N20 Encouraging young children to eat

Preventative healthcareFood SecurityMaternal Healthcare

Mealtimes should be happy times and an opportunity for the family to spend time together. Feed young children with the rest of the family but give them their own plates so they get their share of the food. Cut up food into small pieces so that it is easier to eat.

Encourage children to be independent. Young children like to feed themselves but are messy eaters. Make sure most of the food reaches their mouth! Encourage children by talking to them, telling them how good the food is and how well they are eating. Try using mealtimes to improve children’s development. For example you can talk about the food, what it tastes like, name the foods and colours.

Don’t force children to eat in a hurry. Don’t insist they eat up all their food if they really don’t like it. Make sure mealtimes are enjoyable!


  • How do we encourage young children to develop good eating habits in our local area?
  • Are young children normally given their own plate? If not, discuss how appropriate it would be for this to be done.
  • What happens to children who find it hard to eat much when in a big group of people? Is time given to encourage them to eat more?
  • Sometimes parents are working or not around for most mealtimes. How can they make sure their child or children are enjoying mealtimes and getting a healthy diet? What can they do if they feel unhappy about the food practices of those caring for their children?
  • What food, if any, is usually given to young children between meals? What do older children eat?