Eating too fast creates gas, indigestion and has choking risks for kids who attempt to swallow too much in one bite. Kids also choke when they don't chew food into small bits before swallowing. Older kids risk nausea and vomiting from eating too fast, according to the Permanente Medical Group. The easiest way to slow dining is to make meals an important time in your home, rather than simply a quick stop. Break out the place mats, kid-sized plates and glasses, and an interesting centerpiece for holidays and family celebrations to set the stage. Ask your child to slow down and enjoy the meal, but also try some other easy steps to turn meals from a race into a relaxed time for family dining.
Write a food dairy for the week to make sure you're feeding your child enough at each meal. Hungry kids frequently use a "vacuum" mentality to eat as fast as possible to get enough food at the meal, according to the Alaska Center for Resource Families. Several healthy snacks between meals during the day help dull the hunger urge but won't spoil appetites for mealtime. The National Food Service Management Institute recommends allowing at least two hours between meals and snacks to build appetite.
Select a comfortable chair, booster seat or highchair for your child to join other diners at the table. An uncomfortable seat makes your child reach for food and encourages quick dining. Check the seating to make sure it continues to remain comfortable as your child grows. Children sometimes eat too quickly for quick release from a highchair. A booster seat may offer a more comfortable seat for relaxed dining and avoid quick meals.
Create a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere during meals. A rushed environment that pushes children to finish meals encourages kids to eat too fast. Have your entire family sit and eat at one time so children don't feel the need to rush to move onto activities happening in the house. Avoid mealtime interruptions, including making or taking phone calls. Frequent disruptions encourage kids to eat quickly to shift attention from the meal to focus on unrelated happenings with others at the table.
Slow kids down by focusing on the process of eating. Heather Caspersen, certified health coach, encourages chewing food well and counting the number of chews in each bite for kids with baby or adult teeth to help digestion. Thorough chewing and counting also slows dining.
Prepare the dinner plate to encourage slow dining by cutting food into pieces and selecting a number of foods with different textures and sizes. Ask older children to cut food to slow eating. Talk about the foods during the meal to motivate kids to take time to use the senses to carefully look and smell the foods and enjoy the flavors.
Children learn from the habits of others, so remind family members to model slower eating habits.