Although it is normal for a parent to be concerned about a child's lack of appetite, it is not usually cause for alarm. He may simply be feeling under the weather, slowing down in his growth pattern or is just a generally picky eater. As long as your child is growing and healthy, he is eating normally—no matter how little food it seems to be. However if your your child is unhealthy or is experiencing a vitamin or mineral deficiency, there are many things you can do to help encourage his appetite.
Even if your child makes a mess, the Tearfund International Learning Zone recommends letting your younger child use her fingers to eat. Because children learn by touching and feeling objects, exploring food with her senses may encourage her appetite. This can also help develop the motor skills and confidence she requires to feed herself with a fork or spoon in the future.
Limit snacking to twice daily, states the DoctorHull website, and only then if your child asks for one. In addition, limit the amount of juice and milk he has throughout the day, and ration portion sizes to 6 oz or less. Because both milk and juice provide many calories with each serving, it reduces appetite at mealtime.
To get your child interested in her food, the Tearfund International Learning Zone website says to sit beside her and talk to her during the meal. Describe the foods you are eating, the people and pets that are around you and your location or situation. Even if your child is not old enough to understand you, you are helping him learn the meanings and names of foods and other items surrounding him, and providing social interest and awareness, making mealtime more interesting and less stressful.
Make Meal Time Happy Time
Make mealtime enjoyable to your child. The DoctorHull website discourages forcing your child to eat. Offer small portions that do not overwhelm a small child. If he wants more, let him ask you for it. This will help him feel more in control. Refrain from having food battles with your child. Do not make him stay at the table until he finishes his plate. This will just increase the power struggle. Remember that your child is not the one who has a problem with his appetite—it is you, the parent.