How to feed children

How to feed children

Children are born knowing when they are hungry and when they are full.

Children will grow into the shape that is right for them if they know how to eat.

Parent or caregiver role

To provide the food, set meal times and decide where the meals are served.

Child’s role

To choose whether to eat the food and how much.

It is normal for:

  • your child to eat a different amount of food each day
  • some children to eat more than others do.

Tips for feeding children

Children have small stomachs. Offer your child food about five times a day for example, breakfast, lunch and dinner and as a snack between meals.

Offer meal and snack serves based on your child’s own appetite.

Set children up for success

Always offer an everyday food you know your child will eat like bread or fruit, together with other foods.

Let your child choose when they are finished. Forcing or rewarding a child to eat can make them forget how it feels to be hungry or full.

Try not to let your child graze or snack on food over the day. A regular eating, play and rest routine can work better.

Helping children learn how to eat by

  • Eating together as a family.
  • Not talking about your own dislike of some foods.
  • Trying not to use food to reward or comfort a child.
  • Trying not to talk about a child’s eating such as calling a child a ‘fussy eater’.
  • Not talking about your child’s weight or size.

Recognise how your child is eating by nodding and smiling rather than lots of praise or talking about what has, or has not been eaten.

Want to know more

Ask your GP or child health nurse.

Start Them Right a parent's guide to eating for under 5s