How to make a slow eater eat faster? A lot of mums share that dilemma.
Are You Raising a Slow Eater?
My older child, now seven years old, has been a slow eater for most of his life. Even when his only food was breastmilk, he would take his own sweet time. When solids were introduced, the real battle started.
It’s not that he didn’t like food. He was just slow.
When I was still spoon-feeding him, he had this odd habit of pursuing his mouth when the spoon came near. This resulted in only a quarter of the spoon’s contents going into his mouth. Because I was a first-time mum then and didn’t know any better, I painstakingly persisted, and a meal fed this way could take anywhere between one to one and a half hours.
Things on the time front didn’t improve when he started eating alone. He would sing to himself, talk, run around the table, fidget and as a result, take hours to eat.
As you can imagine, mealtimes were very frustrating for me. I tried everything to make a slow eater eat faster, but nothing worked. Scolding, pleading, bribing, promises of gifts and other rewards all fell on deaf ears, and my little man continued to drag his meals on for hours.
It wasn’t just the time wasted with my slow eater. The stress and energy (unnecessarily) spent on getting through just one meal with my sanity still intact.
Image source: iStock
Why A Child Takes Too Long to Do Everything
When your child takes too long to do everything, it can frustrate everyone. But it doesn’t have to be! Before learning how to make a slow eater eat faster, it’s important to know why your child might take so long with certain tasks. That and how you can help:
They want to do it themselves.
Your child might take too long because they want to do something themselves. This can be true of things like dressing themselves or eating food. When they’re trying to do something on their own, they may be distracted by other things or have challenges with the task itself.
If you find that this happens often, try giving them some quiet time alone in their room or another area where there is less distraction. Or maybe sit next to them while they work on something so they know you’re there if they need help.
They’re not sure how to do it yet.
Maybe your kid isn’t old enough yet to understand what needs to be done for something else to happen—or maybe they haven’t yet learned a particular skill required for specific tasks (like tying shoes).
If this sounds like your situation, try helping them understand what needs to be done before asking them about making progress on a particular task (e.g., “What do you need to do first to get all of your shoes tied?”).
This will help them see the steps involved and might help them better understand how they can make progress on their own.
Slow Eater Personality
Ever wonder why some people seem to eat at a snail’s pace while others can down a meal in five minutes flat? Well, it’s not just because they’re hungrier or more impatient. It turns out that there’s a personality type known to be a slower eater. It’s called “slow-eating personality” or “chew and savour personality.”
These people have been found to have higher levels of self-control and emotional intelligence, which means they’re more likely to recognise their own emotions and those of others. They also tend to be more introverted than extroverted, preferring quiet time alone over socialising with others.
Research has shown that these individuals tend to eat more slowly not just because they want to savour the food but also because they want to pay attention to their bodies’ signals as they eat—such as feeling full after eating only one slice of pizza instead of two—and use these signals when making decisions about what else they should do next (like go for a walk).
Autism and Eating Too Slow
Part of learning how to make a slow eater eat faster understands that people with autism often have sensory issues that make some aspects of eating more difficult. For example, some people with autism may find it challenging to understand what’s happening when food touches their tongue or lips and how that feels. Or maybe they find it hard to get the right amount of food in their mouth at once—either too much or too little!
Some children with autism may also have trouble deciding what to eat and when to stop. They might want to try everything on the menu or not like anything except plain white bread dipped in water. They might be picky eaters and/or extremely finicky and/or very fussy about the textures or temperatures of foods.
Many people with autism have difficulty communicating their feelings—including hunger and fullness—so it’s important for parents to watch their children closely during meals so they can tell if something isn’t right or if there are special needs involved.
Image source: iStock
What to Do When Your Child Is a Slow Eater
Some kids just don’t eat very fast, whether they’re fussy or just have a lot of energy and have to burn it off. But what else is there to do if you’ve tried everything from distracting them with toys to putting in more food than usual?
So, how to make a slow eater eat faster? It’s important to remember that your child is not doing this on purpose. It’s not like they’re trying to get out of eating dinner (breakfast, lunch, or any other meal). But you can help make the process easier on yourself and your child by following these simple steps:
1) Be patient!
2) Encourage them through positive reinforcement rather than nagging or negative comments about their eating habits.
3) Offer small portions of different foods at each meal, so they don’t get bored with the same options.
4) Give them snacks between meals so they aren’t hungry enough to scarf down their food too quickly (this will also help prevent overeating at mealtime).
5) Make sure there are no distractions. The more distractions there are during mealtimes, the harder it is for everyone at the table to focus on what’s going into their mouths—and the longer it takes for everyone to finish!
6) Give them space. Let them eat their food at their own pace without rushing or pressuring them by making jokes about how long it’s taking them (even if it feels like an eternity when you’re hungry).
How To Make A Slow Eater Eat Faster
I knew this had to come to a stop, and given that I had exhausted all other ways of trying to speed up my slow eater last year, I decided it was time to use some tough love, which I implemented in two ways in how to make a slow eater eat faster in my kid.
Here’s how to make a slow eater eat faster:
Setting a time limit for my slow eater
This was crucial to speeding up my little boy at mealtimes and important to the second aspect of my tough love method working (as you will read about in a bit) regarding how to make a slow eater eat faster.
First, I got myself a little clock with big, easy-to-identify numbers.
While I wished I could tell my boy, that he only had five minutes to eat (imagine, all that free time!), I held back and started with a reasonable time limit of one hour (when he took more than an hour to eat).
Of course, he couldn’t read the time very well at that stage, so I had to explain that when the big hand came to twelve, and the small hand came to X, his time was up. I also explained that within this time, there would be no nagging him to hurry up, that it was all in his control.
But I did give him ‘warnings’ – “you have 30 minutes more” or “you have 10 minutes more.”
Gradually, I reduced the time and eventually brought it to between 30-40 minutes, which I thought was a reasonable amount of time for a child his age to finish a meal. He was told that the food would be taken away after his time was up.
But was only this enough to speed him up? No, it wasn’t. And so, tough love part two came into play in how to make a slow eater eat faster in my child.
You get the leftovers for your next meal
My son was told that if he didn’t finish his meal within the allotted time, not only would it be taken away if he didn’t learn how to make a slow eater eat faster. But it would be kept in the fridge, and heated up and given to him for his next meal.
Tough indeed. But not only did this tactic eliminate wasting a heap of food (because otherwise, my son would have happily eaten just half of what was on his plate in the given time with the rest to be thrown away), but it motivated my son to eat faster, especially after he got said leftovers as his next meal a couple of times.
What I did…
I chatted with him about why I needed to do this, relating it to the importance of not wasting food and appreciating the effort another person takes to cook a meal.
And as you can see now, tough love parts one and two are co-dependent. My boy is still not the speediest eater out there, but he understands that there are consequences for not finishing his food within a reasonable time.
He also understands that wasting food is no good and that he can spend that time gained from not lingering at the table and doing other things he likes.
So he is usually done within around 30 to 35 minutes, which I am pretty happy with.
Not only did he learn how to make a slow eater in him eat faster, but he is also great at reading the time now!
Image Source: iStock
More Tips on How To Make a Slow Eater Eat Faster
Other than these two main tactics, which I’ve explained above, try these tips too on how to make a slow eater eat faster:
- Reduce the portion size. Often, mums get anxious about the quantity of food their child is eating (or not eating). When in reality, it’s the quality of the food that should take priority. Seeing less food on their plate is also less overwhelming for a slow eater.
- When they are old enough, explain to them that they are wasting time when they take over an hour to eat (for example). They can put that time to better use, such as playing or reading a storybook together.
- Minimise or eliminate snacks. This will give your child a better appetite to enjoy his main meals.
- Give your child plenty of praise when he finishes a meal within the given time.
- Get rid of distractions such as TV or electronic gadgets.
- Do try and make mealtimes fun. I know this might be tough, especially if you’ve had years of dealing with a slow eater. But try out new recipes and be creative with food plating. If you can encourage your child through ways like this to look forward to his meal times, he’s automatically going to eat faster and relish.
- Ask your child what he would like to eat, at least for one meal. Of course, requests for chicken cordon bleu each time may not be practical. But if the request is reasonable, by all means, do try and make it for him. He is bound to eat his favourite meal with no fuss and with plenty of speed.
Mums and dads, we love our kids with all our hearts – this is true. But it’s also true that love can take many forms: gentle and soft, fun and challenging.
Sometimes, tough love is needed to teach essential lessons to our kids, like how to make a slow eater eat faster. But don’t be afraid to love them this way, too.
Do you have a slow eater? How do you deal with him or her? Share your own tips with us in a comment below.
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