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Toddler Refusing to Eat in Highchair
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Toddler Refusing to Eat in Highchair
My 2.5 year old will not sit still for dinner--if it's in her
highchair she climbs up and sits on the edge, and then
stands up so we have to get her down or fear she'll fall; if
it's the dining room table, she stands up on the chair, or
gets down, if it's in one of our laps, that lasts for a bite. She
won't sit in the booster seat. She will, however, have a bite
of food, run down the hall, run back and have more food.
This is not only frustrating, I am afraid she's going to choke.
Plus it doesn't set a good precedent for eating generally.
The one place she sits still briefly, is on a little chair we have
on the deck where we have a small end table that's just her
size. I am considering getting a small table and chair for
inside, but don't want to spend the money if there's some
way I can teach her to stay at the big table. She's incredibly
well behaved in every other aspect, she's definitely getting
enough healthy food to eat throughout the day and speaks
and understands clearly when we talk to her--she just
doesn't follow our request/insistence/firmness/nicely
asking/etc to sit down to eat for a few minutes.
I'm going through the exact same thing right now. But recently I
found a solution. I sit my 2 year old down at the table with us
in a chair like ours so she feels like a big girl. Then I bought
her a Dora mat. She loves Dora so much that she can't wait to
sit down and eat on Dora. So find a charater that your child
likes and find a mat, it worked wonders.
We just went through that with my 2.5 year old and what I tried
worked like a charm after only two times of doing it (I am very
proud of myself!).
My son would not sit at the table and would attempt to make his
way out of the kitchen altogether. I told him he had two
choices: sit at the table and eat with us or sit in the bedroom
by himself. He tested his control and I brought him to the room
and closed the door for two and a half minutes. When I let him
out (he was very upset the whole time and it was torturous!) he
sat at the table. As I said above, he attempted to control the
situation again the next night and I did the same thing! He
hasn't tried to control us since. He enthusiastically comes to
the table for all meals now and eats until he is done. We
praise him for his cooperation and he is very proud of himself!
I mean it when I say that every day he is getting better at
All of a sudden my soon-to-be 15-month-old daughter refuses to eat in
her high chair. She wants to sit in our lap at the dining room table and
eat there. How do we get her to eat in her high chair again? So far (just
two nights right now), we have told her that if she doesn't sit in the
high chair, she won't get dinner. So she will have gone to bed without
dinner for two nights in a row now (though she still got her bottle before
bed). It feels horrible to let her cry and go without dinner. Any advice would
be greatly appreciated.
I'm not sure an "almost 15 month old" can fully comprehend the
punishment of going to bed without any dinner. It sounds a bit harsh to
Maybe she is simply out-growing her need for a high chair. Our daughter
this at 16-17 months old. We got her a booster chair that buckled her in,
straped it to one of our kitchen chairs and just pushed her right up to the
table. She was happy as a lark!
That happened at my house at just about your kid's
age. Our solution was to get rid of the high chair. My
oldest kid was content to sit in his booster seat at
the table instead. My younger kid only wanted to sit
on a regular chair at the table like his big brother.
Can you remove the tray and move the chair up to the table or buy
a booster seat and let your toddler sit at the table.
It's difficult to retire all these gadgets, but maybe you could trade
your high chair in for a small table and chairs?
Once our children started standing up in their highchair, we retired it,
rather than fight them. Our kids eat from a small table. We make sure
get nice and hungry, by limiting snacks. We serve their food on the small
table and let them go wash their hands, sit and eat.
An unbending, absolute "No getting up with food" rule must accompany
this approach. They can get up from the table, but the food stays there.
And once they leave the table, the meal's over. We adopted this idea from
daycare, where state law prohibits kids from walking around with food due
to the chocking risks. Our table is right next to theirs so we still enjoy
meals together. It seems to empower them by not relying on us to get them
into and out of a confining chair. As they get older, they ask to be
excused and bus their plates to the sink.
This parallels our crib approach: as soon as the child starts climbing
out we put their mattress on the floor. I thought it would be a problem
to keep them in bed(or sitting at the table in this case). But their
tiredness/hunger manages the problem naturally.
You could consider the type of "highchair" which attaches to the table
itself. It sounds like she wants to be closer to the two of you when
she eats -- the distancing of the highchair is perhaps making her feel
A 16-month old friend of ours refused to eat any way other than
standing. When she visited our house for dinner once, we gave her
as a present one of two booster seats that were handed down to
us. She was excited to receive the seat as a present, and now
uses it regularly in her own home. She still somehow connects it
to our baby, and perhaps because she thinks it's his, she likes
using it. Maybe this strategy will work for you.
How about a different kind of chair? Booster chair? Snappy seat
(snaps onto the table)? You may want to borrow one from a friend
and see whether your daughter takes to it.
I know several babies who stopped wanting to use the high chair
at around the same age. I'd say -- choose your battles. She
just may want to be more a part of the dinner table family.
Toddlers go through stages with high chairs and everything else you
want them to do. My philosophy has been to try to encourage but not to
force compliance, except for a few mandatory things like the carseat where
compliance is the only safe way. I held my toddler during dinners and
fed him from my plate many times, and now he is back in the high chair,
happily, enjoying feeding himself with his own fork. I think 15 months is
too young to punish this behavior, especially by denying food. Your child
is too young to remember the lesson from day to day, and too young to
conceptualize that you are denying the dinner because she won't sit in the
highchair. Being rigid about most things with toddlers is likely to create
frustration and upset rather than a more compliant child. My advice is to
"roll with" your child's needs and moods a bit more.
To the mother of the toddler who won't sit in her highchair: We had
the same problem with our son at about the same age. One thing was he was
entering a clingy phase, which just happens throughout their young
life. The other was that he saw his older sister sitting in a regular
We struggled with it because we did not want to let him run around
with food in his mouth, and it is awkward eating with a toddler on your
lap. However, we gave in on the lap when he wanted it, and he just grew out
of it eventually. Also, we set up a booster chair for him, which he took
to very well. That way he feels like he is sitting at the table like a
big boy, rather than off in the corner in his high chair.
Also at about this age, toddlers often don't have much interest in
eating, so meals for them are more about being with their parents -- only
natural that your daughter wants to sit on your lap when you are sitting
down for awhile!
Anyway, best of luck.
The same thing happened with my son. It turned out he simply felt he
was a big boy now and wanted to eat at the table with us, on real chairs as
we did. We bought him a booster seat that is belted securely to the dining
chair and we put the high chair away. He loves his new booster seat so
I think your daughter may simply be ready for the next step. High chairs
for babies!f For the record, the same thing happened to my neighbor. I was
recently at her house for dinner. There were several babies 15-19 months
old, and she said, "Is
baby still eating in a high chair?" It turned out none were, in this
Our daughter also did this around 15 months. Looking back, I believe
she wanted to sit at the table, rather than off to the side in the high
chair. We had one of those Safety First portable high chairs that straps
onto a regular chair as a booster seat and also has a tray like a high
chair. She was fine once she sat at the table in the booster seat, and
within a few days she would let us put the tray on the booster seat. We
could also put her high chair at the table, but she never liked that (I
think the chair became too much of an issue, so now she doesn't want to
use it). If I were you, I would try a booster seat or using the high chair
without the tray at the table with a plastic placemat. I think withholding
food from a toddler would not work as a punishment. I don't think a 15
old would remember why they are not getting food for very long, and then
have an even crankier child. It might diffuse the issue to feed her extra
food at snacks and other times for a few days so if she doesn't eat much
dinner it does not matter.
It might be time for a booster seat, similar to the plastic ones that
are in restaurants. Our little guy seems to like being up in his booster
seat right at the table with all of us with his plate, utensils and cup on
the table right along with ours. Our highchair has gone into temporary
storage in the basement. We're all delighted--the booster chair is a lot
easier to clean. You can find used ones at Darla's on San Pablo in El
Cerrito or in the secondhand section of Baby World in Oakland. Toys R Us
has new ones.
this page was last updated: Aug 6, 2005
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