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Helping Your Child Learn to Eat


Child Development Centre

  • Offer something to eat and drink every 2-3 hours.
    • This helps to train your child’s appetite so that he is hungry for scheduled mealtimes.


  • Limit caloric liquids to 24-28 ounces per 24 hour period (approximately 4 oz. per meal or snack).
    • Liquids include anything that would fill the tummy (milk, formula, smoothies, juice, etc).
    • Water can be offered between meals in 1-2 oz. sips (more if being very active, playing outside in the heat, needed for hydration, etc).
    • Try to offer liquids at the end of the meal or snack, or half at the beginning and half at the end.


  • Avoid grazing on drinks or foods between meals and snacks.
    • This keeps the tummy a little bit “full” throughout the day and your child won’t be hungry or motivated when needed to eat.
    • He will actually eat less.


  • Offer meals and snacks with a goal that they should take no longer than 30 minutes.


  • Avoid all “pressure”.
    • This includes any “over encouragement” to “try” a new food, and pushing food into his mouth when he is showing you that he does not want it.


  • Eat meals and snacks in a consistent place.
    • Seated at the table, highchair, picnic blanket, etc.
    • This builds an association between hunger, the mealtime environment, and the feeling of being “full”.


  • Until your child accepts this new schedule, offer foods he enjoys and will put in his mouth happily.
    • He will not build an appetite if he refuses to eat what is on his plate.
    • Stress/anxiety kill appetite.


  • Once he has adapted, offer at least one preferred food at each meal and snack.
    • New or non-preferred foods can go on his plate or beside him on a “learning plate”.


  • Avoid distractions (such as iPad, iPhone, Tv, Laptop, etc.) during meals and snacks.
    • Children learn best through play – we need to make food the focus.
    • The goal is to make eating fun and interesting so that he doesn’t need distraction.


  • When your child shows you that he is finished, the goal is that food and liquid are put away until the next meal or snack with the exception of small amounts of water when requested.

Source: Helping Your Child Learn to Eat Pamphlet – Saskatoon Health Region