It's already been discussed how to handle a nursing baby who gets distracted instead of eating: What works to get a distracted nurser to eat during the day?.

But what strategies can I use to help a child of preschool or elementary school age who exibits the same pattern? Eats a bit and then gets distracted by... well, pretty much anything. Talk to whoever is around them (on any topic), think about stuff, play with utensils, look at the stuff in the room, sing/hum.

This seems to be an issue of distraction: they exhibit the same even when eating their favorite foods, but sometimes (rarely) given sufficient motivation they can breathe through exactly the same meal in 15-20 minutes instead of the usual 60. And the meal goes a lot faster if there's an adult in the room CONSTANTLY reminding them to concentrate on food (like, every minute).

  • NOTE: obviously, any child can be easily distracted... but this seems inordinately worse at meals as opposed to any other activity
    – user3143
    May 26, 2014 at 21:43

1 Answer 1


Sometimes we have a deal with our son - if he feeds himself we'll read to him. If he reads to us, we'll feed him. We'll choose a book depending upon whether we want us to read or him.


  • in the earlier days, it encouraged his love of reading
  • now (just turned 6) he gets more practice reading
  • you can get him to continue to eat by stopping reading
  • meals take 20 minutes instead of an hour
  • it teaches him that he can efficiently feed himself (when motivated)


  • Take away the book and he reverts to slow grazing

For us, we're happy to have quick meals and a child who likes books.

  • Generally, not bad advice. But both our kids are 100% fluent readers well above their grade level. They need no encouragement to read themselves; and reading to them while they eat is NOT a sustainable solution - they only keep eating until you stop reading. Might as well NOT read and just sit there and remind them once a minute.
    – user3143
    May 28, 2014 at 5:16
  • Some problems are ephemeral - you are just trying to get them through a stage in life until their priorities or tastes mature. Somewhat like your question on getting kids to eat raw garlic - perhaps they are just not quite old enough yet.
    – dave
    May 28, 2014 at 5:23
  • I had that problem as a kid and it persisted till now. Ephemeral, it is not.
    – user3143
    May 28, 2014 at 5:26

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