5 seconds to dump it and go play or whatever it is he's doing instead of eating.

If he's not going to eat he's just not going to eat.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Sometimes kids just don't eat. I have to remind my kids to eat sometimes...other times I have to kick them out of the kitchen. It's human nature. Kids are also much better at only eating when they are hungry. I know at my kids elementary school the teachers encourage the kids to ALL eat. They do have recess before lunch too.

Talk to your kid's teacher and see if you can get some help on that front. They may know better why he isn't eating or what it is he sees others eating that he wants.



answers from Chicago on

Most kids that age have bodies that will tell them if they are hungry- as you have seen when he comes home. I am wondering if there is a possibility that a friend could be sharing something with him or if there are snacks earlier in the day...and by lunchtime he might really not be hungry. Might just be his body clock, also.

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