Eating Habits of 3 Year Old

Updated on March 10, 2008
M.G. asks from Westwood, NJ
4 answers

Hello ladies,
I have a question about child development (I suppose). My 3 year old is not a picky eater, he will eat whatever I give him (or most of it anyway) with two conditions: I have to feed him (with a spoon) and I have to entertain him (reading book, drawing). Recently, I've been thinking that it is not completely normal. Shouldn't he be eating by himself? He is definitely capable of eating with a fork, spoon, and a knife. (he has no problems eating ice cream on his own). Should I expect him to sit at the table and eat at least most of his food? or is he too young? if he is very hungry, he'll start eating himself but will stop after few spoonfuls and will get distracted with something else, like telling me a story or reading a book. He just can't concentrate enough on his food to eat it. I have to remind him every minute to eat. every minute. or he will forget. even if he's famished. He forgets to chew if he watches TV (so no TV while eating). He is turning 3 in March and I feel that I should be serious about him eating his food on his own. Is he too young? or just spoiled? should I feed him? should I entertain him? any ideas and help will be appreciated.

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So What Happened?

Thank you Tara, I was just thinking that myself: when did I ask advice on my parenting style? especiall about co-sleeping?
Thank you also for your advice on the food issue: I actually started doing similar thing that you suggested few days ago: the trick was to give him his favorite food, which wasn't hard: mac-n-cheese, grilled cheese, tofu, avocado, sausages, chicken marsala, bagel with lax. First couple of days he would only eat few bites and forget about it. So I would remove all the food from the table and we'll go play. When he gets hungry I would offer him the rest of the food. Now, 5 days later he eats completely on his own. He still asks me to tell him stories while we are eating but I think it's perfectly fine. At least I have two free hands to eat myself now :-) He's actually eating better now, he runs to the table himself when he's hungry and grabs the food from the plate right away. he never used to do it before: always waited for me to start feeding him. I only have to remind him to take another bite few times towards the end of the meal.
Now, to all of you who have issues with co-sleeping! Have you noticed the amount of messages about kids having sleeping problems? how many of them come from co-sleeping parents? I counted. ONE! She's a working mom and does't get good enough sleep. I think that their bed is just not big enough. :-) And the rest of sleep-deprived parents still insist on their poor scared toddlers to sleep "in their own beds". why? b/c their sex life might suffer? Give me a break!
From my experience, there is nothing more wonderfull than to wake up and see sleepy smiling face of your baby hugging your neck! So unless you tried it, don't judge!

More Answers



answers from New York on

You say your son is bright. Dinner time is dinner time! I would give him his food pre-cut and sit at the oppisite side of the table. Tell him he is a big boy and he will take pride in that. If he doesn't eat much, don't worry. He will learn if he is hungry, he will have to feed himself and that is it.
Yes you should listen to what your child is saying and converse with them. They should also listen to what you need to say.
I agree with Amy. You may have a baby run home and may suffer from it in the long run. I'm sorry if this upsets you, but I only say it because I have SEEN it happen in some of my friends families. Co-sleeping is a huge no-no in my opinion. What about your adult relationship??? If you want a happy marriage, you have to spend quality time with your spouse or they may feel rejected or pushed aside for the BABY. Remember who was there first. If any one has a small child, it could be harmful if someone rolls over in a deep sleep.

Whatever you do I wish you and your family much happiness.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Albany on

He is definitely old enough to be eating on his own. All 3 of my kids have been feeding themselves well before their 1st birthday arrives.

And developmentally a 3 year old should be quite used to doing it independently.

However, I noticed your "a little about me" description and you and I have totally different, opposite ends of the spectrum, parenting philosophies (specifically AP, wearing,co-sleeping-the rest I think most moms do their best at).

So from a developmental point of view let him do it himself. I do not know the point of view AP philosophy has. Good luck.




answers from New York on

He definitely should be eating by himself. Drinking as well.In a sippy cup. Try letting him eat himself, no may be hard, he'll give you a hard time, but stick to your guns. Good Luck.



answers from New York on

Hi M.,

First, let me say your son should defniietly be eating on his own by now. As another responder said, they should be doing this around their first birthday (eating finger food and starting with utensils). However, I'll admit that there are times when I feed my 3yo also. But it is not every meal and I don't have to distract her to do it. She does sit at the table with us for dinner (20-30 minutes at a stretch) and is easily distracted from feeding herself so she needs regular reminders to "take another bite". Our issue is that she prefers to "graze" as opposed to eating 3 meals a day. This is actually a very healthy way to eat so I don't force her. This does however present the challenge of making sure I have plenty of healthy food on hand that she can eat in small portions (yogurt, steamed veggies, cooked whole wheat pasta/rice) so she can eat them throughout the day and we don't resort to eating "snack food" whenever she wants something.

I'll also mention that our parenting styles are quite different. I don't believe in co-sleeping but I did breastfeed her for 10 months (loved it...miss it!) and because of the breastfeeding found it convenient to "wear" her whenever I could. I also believe the best thing we can do as parents is follow our child's lead. They let us know what they need and when they need it. If we're attentive to their signals we can't go wrong! If we try to force them into something they'll just resist and create unnecessary frustration but if we overlook their signals then it can be hard to break bad habits. At 3 months I let her "cry it out" and she was fine! I was going to try to wean her from the pacifier but read that she'd give it up on her own by 9 months and she did. At 17 months she could tell me when she had to "poo" so we started a very casual, no pressure approach to potty training and by 2.5 she was trained. We just need to be aware of the "line in the sand" that tells us when we're doing too much and when we're not doing enough. Sometimes children need to be encouraged to do things independently (like self-sooth, sleep alone, eat with utensils, potty train) but they need to know they are loved and supported as well. It can be hard to find that balance and everyone has their own idea of where the line should be. Just do your best to encourage him to be independent. Your question and "a little about me" make me think you're doing too much for him and that he's capable of doing a lot more on his own. Encourage his independence and he will flourish! Good luck!

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