How Do You Make A Child Eat, When They Don’t Want To?

How Do You Make A Child Eat, When They Don’t Want To?

I’ve said before that Alice was a fairly easy baby and when it came to weaning she was very text book. She went through a period when she was two years old to only want to eat select foods, but she still ate them and I just used to rotate the few meals she would eat. Knowing this was a phase and she would come through it I didn’t stress over it.

And that exactly what happened and she now eats pretty much anything I put in front of her. Alice has limited fruit that she likes, but she likes most vegetables, so I can’t complain. The only frustrating thing I have with Alice, is she takes ages to  finish her food. But I hold my tongue, because she always finishes it.

Then our little Holly came along and I took the same approach with her, it is what I knew and as it worked for Alice I didn’t see any reason to do anything different. I would say that I actually found Holly easier to wean, she seemed to like everything and ate really quickly.

The point that it started to become more challenging to feed her, was when we moved from baby/toddler food to giving her meals exactly like we were eating. Breakfast and lunch she will eat, normally with no problem, just the usual battles that every parent has with a two year old.

But when it comes to dinner time she just isn’t interested in eating most days. There are days where she will sit and eat about half of her dinner. But this won’t be a nutritious dinner, it will be pizza or chicken nuggets and chips. But some days she won’t even eat this. It’s like she isn’t hungry or she just doesn’t like cooked food.

There are days where I really stress about it and worry that she isn’t eating enough or getting everything that she needs. But other days I try not to worry and hope that she will turn a corner soon. I remember a health visitor telling me a few years ago, to never look at their intake for one day, but to look at it over a week. As some days they won’t be as hungry, just like us as adults and other days they will eat all the food! This is true and I’ll always be grateful for those words of advice.

A time when I get most stressed about it is when we are anywhere with no other people and I feel like they are watching (judging) what Holly is or in most cases isn’t eating. On these occasions I really am at my most relaxed with her, and just try to get her to eat as much as I can without it becoming an issue. I think it’s only one meal and not worth the stress. But, I’m left with that feeling that people must think ‘Holly didn’t eat much’!

We’ve tried a lot of the usual tactics and nothing works. She is quite happy to watch all three of us eat an ice cream and her to go without, as she didn’t eat her dinner. She is just not bothered and so bribery doesn’t work!

As we head towards her third birthday I’m hoping that getting older will help, but I really don’t know. I feel like I’ve got to the point where I’ve just accepted it and I’m not sure that is a good thing.

But, how do you make a child eat, when they don’t want to?




  1. 11/07/2017 / 11:35

    Oh Laura, I could have written this whole post myself! Max was a dream baby to wean – he ate absolutely everything, only turned his nose up at avocado, and would eat loads! Then he hit two and suddenly if it wasn’t breadcrumbed he wasn’t interested. And then recently not even that is ok – it’s so hit and miss. So much of the time he’ll just have toast and maybe fruit for dinner (and like Holly, he’ll happily eat breakfast, and lunch is much better than dinner) and then he complains at bedtime that he’s hungry. At the moment I rejoice inside when he eats a pizza (he’s taken to picking the cheese off and just eating the crust), but I feel like other parents would be appalled at seeing what he’s eating. I’ve tried not to make a big deal of it but I’m really struggling with what approach to take now. I’m going to have to check back on this post to see if other people have any advice.

    What’s Holly like at nursery? Max is great – on Friday he ate tuna in a pitta bread, and a salad with tomato and celery! Celery!!!

    • 11/07/2017 / 11:40

      It’s so hard isn’t it? I honestly don’t know what to do next. Because Holly is at a preschool, we send in a packed lunch so that doesn’t really help us. Apart from the fact that she does eat everything in it as she is hungry. I wish I had the answers to share x

  2. 11/07/2017 / 15:01

    Nice post, Laura! I follow some methods to make my child eat something that I want. I never force him to eat, I include everything he likes along with the nutritious food, etc.

  3. 11/07/2017 / 18:50

    That’s a tricky one. My daughter would eat sandwiches for lunch and dinner if we’d let her, but she does eat cooked food. Hopefully it is one she will grow out of. My daughter had a very trying stage with dinner and I cut out her afternoon snack and things got a lot better. I hope things improve for you x

  4. 11/07/2017 / 20:31

    I have two very fussy eaters. Ethan is 4 and is worse than Logan with it. He won’t touch vegetables and doesn’t really like eating dinners. I’ve learnt to focus on what he does eat and not what he doesn’t. I’ve got a few videos on my channel that you might like all about fussy eating. xx

  5. 11/07/2017 / 22:32

    Lia sometimes refuses to eat her tea as well. It is what it is though, I’ve never worried about it. They’ve always eaten the same as us, we have never given them the option of having anything different, they eat what they’re given or they don’t eat. Either is fine with me. I do find that the most successful meals are the ones where they get given a plate and I put down a few different things on the table so they can help themselves to what they want. They always seem to eat more when they feel like they can control what they are eating.

  6. 12/07/2017 / 23:41

    Crikey it’s a hard one. Mine’s the other way round, never stops eating, although he’s got a bit more picky as he gets older. But it was always breakfast that he would rarely eat, or not eat much. I used to worry about sending him to nursery having not eaten much, but he’d then eat loads there.

    Is there an option to have food served by nursery and the same as friends, rather than a packed lunch? Or if she’s at a friend’s house will she eat. Does it make a difference if she helps choose, shop and make dinner?

    I just think you need to keep offering the variety, but let her choose.Unfortunately kids do self regulate, and they’ll eat what they need.

    A friend at work has 3 kids. The 2 older girls eat anything and everything. But the by age 8 only eats about 7 different types of food. A certain Tesco baked bean, pasta, chocolate, 1 type of cheese and that’s about it. I don’t know how,but he’s gets enough fuel to swim for a club and be a regional swimmer (as well as doing other sports at school) 5-6 times a week!

  7. 13/07/2017 / 17:11

    Oh I had this with my eldest. I remember getting so upset about it. The really difficult thing is you then resolve not to let them have biscuits or other snacks that are constantly available at playgroups, but it’s so difficult. And then they’re not hungry for the real food later, and just want more biscuits! I hated it. I can confirm that she is a great eater now, so hang in there. She’s still very traditional in her choices, but she does eat plenty of variety. I really don’t think you can make them eat if they don’t want to – all you can influence is their choices when they do want to eat.

  8. 13/07/2017 / 20:14

    Weaning! Ahh the joys! You really shouldn’t stress about what other people think because either they’ve had children before and they’ve been through it, or they haven’t had children and will never understand!!! My daughter went through a phase of only eating fruit. She’s still alive! 🙂

  9. 13/07/2017 / 21:15

    This was exactly the issue we had with our daughter once weaned and on proper meals not baby style food. Breakfasts she’d devour not a problem. Lunches were ok if a little slow but come dinnertime and it was pick your weapons, duel about to commence! I would get extremely stressed and hyper aware of what she should eat versus what she actually consumed. The slow eating was extreme in some cases, and she’d be bored to tears before she would finish a meal to our conditions. Even as she grew older, her school lunches were minimal, not so much due to lack of choice of what she’d eat, but the speed or lack thereof! So many times, I could of cried when once again she’d reject her food.
    Now, she’s just turned 10 and ravenous morning, noon and night. She seemed to have a growth spurt and she’d eat better then drop back into old habits. I would say since last year (when she started hitting early puberty) she hit a growth spurt and has just kept going! Now, we cannot seem to feed her enough! Speed has improved along with it, and now we get to the point we have to rein her in and tell her she’s had enough for now, maybe have something a bit later. She’s still a nightmare if there is something to distract her, like the TV or a nearby book, but generally we couldn’t be happier with the change that came. Eventually. It comes, it’s just a case of trying to stay sane in the meantime!

  10. 14/07/2017 / 21:38

    Oh wow this sounds like such a tough one. I think sometimes you just have to wait them out a little.

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