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Time limits for eating dinner?

My 3.7 year-old daughter takes FOREVER to eat her meals! WHat do you suggest? How long does your child take to eat? SHould I set a time-frame?


Asked by BaileysMom476 at 12:57 PM on Feb. 15, 2011 in Preschoolers (3-4)

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Answers (15)
  • If she is just a slow eater then I think you just need to give her time. I eat pretty quickly, my DH takes his time and that's just the way we are. I try to stay at the table until everyone is finished but sometimes I get too antsy so I will start the dishes or whatever. Our DD eats kind of slow, too, and I let her eat until she says she is done, and one of us always stays at the table with her. Sometimes I let her start a few minutes early while we are still finishing cooking or plating up so she can get a head start on us. If she is horsing around or just stalling on dinner then I try to minimize the distraction and get her to focus on eating so it doesn't hold up the rest of our evening routine. I do try to be careful when it comes to food/eating because I want her to develop healthy habits, so I try not to make too many rules around dinner so it doesn't turn into a battle or something she dreads.

    Answer by MaryMW at 1:31 PM on Feb. 15, 2011

  • I am not sure what forever means. I would not set a time limit if it were me. Maybe if everyone is done then you could suggest she come back and eat the rest later. At my house we sit at the table for dinner and it usually takes us an hour from start to finish. We talk about our days and everyone gets a turn.

    Good Luck!

    Answer by cornflakegirl3 at 1:00 PM on Feb. 15, 2011

  • In my house it would depend on the circumstances.  Are they playing and that's why it's taking so long?  If so, yes I would have a time limit.  From everything I've heard on Cafemom, if my child was eating, no, there wouldn't be any time limit.  At least they are eating. 


    Answer by MrsHouston47302 at 1:04 PM on Feb. 15, 2011

  • Is she stalling her bedtime or bath? In which case give her a time limit or start her dinner earlier. Otherwise let her take as long as she likes.

    Answer by onethentwins at 1:11 PM on Feb. 15, 2011

  • I am beginning to think at the third birthday they start talking and don't shut up: so can't help yout there-) While I am pretty strict about sitting still and focusing on eating/aka table manners 101 but I do not limit food time. I have read lots of psychobabble about how terrible daycares are who set time limits on kids at lunch and make them put the food away. I think their point is that food should not be rushed and forcing kids to eat on a fast food pace will lead to overeating, binging later on. Is there anyway you can get her to start eating before everyone else so she finishes a little earlier?

    Answer by hotelmom123 at 1:44 PM on Feb. 15, 2011

  • My daughter took a long time to eat dinner also, well some of time. She eats breakfast and lunch quickly though. She has gotten faster in the past year or two(she is now 5), but still takes longer than us and her little brother. We have not set time limits per-say, but when time to get ready for bed comes whether she has eaten all or not, it is time. If it means sitting there by herself so be it. If she says she is hungry when she goes to bed or has not much at dinner, we will offer her a plain slice of bread. If she eat all of her dinner, she could have butter, peanut butter,jelly, or something else on the bread. Try giving her a smaller portion than usual and tell her when that is gone she can have more. And slowly make the portions larger.

    Answer by nova.mommy at 2:22 PM on Feb. 15, 2011

  • Kids eat at their own pace, just like adults. Some kids start goofing around at the table because they are full. Try alloting a certain amount of time to finish their meal. If they don't finish, fine, go to bed hungry. Or if that isn't your style, save it and if they ask for a snack later give them their cold dinner, or you can even warm it up.

    Answer by LuvMyBabies912 at 2:36 PM on Feb. 15, 2011

  • My middle son eats slow also we just leave him be he lets us know when hes done

    Answer by termit2001 at 11:55 PM on Feb. 15, 2011

  • We've recently started a 30 minute time limit on all meals. My son will sit there and play and not eat. Then we get done, and he expects us to sit there with him until he decides he's ready to eat. No. So now, he gets 30 minutes. After that 30 minutes is up, the food is taken away, and he has to wait until the next meal to eat.

    Answer by makelineerror at 10:45 AM on Feb. 16, 2011

  • No, you shouldn't make them eat quicker. Studies show this leads to obesity. It's actually better for her to eat slowly.

    Answer by LovingSAHMommy at 11:18 AM on Feb. 16, 2011