Mealtime Strategies

  • Situation

    I often hear about children having a limited number of foods they will eat. My son is starting to have some problems during meals. Are there some things I can do before I start having eating issues?

  • Summary

    Sometimes before you realize it, a challenging behavior pattern can develop during mealtime. Setting up a consistent mealtime schedule and routine will go far in preventing feeding and mealtime issues. It is important to consider what happens before and between meals and how it impacts mealtime. The strategies provided benefit all children.

  • Definition

    Developing and implementing a consistent mealtime structure and schedule will assist in preventing problematic behaviors at mealtime.

  • Quick Facts

    • Child's Age: 3-5, 6-10
    • Planning Effort: Moderate
    • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  • Pre-requisites


  • Process

    1. Eliminate eating or “grazing” between scheduled meals and snack time to insure that your child is hungry when it is time to eat. If your child is thirsty provide them with a drink of water rather than juice or sweetened drink.

    2. Attempt to have snacks and meals at the same time each day.

    3. Attempt to have one family meal a day with at least one food your child likes. Do not make individual meals for your child.

    4. Decrease wait time before the meal starts by having the table set and all the foods and drink at the table.

    5. Limit the distractions during mealtime by turning off the TV and other electronic items.

    6. Eat with your child and only provide meals and snacks at the table.

    7. For younger children meals should last up to a maximum of 15 – 20 minutes and 20 – 30 minutes for older children.

    8. Try to end your mealtime and allow your child to leave the table on a positive note. If your child is showing signs of being finished, ask them to take one last bite or drink.

  • Documents and Related Resources




    If you have questions or concerns about the Watson Institute’s use of this information, please contact us.