How to get a child to eat when they refuse? 7 Tips

How to get a child to eat when they refuse? 7 Tips

Do you have a finicky eater or a preoccupied toddler? Here are our top tips for getting a child to eat when they refuse, without resorting to coaxing or stressing them out during meals. You’ve come to the correct spot if you have a toddler who refuses to eat supper or a toddler going through a fussy eating period. In this article, we will find out “How to get a child to eat when they refuse?”.

Standard toddler growth and finicky eating

Let’s briefly discuss the motivations before getting too further into this. Babies and toddlers go through a number of changes as they mature, including more independence, increased autonomy, and the discovery of likes and dislikes. They could develop a fussy appetite.

It’s fantastic for development (we want to raise autonomous children), but it can be really irritating as a parent when all we want is for our child to eat. Other problems, such as sensory issues or developmental difficulties, may also be present in certain children and make eating (particularly novel foods) challenging.

What causes the fussy eating stage in toddlers?

What causes the fussy eating stage in toddlers?
What causes the fussy eating stage in toddlers?

Toddlers’ nutritional needs are reduced now that their rapid growth surge from infancy has calmed down, which naturally results in a fall in appetite. They just don’t require as much food as they did previously, which results in a drop in appetite, which causes them to eat less as a consequence.

Often, this causes parents to become really concerned because their toddler has suddenly changed from a kid who as a newborn would eat everything and everything to a toddler who eats hardly anything at all. Depending on how you respond, this can begin between 10 and 14 months of age and extend through early childhood, up until a child is about 6 years old. Food fear begins to take hold at the same moment. Your youngster will then start to be wary of unfamiliar meals.

Toddlers are increasingly more autonomous and observant of their surroundings. Neophobia is supposed to be an evolutionary defense mechanism that keeps these curious young creatures from unintentionally harming themselves by consuming everything and anything they come across!

How to get a child to eat when they refuse?

Avoid becoming distracted

How to get a child to eat when they refuse?
How to get a child to eat when they refuse?

Many parents believe that letting their kids use a smartphone or watch TV will keep them occupied and quiet while they eat. But these gadgets just serve to distract them, and young children who spend too much time in front of screens might suffer certain consequences.

Therefore, you should put away these distractions if you want to enhance the likelihood that your child will take the time to consume his or her meal. The culture of putting down phones while eating should be adopted by parents as well in order to focus on the opportunities for family bonding that come with dining together at a table.

Serve a tiny amount

There is a distinction between a youngster who completely refuses to eat and one who is unable to consume the entire meal. However, many parents conflate the two circumstances. Most kids don’t require a lot of food, unlike adults. As a result, even if they are given excessive amounts of food, they would stop eating when they are full rather than necessarily complete everything. For this reason, if a child refuses to eat and you want to make them, start by offering a tiny piece.

Allow the youngster to finish it, and then if they want more, give them a modest additional serving. Additionally, you should be aware that young children sometimes have extreme swings in hunger, so it may not be essential for them to eat three regular meals each day. Additionally, some kids have a particular way of eating. Depending on the day, they could eat more during the morning and less at night.

Avoid serving dinner too close to sleep

Before you serve supper, if your child is already feeling drowsy, there is a good probability that he or she won’t be interested in eating. The cause is that, following a full day of activity, if a child decides just lie down to sleep, it is challenging to get them to sit up and do anything other than sleep. Therefore, make sure dinner is provided well before bedtime to prevent your youngster from refusing to eat it. Children should have their meal at 6:00 p.m.

Avoid using threats

Many parents shout at their children or spank them when they do something wrong, but as these two articles—5 Psychological Effects of Yelling at a Child and How to Discipline a Toddler—show, these methods are not always effective. The problem will most likely get worse if harsh punishment is used. When slapped or screamed at, your youngster would feel distressed and could even begin to weep instead of eating.

You would get more frustrated by the child’s cry, and your chances of getting the youngster to take the meal may be entirely gone. Therefore, avoid pressuring, yelling at, or spanking a youngster who refuses to eat when you wish to make him or her do so.

Engage your kid in dinner preparation

Making a food plan and cooking in large quantities is one of the life hacks for clever mothers. However, if the schedule is developed without the participation of the entire family, including the children, nobody’s favorite meal could take up the majority of the food items. Involve your child in creating the family meal plan if they are old enough to do so, and when it has been created, let them go shopping with you.

Engage your kid in dinner preparation
Engage your kid in dinner preparation

Fewer snacks should be consumed

Children can’t eat a lot of food because of their tiny stomachs. Snacks and drinks should be avoided by parents who want their kids to eat healthily since they are more appealing to children and encourage them to consume more of them until they are full and unable to ingest genuine food that will feed their bodies.

This doesn’t mean you should start depriving your kids of their favorite treats and beverages, but you should make sure they consume less of them. Additionally, it’s best to avoid eating and drinking right before supper.

Pose inquiries

There are instances where a youngster who previously ate quite well suddenly changes. When a youngster refuses to eat, rather than trying to coax him or her, ask questions to see whether the child is old enough to articulate their feelings.

Loss of appetite or a lack of interest in food may not be the issue. The youngster can be experiencing sensations like a toothache and a sore throat. Additionally, the youngster can be constipated or have an allergy to the food being offered. When they relocate or when they are anxious, some kids’ appetites also seem to fluctuate a little. However, if you inquire, you’ll learn why your youngster won’t eat, and you may then provide encouragement.


In conclusion, it’s not as tough as it would seem to get a youngster to eat when he or she refuses. Even if the youngster doesn’t suffer from an eating disorder, a sensory issue, or weak oral motor skills, the advice in this piece would still benefit.


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