How do I make my child eat faster?

The problem: His highness is taking forever at the dinner table and puts up a fight whenever you ask him to finish her food faster.

“It’s getting cold. We’ve got to go, grandma is waiting. Can you focus and pay attention to your food, PLEASE?” Nothing makes him budge. The situation descends into a screaming, shouting or crying match. Sometimes, there’s even kicking.

What’s a parent to do?

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What you need to know:

You may find slow eaters in kids who were made to eat by themselves at a relatively young age. Maybe the parents wanted to foster independence early; maybe they have more than one child to tend to and so the older ones don’t have the luxury of being fed.

In any case, children who are fed by an adult are subconsciously trained to chew and swallow faster than those who feed themselves. Parents may be unwilling to wait, or they ask the child repeatedly to swallow as the next spoonful is already waiting at the gate.

Self-eaters do not share the same motivation. They take their time, perhaps imagining dragon battles and tea party in between each mouthful. As a result, their soup is cold and their rice dried out by the time it goes down to their semi-full tummy. 

What you can do:

It’s unfair to expect children to eat at the speed of their parents but we all have places to be, things to do.

So here’s what I suggest:

  1. Split the meal into two portions, preferably into separate bowls.
  2. Let the child eat from one bowl while you feed them from the second bowl, your bowl.
  3. Let them take their time with their bowl, while you keep them on pace with your bowl. At the very least, the child will finish 50% of their food, from the second bowl.
  4. Give the child a timeline to work with: “You have ten minutes to finish your food.”
  5. Give the child a goal to work towards: “We will go to grandma’s place after this. Do you want to go? Then finish your food.”
  6. Don’t give them a hard time if they do not finish their bowl, especially if they tell you they are already full. This prevents them from making over-eating a habit.
  7. Do this consistently, reducing the amount of the food in your bowl and allowing them to be in charge of a larger portion.