My son is normally very good at telling us what's on his mind, but we've always had trouble with the concept of "hungry".

He used to simply never mention being hungry (He'd tell us when he was thirsty, grumpy, sleepy, sneezy, dopey, doc, etc.) but he wouldn't say hungry. When we'd offer him a snack, he'd inhale it as though he had been starving for hours. We simply started offering food throughout the day.

Now though, he will tell us his "tummy might be a bit hungry" but when we ask him what he wants, he will say something completely unrelated (like talking to Ralph Wiggum). He'll say he's hungry, we'll ask him what he wants, then he'll say "I have shoes on" or something similar.

On top of this, he is fussy for the sake of it (gets it from me). We can offer him anything, and he'll turn it down. He's even refused chocolate. We'll have to list everything in the cupboard, then give up and make him sit down with a banana or something, then he'll only have two bites and run off to play.

Why is my kid so weird, what can I do?

  • My friend's boy had almost stopped eating around 2.5 yo. He would grab a bite of something in the morning, eat more-or-less the whole lunch and then drink cocoa in the evening. He's 3.5 now and seems perfectly healthy. I suspect that after the period of very fast growth a child's energy requirements decrease. And since children are so small, they seem to eat next to nothing compared to us.
    – Dariusz
    Sep 22 '15 at 5:52
  • That makes sense. I just wish that when he says he's hungry, he would at least tell us what he wants to eat.
    – Wompguinea
    Sep 22 '15 at 6:30
  • Unless he is too thin, I wouldn't worry too much. My kids were always going through stages. For weeks at a time my daughter would lose her appetite and barely pick at her food. I was constantly trying to find foods to tempt her with. Then, suddenly she would go through a growth spurt and she'd be eating as much as her brother (who has two hollow legs and possibly also a black hole in his gut :). As long as what little he is eating is fairly nutritious, don't push him to eat too much. That may be why he is changing the subject. It's unpleasant to be eat when you are not hungry. Sep 22 '15 at 17:16

From my experience, I would say that your child is not weird, and the best thing should be to stop worry. When he says he's hungry, suggest some of the things you do have at your home (you do not want your child to get his mind set on something you don't have...) If he does not seem to choose anything or change subject, change subject as well : maybe he was not hungry after all.

It is only based on personal experience, but it seemed to me that at 3years, my daughter didn't really master the concept of "being hungry". It took some time for her to be sure at what feeling this word linked.

Also, it happened many times (ans still happens now at 4.5 years) that some weeks she will eat a ton, and some other weeks she will eat almost nothing (sometimes just an apple or two for a day). However, it seems to fit her perfectly fine. When she eats a lot, she grows one or two centimeters in the next days, and after that she spend days eating much less.

So, to sum up : Do not worry, keep proposing food you have when he says he's hungry, and don't force him to choose and eat something. If he changes subject, changes subject, maybe he'll eat next time. Do not worry, as his behaviors seems perfectly normal to me. If he seldom eat for the day, then he didn't need to eat that day.

  • +1 for this answer... as long as your kid is happy and healthy, it's all good. We like our kids to eat, of course, so we make an effort to have as many family meals as possible during the week. That means that meal time is also family time, when we get to enjoy each other's company. I think this has made our older kid a bit more interested in eating, too.
    – DadOfTwo
    Sep 22 '15 at 12:17

It could be that the open-ended question of "what do you want to eat" is too difficult for him, and listing everything in the cupboard is overwhelming.

See if he could more easily answer a choice type of question like "do you want peas or broccoli? and with that do you want rice or pasta?

And if he still doesn't answer, provide him with a variety (4 or 5) healthy foods from each of the food groups at meal times and let him pick. We follow the Ellyn Satter division of responsibility in feeding: parents being the ones responsible for what to offer and when mealtimes will be, and the kid's responsibility to choose how much and whether to eat.

  • 1
    I love the idea of only offering him healthy food, but ever since he was 6 months old his great grandmother has been sneaking him chocolates. He know vegies aren't the business. If I give him the choice between carrots and cucumber for a snack, he'll counter with "Caramello!".
    – Wompguinea
    Sep 22 '15 at 21:36
  • I may be overstepping here, but at 3 years old, it's really important that he clearly understands that being given a choice is a courtesy on your part, and if he isn't willing to choose between what you offer, you'll choose for him. After all, you know more than he does about his nutritional needs. If you give him too much freedom now, he'll very likely be completely out of control as a teenager. Sep 23 '15 at 2:18
  • @ChrisHinton my 1.5 yr old knows only a few words but one of them is "cookie" thanks to her grandma! Sep 23 '15 at 13:57
  • @DanHenderson, that's the approach we're using at the moment. He says he's hungry, so we assume he's hungry. If he won't tell us what he wants, we'll choose for him. Problem is, my wife and I are quite stubborn... guess who we passed that onto? I have seen him refuse to eat his favourite chocolate bar for half an hour on the grounds that he said "No" before he realised what he was being offered.
    – Wompguinea
    Sep 23 '15 at 21:05
  • @ChrisHinton lol nice. Sep 23 '15 at 22:42

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