How I Get My 2 Years Old to Eat!!!

Updated on January 18, 2010
P.K. asks from Miami, FL
15 answers

My daugther is 2 years and 3 months old and I think she is starting this terrible 2's phase!!! the problem is at breakfast and dinnner time because she has lunch at school and the teachers always tell me that she eats great. At home I try to eat as family but she doesn't like to try the food that it's on the plate. At breakfast she used to eat fruit, cereal, eggs in different ways, orange juice or milk and now she doesn't want to eat anything. At night I try soups,rice, meat, chicken, spaguettis, last nigth I tryed poptarts, and nothing... but she used to like this type of food before.

Before we tryed the TV programs that she like to make her eat but now it is not working, I am trying to tell her to eat for Mickey, Minnie, etc and it worked 2 or 3 times and no more, her dad tryed telling her that she will get a time out if she doesn't eat or that mommi or daddy will be sad but it worked the first time and no more.

I feel really bad because I don't like when he tells her about the time outs and I try to sign different songs but doesn't work. She has to see him really mad to start eating somenthing. I feel frustrated and I am loosing my patience too!!!!


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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone for the response it's really good to know that I am not the only one in this situation and that I am stressing myself too much!!!
It's been 2 difficult days trying not to stress out at breakfast or dinner time, my husband agreed not to do time outs, and today she picked up a brocoli, ate a little bit of a sandwich, and another little bit of chicken soup!!! not too much but I am happy with that!!!!

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answers from Jacksonville on

She is testing you, my daughter does the same thing. She wont eat unless Grandma would spoon feed her. Once i put my foot down on Grandma and her we have less fighting about food.
Now she is almost 4yrs and know if dinner is called and she doesnt want to eat whats on the table she can go to bed. Occasionally, she has a fit and has to go to her room for a bit and then suddenly she is ready to eat.

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answers from Miami on

Hi P.,

This is actually normal behavior and it is a defense mechanism from evolution. At around this age, most women in cave-days would have had another baby and be busy with # 2 so the older child tends to only eat the super familiar - and not be willing to try anything, even if she ate it fine a few weeks ago.

My son is into this also. I am giving him limited choices for breakfast and dinner (he also is a great eatter for lunch at school) so that he has made a decision towards his meals. Keep up with the family dinners and turn the TV off - it is a distraction and doesn't help matters. If she eats good at other times of the day and just isn't a dinner person, that's okay - tell her she has to sit at the table (for grace and conversation) for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, she can be excused, but dinner is OVER - no special dinners made later.

Get your husband to understand that it is hard for her to sit at the table for 5 minutes and that she won't starve herself. When she is hungry she will eat.

Don't worry, get some extra rest before your #2 arrives:)



answers from Tampa on

I saw a Super Nanny about this and what she said was put the food on the table and give her an empty plate and no drink. You and your husband serve yourself and let HER ask for the food. DO NOT ask her if she is hungry. If she doesn't ask or tell you she is hungry then let her sit there until you guys are done. If she doesn't eat she won't starve. Keep this up until she learns to eat what you give her. Her growth is slowing down and from what my kid's pediatrician said, if they get one good meal in, then thats ok. Do not try to bribe her cause she will think she gets rewards everytime she eats. Also don't punish her for not eating. She will eat when she gets the hint. Just be consistant and give her a multivitamin in the mean time.



answers from Miami on

Relax. Anger does not produce anything positive. Give her vitamins, calorie shakes. But don't fret. At least she's eating at school. Make sure the teachers know she won't eat anywhere else.



answers from Jacksonville on

It's now a power stuggle. Your daughter has discovered she has control over what she eats. More important she has control over you, your husband, and your emotions by way of what she eats.

Stop trying to make her eat, stop making a big deal of it. If she eats, she eats, and if not, she misses a meal. (A missed meal that a child chose not to eat is not a big deal). When it doesn't matter to you or your husband anymore, she will eat. It will take several days of offering her a meal and ignoring whether she eats it or not, maybe even a couple of weeks. Once it looses it's power, she will eat according to what her body wants and needs. In the meantime, be glad she is eating at school (they do not power struggle over meals).



answers from Boca Raton on

As others have said, don't worry. Kids will not let themselves starve. When she is hungry she will eat. My kids have gone through many a meal without eating. They usually will make up for it in the next meal or two. Don't get into a habit of becoming a short order cook. That is the worst thing you can do. Offer her what you and your husband are eating, if she doesn't eat, that's fine. If she gets hungry 1/2 hour later, offer her what she did not eat. If she doesn't want it, she really wasn't hungry, she probably was hoping for a snack and not real food. She will learn. I think it's bad to associate meal time as a negative experience. In this day and age where childhood obesity is approaching epidemic proportions, negative food associations is not the way to go.



answers from Detroit on

It is the terrible two's and what my doctor told me was they have enough to sustain them, make breakfast make dinner and eat as a family and she will get back into eating with the family again. If you want to supplement I gave my son Now 9 a shake from a wellness company I am with, it helped to give him the nutrition he was missing out on, he also ate their vitamins. At least it gives the peace of mind they are not lacking until they decide to eat with the family again, you gave me some memories though! LOL! Check out the website if you want more info.



answers from Tampa on

I have a 2 year old daughter as well. It really sounds like you are stressing over too much for no reason. For example, if it's dinner time, and my 2 year old doesn't want to eat, I put her dinner in the refrigerator, and try an hour later. The key is not to give her any snacks before she eats her dinner. If she doesn't eat, then she gets no snacks, until at least she eats some of her dinner.

Do not threaten her w/ time outs, etc... That is putting stress on a kid and making eating routine a negative experience. She might not be hungry. Just stay calm and offer her the dinner later.

You may have to give in on your "ideal" situation where everyone eats dinner at the same time and together, until she's older. You can't force her to eat if your time doesn't work w/ her. So, try to concentrate on how you can change your behaviour (be less stressful, be patient w/ her and flexible w/ dinner times).

Good luck to you. I know how you feel, I have a picky 2 yr old eater as well :-)




answers from Huntsville on

Have you tried to just ask her what she wants to eat? Give her a couple choices to choose from, "Would you like to eat cereal, or a poptart?" "Fruit loops or cheerios?" "Would you like to drink orange juice or milk?" Sometimes giving them a little bit of control makes them more willing to cooperate!

Does she just not eat anything at all? Or is she just not eating as much as you think she should eat in a meal? If she is truly hungry, she will eat! Offer her a plate of food, and if she doesn't want to eat it, don't try to force her too hard, but don't let her eat any other snacks or candy, etc. until she has eaten a good portion of her plate. She can't not eat forever!



answers from Orlando on

Toddlers growth slows down a lot from when they were babies (think of how much they grew each month as babies, and now they stay in the same size clothes much longer) so their bodies don't need as much food as they did just a few months ago. You can not force a child to eat. All you can do is continue offering healthy foods and she'll eat when she is hungry. Make sure you are not giving in by letting her have a cookie or other unhealthy foods later if she doesn't eat at mealtime. Put a little of everything on her plate and then don't make a big deal about whether she eats or not at mealtime. She is getting a lot of attention while you and your husband make such a fuss over it. When she tells you she is hungry later, offer her snacks that are healthy and give her 2-3 choices, like chicken, fruit, or cheese. Also, make sure she is not filling her belly with drinks like milk or juice where she does not "feel" hungry because her belly is already full. Also, someone once told me to take a look at what your toddler eats over a week instead of at each meal and you will be surprised at how much more they actually ate than you thought. Try writing down everything she eats for a few days just so you can see-- it may be a handful of raisins, half a banana, a piece of wheat bread, and some yogurt is all she ate one day, but that may be all her body "needed" for nutrition



answers from Tampa on

What are they feeding her at school?
Probably not threatening her either. has great suggestions, and you might need them as this has become quite an thing- since she is eating at school I wouldn't worry.



answers from Fort Myers on

My daughter, also 2, sometimes rebels to eat so I tell her if she does not eat her food then MOMMY is going to eat it and boy does she hate that! She comes running with her mouth wide open screming no mommy no moony dats MY food, you don't eat it!!!!



answers from Sarasota on

Don't push it! She won't starve. Serve the food you would normally serve, expect her to sit with you and she can eat what she chooses. I personally won't give my son dessert if he doesn't make a good attempt at dinner (no room for healthy stuff, no room for cookies), but we don't do it in a punishing way.

The super nanny thing sounds good too.

As I said on another post, we serve healthy food and the two year old eats what he chooses. He's not old enough to understand anything else.

No child, given good food to choose from, has ever starved themselves. Try not to pressure her.

Good luck!



answers from Indianapolis on

Our 21 month old is spotty with meals (despite having been above the 90% in weight since birth).

Both of our kids are getting to be more difficult at dinner time because their attention is usually elsewhere instead of on what they're eating. Our son is always a big breakfast eater, or daughter-not so much.

We have a rule in our house (that we can really only get our 3 year old to obide by). We'll give a few options for dinner based upon meals we'd already be making. Regardless of what's made, he has to have a few bites before he may be excused. We never make him overeat (he's been a snacker since birth which I prefer), but he can't sit there and not touch his dinner just because he's distracted. We have lots of heated, uncomfortable tantrums (by Mom, Dad and son), but in the end, he has to do what we ask him.

We also try to offer healthy snacks as much as possible (though we have plenty of other, not-so-good things for occasional snacking, too). The past 2 nights, he asked for a banana w/peanut butter when going to bed.

Maybe changing what kind of seat she's sitting in (letting her do more of a "Big Girl" type thing, or letting her pick her plate, letting her help you "prepare" the dinner might make her more interested.

We also have problems with our kids snacking between getting home from Day Care and when we sit down to dinner that dampens their appetite.

Good luck. Has anyone warned you that 3 is the new 2?



answers from Melbourne on

Aww, I hate to hear that she gets time outs for not eating. I wouldnt think that is something that warrants a punishment. I would tell her she can sit with you guys while you eat, and she doesnt HAAVE to eat, but that you wont fix her anything special after dinner, and she will go to bed hungry. Eventually she will eat. The only time I ever offer my kids something different from what I'm eating is if my dinner is very odd or spicy. Otherwise, I do ask that they at least try everything.

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