My 3-year-old will take a long time doing anything. If nobody stops her, she'll spend an hour in the bathroom. Meals will essentially never end unless somebody keeps reminding her to eat or else helps feed her (something she is perfectly capable of doing by herself).

Since we'll often have things going on (school, appointments, etc.), I can't have her taking as long as she wants. But I feel like I spend half of my time telling her to "hurry up" or reminding her to eat her dinner. How do I get her to focus and hurry up a bit more? I don't need her to scarf down her food or make a super quick trip to the bathroom; I just need her to do things at a standard pace. Even a slow pace would be ok.

1 Answer 1


This sounds familiar. Here are a couple of things we've tried:

  • Handwashing. This used to take 5 or even 10 minutes. I bought a cheap 60 second hourglass timer, which my daughter now starts when she starts washing her hands. If she's done before the sand runs out, she gets a single gummy bear reward. Of course the next step is to figure out how to phase out the reward!

  • Mealtime. Again, time related. This one is less strict, but if it's clear that she's done eating, and everybody else is done, then we take the remaining food away. Occasionally she'll eat a "dinner" that consists of three kernels of corn. Breakfast is always a popular meal for her. Barring serious medical problems, kids won't starve themselves.

More generally, a strategy that I've started using is when she's delaying/distracted, is to walk away, or at least threaten to. For example, "ok, I'll come back when you have your shoes on" usually results in "noooooo, stay here!" followed by putting shoes on. 3 year olds love attention, and they'll do whatever you want as long as you don't take the attention away.

  • Great answer. Also, as she matures, you can add in: help her develop self awareness of how long it takes to do certain things. One more idea: at around 3 1/2, if I remember right, you can write down 3 things that need to happen. You can supplement the text with a symbol or simple drawing. When she's done one of the three things, she's allowed to cross it out. Scribbling-crossing-out is definitely allowed! I learned this from the Suzuki method. Nov 6, 2016 at 22:20

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