Toddler Will Not Feed Himself

Updated on May 10, 2012
M.U. asks from Tampa, FL
8 answers

My almost 3 year old son refuses to feed himself, even though he is capable, he simply refuses. I tried incentives, but those only work for a few bites or spoons, then he gets bored and stops. I also tried not feeding him until he gets very hungry, but after a couple of barely eaten meals, I give up and feed him. He has always been on the small side and when he misses a few meals, he quickly loses weight, so I don't have the heart to simply wait too long for him to feed himself. I am so tired of feeding him, but I'm at a loss for what to do. Do you have or had a kid who refuses to feed him/herself? Any suggestions, advice, words of wisdom? Thanks!

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers



answers from Portland on

Stop trying to make him feed himself. Perhaps this has become a power struggle. Give him the food. Try to make meals mostly finger foods. And then ignore whether he eats or not. Be pleasant. Have casual dinner time talk about things other than food. And stick with it. He will not starve!

2 moms found this helpful

More Answers


answers from Santa Fe on

Our son was like that at age 3. He'd feed himself a little bit but not much. His problem was he did not care about eating and just wanted to be playing. Anyway, I would just feed him bites after he fed himself to get more calories in him. And, yes, he outgrew this and he feeds himself just fine now. It's a bit embarrassing if someone sees you feeding your child, but I say, who cares. Do what you have to do. Just keep encouraging him to feed himself as long as possible each meal time. Reward him for it with lots of praise. Your son will be just fine at eating when he gets older.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Savannah on

My daughter (3.5) does this sometimes. If she's eating yogurt, she'll say she's a "baby" (like her 13 month old brother) and that she needs help. But as others said, finger foods work much better. She likes sliced up apples or dry cereal (Cheerios or lately she has been loving "Puffins" cereal). She'll even eat pasta (w/butter) with her hands and I don't even mind that she doesn't use a fork if she'll eat it herself. We struggle with the yogurt and a lot of the time I give in and feed it to her..since she does okay with the other stuff. It helped when we made everything into strips. Like if we are having pizza, I'll slice it up (into basically chicken finger shapes) so she can easily pick it up. Same with toast. She's a super picky eater so basically the things I mentioned are the only things she eats... good luck. I will say she regresses sometimes but I try not to make a huge deal of it and it does get better. good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Basically, as long as you feed him he will not do it himself.

Bring this to his doctor's attention (his 3 year checkup should be coming up, right?) and ask for advice. Possibly he or she will tell you that when he gets hungry enough he will feed himself, the body's nature is to not starve itself. I went through this with my small, no, tiny, daughter who ate like a bird, literally, and her doctor told me to back off, her body would tell her when it needed nourishment. Around the ages of 3.5 she began to eat.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

My son did this at a much younger age. I gave him some ice cream and a spoon, touched a little to his lips, then walked away, I stayed in the other side of the kitchen with my back to him. When he wouldnt use a regular cup I did the same thing with choc pediasure. My son is a very healthy eater now, the sweet foods were just to get him to do it the first time. If he wont do it take the food away and try again in a week.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Champaign on

Don't give in. If he's hungry, he'll eat. If he's thirsty, he'll drink. My boys never did this, but they did not want to give up the bottle, even after they knew how to drink from a sippy. I had to trust that they would realize if they wanted something to drink it was going to be in a sippy. After a day or two (of less to drink, not nothing to drink), they were back to drinking the same amount out of a sippy they did out of a bottle.

Give him time. He'll decide to eat.

I agree with Marda. Give him lots of finger food! He will probably love his independence. And remember, it doesn't have to be traditional finger food, just anything he can pick up and put in his mouth. Don't be afraid of a mess. He can be cleaned!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Try smoothies as a good way to get nutrients in your little one while working on self feeding. Go with a lot of finger foods vs forks/knives/spoons and supplement with smoothies for half eaten meals.



answers from Washington DC on

Let him sit at the table, bored, until he is done? Or let him go hungry? Kids really need less than most people think they do so maybe talk to his pediatrician about how much a toddler NEEDS to eat vs what he does eat.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions