Got a kid who just doesn’t eat dinner?
I did. Last year, Sam went on a toddler dinner strike that just about did me in.
Though things have improved since then, dinner is still not his thing. Frequently, he will take only a few bites. And some nights, he doesn’t take any bites at all.
Why dinner is hard for little kids
I hear from so many parents that their little ones really struggle for dinner.
It makes sense: It’s the end of a long (possibly nap-free) day. They’re done with sitting still, with being told what to do, with keeping it together. In Sam’s case, his appetite is largest between about 7am-3pm—exactly when he’s expending the most energy.
So come dinnertime, I try to cut him some slack.
This was my solution
The rules still apply:
- You have to join the family at the dinner table
- You eat what the family eats
- You use manners
- You ask to be excused
- No snacks in the hour before dinner except veggies (read more: My Pre-Dinner Snack Strategy).
But on the nights when he barely touches his plate, this tactic has eased my frustrations: We save his plate of food.
If he comes back to the kitchen later saying he’s hungry, we heat it back up for him. We do this in a very matter-of-fact way, not as a punishment.
Yes, there are some nights when he is not pleased with this arrangement (and there are some nights when I simply forget and his meal gets tossed—or eaten by my husband). But most nights, he accepts it.
Like last night, when, after eating only a few bites at dinnertime, he ate his entire plate of (reheated) spaghetti with meat sauce an hour later. Then he asked for (and ate!) a second helping.
The way I see it, Sam may not have enough focus or appetite for our 6pm family dinnertime. But that doesn’t mean he should miss out on dinner.