My five-year-old daughter has been recently refusing to eat on her own and we have to chase her for eating. We have to sit with her for her eating. She is very slow eater and her meal time lasts for a long time after the rest of family members have finished their meals. It takes a lot of time and we have to offer lots of incentives to encourage her to eat.

There is no concern from her doctor, however, she is within lower 5th percent of her growth as her same aged peers and her body frame is small as from her birth.

Any advice?

  • 2
    More information is often more helpful than less information. Is her doctor concerned, or hasn't it gone that far yet? How long has it been going on? What will she eat without incentives? What have you tried (to motivate her to eat) that has not worked? What do you want her to eat which she refuses? Those are a few I can think of right off. (Sorry to bombard you with questions. Welcome to the site, by the way!) :) Dec 4, 2015 at 19:10
  • There is no concern from her doctor however; she is within lower 5th percent of her growth as her same aged peers and her body frame is small as from her birth. Dec 4, 2015 at 19:14
  • We have to sit with her for her eating. She is very slow eater and her meal time last long time after the rest of family members have finished their meals. Dec 4, 2015 at 19:16

2 Answers 2


First off, slow eating is a good thing for the most part. Slow eating lets your body more effectively adjust to the "I'm full" signals (as those take some time to propagate). Obviously your daughter isn't concerned about this at the moment - but later in life, having the habit of eating slowly can lead to a healthier weight.

Kids very often eat slowly - either because their mouths aren't as strong at chewing, or because their stomachs are smaller, or just because they like to. I encourage my younger son (2.5) to eat slowly (as he prefers to), and just give him a bit more attention. I don't require my older son stay at the table the whole time, but I try to.

Otherwise, I would suggest that for most children, the best incentive to eat is hunger. She should eat when she's hungry, and not when she's not hungry. This assumes she overall eats sufficient calories, over the long term; most children ultimately will. Making it a battle doesn't help much other than to encourage her to not eat (to exert some control).

If you're concerned that she's not eating enough to be healthy, then I would talk to your pediatrician; she/he can tell you if it's a concern based on observation and measurement of the child.

  • I bet the downvote came cause they didn't specify eating slowly. Looks like the kid isn't eating at all and meal time has turned into a typhoon of chaos
    – Kai Qing
    Dec 4, 2015 at 22:29
  • @KaiQing The OP did specify that in a comment, at least as far as I read it.
    – Joe
    Dec 4, 2015 at 22:30
  • Yeah I see that now. Mine were slow also but I figured they were bored. They still eat slowly compared to grown humans, but it's clear now the difference between their bored / disinterested eating and actually being hungry but eating slowly. Anyhow, I believe in your answer so +1
    – Kai Qing
    Dec 4, 2015 at 22:32

Sounds like both my daughters and the entirety of the last 5 years of our lives. Let me tell you what I have learned.

Kids love to be engaged and something simple like sitting in a chair, being still, and taking bits of food one by one may very well be like any sane adult sitting in a 4 hour insurance seminar. If they're wiggling around, getting up and running, and generally being insane, then maybe food time isn't as enjoyable as they need it to be.

I'm not suggesting you do this because apparently people have problems with my particular style of entertainment - but I have found that my daughters love the detailed stories of the pancake people and the lake of syrup blood (or whatever food they're eating at the moment). As I tell the stories, I use their names, saying something like "the Sally monster then charged the village of the pancake lords, huffing and shining her teeth at their chief. One by one she took a tiny bite of each of them just to warn them what would happen if they tried to escape her wrath..." and yeah I'm pretty graphic with them but for the sake of illustration I'm not going to tone it down. Point is they love it when it's their turn to take a bite of the pancake huts, dip pancakes into the lake of syrup blood, or chomp down the mighty broccoli forest. As they grew they began telling me the stories too.

I came to this because asking them about school, and the routines of life would receive short, vague answers and could never sustain the length of a meal. But making up stories of food people always lasts for me. I don't have to do it every time. Some times I can just put a single candy corn in front of them and tell them every time they bite their food the candy corn's rope is pulled closer to them and they can eat it when it crosses some line. Sometimes they just eat on their own.

The general idea is that food time can be a chore if it is a constant battle. And through my many wars I have found a way to convert the battle into a story about the battle. And they eat now. Often on their own, but often they want stories. I am happy about that because I know some day they will no longer want my stories and they may be having their own in their minds while they eat.

It doesn't have to be airplanes and choo choo trains. It can be as simple as a goofy face every time they take a bite. But engagement was my answer and I am confident in their ability to feast upon the flesh of the raspberry village on their own without it turning into the destruction of the house in a movie like chase scene... been there before.

There are many sources relating to the benefits of family meals. One that links to many is this: http://www.thescramble.com/family-dinner-challenge-statistics/

But that's making the assumption you're not doing this already. Hard to tell. It can be family meal time AND the total chaos at the same time. I know. Tune it to your liking. Stories of feasting savagery work for me. Maybe tales of princesses or ninja turtles would work for you.

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