limited himself to these foods
but this doesn't make sense. A four year old can't buy or prepare himself food.
If he's not underweight and has no relevant underlying medical problem, the reason he is eating only these foods is because you're offering them to him.
I'm confident that this is a fairly simple limit/boundary-setting problem, not least because of the specificity here:
Banana, chopped in a bowl
He won't eat a banana unless it's chopped? That's a behavioral issue caused by your interactions with him at mealtimes and your normal and understandable concern that he eats enough.
You can help your kids learn to enjoy the food you cook. Simply:
- Cook an unchallenging but nutritional meal.
- Give it to your family on some plates.
- That's it.
- Don't give your child attention for not eating something. Don't say "this is yummy", do not mix things or cut things that don't need cutting. (If things do need cutting, cut them before interacting with your child.)
- In particular, don't try to "help" your child eat (unless they physically need help). What a child swallows is pretty much the only thing in his life he can control. Since you cannot help or encourage a child to eat something against their will, such interactions can only cause behavioral problems.
- Don't say "you like this" or "you liked this last week". Don't talk about liking or disliking.
- Don't use emotional or "moral" language about food ("I cooked this so you should appreciate it!").
- Don't show you are anxious, angry, whatever.
- Don't worry about wasted food. You live (I assume) in a developed nation in the 21st century. When you solve the problem, there will be minimal waste.
- Don't give him anything different.
This can be summed up with by pretty much like this:
Ignore the food aspect of mealtimes. If you do talk about the food, use non-emotive, descriptive language - this is sour, this is sweet. All food is interesting.
When the child say's "I don't like this" simply respond, "Oh, you will when you're older". It's worth repeating; do not give this more attention. Move the conversation on, perhaps to his brother. (But obviously, not about what he is eating!)
When the child says "I'm still hungry", simply respond, "That's all there is. Are you done?"
When you have cleared the uneaten food away, you may still offer for example chopped fruit (to everyone, ideally on a sharing plate) for pudding.
Wash up, and repeat next meal time.
If this is a big enough problem for you - and it clearly is, because you care about helping your children eat well, then you may need to put up with a few disrupted nights until the child learns to eat enough at supper.
You also may need to accept that there are foods such as eg. salad leaves that your child may not willingly eat until they're much older.
If you're just throwing food away, and your child is not underweight, he's getting enough calories in other meals; presumably food from the list. You can solve this by reducing portion sizes in those meals.
Finally, if he goes to preschool or daycare, I'm wondering how he eats there? :-)
Good luck! Let us know how you get on?
Edit: bringing chat comments into answer and highlighting interesting points.
In summary, this case appears to be a problem of portion sizes - too much food of one type (bland or sugary bread) for breakfast and lunch.
So, yes, this is the standard type of advice I've read before and we originally tried to follow 2/3 years ago when we first realized he was a fussy eater. We all sit together each night and eat and my little son simply sits there and doesn't eat, we don't get cross or do any of the things you mention. You are right of course that we do end up offering him these types of foods. We withhold food that he eats. He doesn't eat it.. for weeks. he gets by on little bits of bread that he can get access to at different times in the day. breakfast etc. We feel bad that he only eats bread. it goes on – Benj yesterday
Is he underweight? Have you seen a doctor? Is he under your supervision all the time? – MontyBom yesterday
No... he's actually his "ideal" weight.. amazingly. He goes to nursery for 1/2 days. – Benj yesterday
Of course he is! That's why he's not eating any more. The situation you're describing is physically impossible. He is eating enough food (or juice - full of calories) somewhere, either in your care or at daycare. Google for appropriate portion sizes. – MontyBom yesterday
He doesn't snack... and has only water and tea.. but he does eat large breakfasts and lunches.. because for those meals we tend to give him breadish type things, bagels etc.. Perhaps we should stop giving him things he likes for breakfast.. – Benj yesterday
To be clear, he's getting enough food, and then he's doing what every child does which is to eat the "easy", familiar, bland food in preference to the "harder" food until he is full. He is full and his weight is fine. He's therefore perfectly normal. I think you need to change his portion sizes and keep a closer eye on what he's eating at home and at daycare. The calories must be coming from somewhere! – MontyBom yesterday
Yes, that's what I mean.. He's getting all his calories at breakfast and lunch I think.. Maybe we could make them smaller.. – Benj yesterday
I think you've hit it! Bread and bagels are full of sugar and are very filling. Try a boiled egg and don't forget to Google portion sizes! I think you'll be amazed! – MontyBom yesterday
Ok, will give it a try, thanks for chatting ;-) – Benj yesterday