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Age-specific mealtime guidelines

  • There are certain things your child will want at mealtime. (For infant feeding, see Infant/baby care.)

    • Ages 1 to 2: Your child will want to feed herself, is easily distracted at the table and likes a routine.
    • Age 2: Your child may have strong food likes and dislikes. She is growing slowly and may go for days without eating much or go for days eating almost nonstop.
    • Age 3: Your child is growing more steadily and shouldn't have swings in her appetite. Your child should be able to chew food well.
    • Age 4: Your child will eat quickly, drink quickly, talk a lot and move around a lot. She may leave the table to go to the bathroom.
    • Age 5: Your child is growing faster and her appetite increases. She may even accept new or unusual foods.


    Always watch a young child while she eats. Insist that she sit upright while eating or drinking.

  • Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5 Years Old, fifth edition. To avoid awkward sentences, instead of referring to your child as "he/she" or "him/her," this guide will alternate between "he" or she" and "him" or "her."
    Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts, including the Pediatric Department of Allina Health Coon Rapids Clinic
    First published: 02/01/2010
    Last reviewed: 01/01/2016