@dampscribbler on Twitter asks:
How do I get my kid to eat more lunch at school? She's bringing home 3/4 of what I give her. Never been a big eater, but wow!
Frustrating. It so happens that I have a kid with a bird-like appetite, and this is an ongoing issue (I won't say "problem") for us as well. Most of the school lunches I pack for her come home with a few bites gone, but, otherwise, untouched. She's starving after school, and I wonder what her concentration must be like in the afternoon.
I've had to accept that her pattern of eating is different than the rest of the family's — it always has been — so it's no surprise that she's not gobbling her lunch like majority of her classmates. This year, I'm doing some detailed investigation into what's keeping her from eating at school. Here's what I've come up with so far, with her help (she's in second grade):
- She is a slow, deliberate mover and eater, and the school's 20-minute lunch period barely gives her time to open her lunchbox.
- Her manual dexterity isn't the greatest, and she struggles with hard-to-open containers or packaging.
- She's exceptionally sensitive to smell and texture.
- She prefers frequent, small meals to occasional large meals.
Here's what I'm doing about it, to start:
- Making sure her lunchbox and containers inside are clean and easy to open. We practice opening containers at home.
- Giving her smaller amounts, but more variety, cut into bite-sized pieces.
- Respecting her sensitivity to smell and texture by avoiding bananas, fruit that gets mushy or brown, and sandwiches in closed bags.
- I let her choose the school's hot lunch once a week (there are a few meals she loves, strangely enough).
- Packing nutrient- and calorie-dense snacks, and arranging with her teacher that she can eat them when she needs to.
- Preparing a substantial after-school snack with stuff that she likes to eat but that doesn't pass the smell/moosh test for the lunchbox.
It's been a long process, and we're only in mid-September. I hope to further refine my strategy as the year goes on.