TL;DR version:
My daughter eats quite slowly. Can I use an hourglass to teach her to eat faster? When this time is out, I take her plate away even if it's not finished.

Longer version:
My daughter is 4 years old and eats quite slowly. Nothing serious, she's just not very fast (unless it's lasagna or spaghetti). She eats lunch at school every day.

This night she woke up crying, and we (her parents) asked her a few questions to understand what was wrong. She told us it was the school. According to her answers, everything at school seemed fine (teacher is great, she has friends, etc.) except one of the ladies that supervises the lunch time (the other one is fine).

More precisely, she told us that "she turns the hourglass" (the other lady does not) and it makes her anxious. It turns out that the kids have a limited time to eat and their plate is taken away when the time is out.

One day, my daughter had to go to the bathroom during lunch time, the hourglass still running. She could not finish her meal.

My wife and I are quite upset about this. First of all, we pay for the meals and we find it unacceptable that the kids don't have time to finish it and it is thrown away. But, more importantly, we feel that this way of doing things is very wrong without knowing exactly why and we'd like to have your insights on this. If this really was not a problem, why would she tell us, let alone waking up crying at night for this?

Thank you.

Additional information:

  • My daughter enjoys school very much, her teacher is great and she has a lot of friends. She wants to go every morning and she would like to stay more when we get her back at the end of the day.
  • Apart from not eating very fast, she has no problem eating. She likes almost everything, she eats vegetables and meat easily, etc. She almost always finishes her plate.
  • She rarely wakes up during the night, we could say she a heavy sleeper.
  • She's used to eat with friends. Between the age of 6 months to 2.5 years she was at a caregiver, then at school since she's 2.5 (she's now 4 years and 3 months old)

EDIT (after I spoke with the teacher)

This morning I spoke with my daughter's teacher and she explained to me how the hourglass is used.

In the room where the kids eat, there's a sonometer. When the kids are too noisy, it beeps and the supervisor turns the hourglass. During 3 minutes, everyone must be completely silent.

This technique has been put in place after a training that the teachers had and they think it is effective. They tried the same with a one minute period of silence and it didn't work (the noise came back immediately once the minute was up).

2 Answers 2



The parent is responsible for what, when and where.

Your child is responsible for how much and whether.

So sure, it seems reasonable for a daycare/preschool/kindergarden to establish that this time period is for eating, and when that period is done, it's time to move on and do other things. Uneaten food can be saved for later.

  • +1; Agree entirely, and would stipulate that it is the child's responsibility to pack up uneaten food, not the lunch supervisor. Let the child bring a plastic carton for the leftovers to take home/eat after school/whatever. Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 22:49

I think a hourglass to stop eating time is not just a bad idea but bight be dangerous in the long run. Because the feeling of being full is not only dependent on the amount of food someone consumed but also on time. all-about-slow-eating

But to answer if there is even a need to work on her eating at all, the question is not so much how fast she eats but if she gets distracted. If she is slow because she constandly does something else than eating, being it talking or soemthing else, it is necessary to work on the distraction.

Otherwise it is fine on her part.

  • Thank you for your answer. You might want to read the edit I made a few minutes ago because it turned out that I had misunderstood how the hourglass is used.
    – Mathieu
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 12:06
  • @Mathieu Oh I am sorry, I didn't see that edit. I took the part out of my answer.
    – Etaila
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 12:12

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