Toddlers: 12 - 24 Months

Signing "all done" too soon

DS (12 months) has been signing "all done" at the end of meals for a while now (well, his own version of it anyway). But lately he has been signing it when he has hardly eaten anything. If he just wants to get down from his high chair or if there is no more of whatever food he prefers at a particular meal, he will sign "all done" even though he's not full. Then if I let him down, he will spend the next half hour coming to me and begging for food.

I try to hold him off by telling him he's not all done yet and by "bribing" him. I'll say, "If you eat another bite of oatmeal, you can have another piece of cheese." It usually works for a few bites, but the things that he wants more of are typically the things I want to limit his intake of. (He would eat nothing but cheese for three meals a day if I let him.)

He's still to young for me to use the "ok, but if you get down, you don't get any more food until lunch/dinner" strategy with him, so I don't know how to break this habit. I also don't want to get into the habit of force-feeding him if he says he's done. Any suggestions? 

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Re: Signing "all done" too soon

  • Don't give him the food he likes best until the end of the meal - serve what you want him to eat first, then when he says he is all done, you could offer cheese or whatever if you think he should eat more food. If he is really still hungry, he'll eat it. Even my kid, who is a cheese freak, will turn it down if she is truly full.

    At this age they really will stop eating when they are full, but I find that they also have fun just using their signs/words and learning they can control outcomes - it is how they learn cause/effect. When she learns something new my daughter practices it over and over. and over. and over. Our entire dinner is her taking two bites, signing all done, so I take the plate away and we continue eating, then she asks for more, I give her the plate back, she takes a bite and signs all done, repeat...it is frustrating sometimes but it is all a learning process. 

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  • TBH, I think your child is old enough to get that he needs to eat at meals if he is hungry.  DS sometimes tells me he's done when he just doesn't like what I've served.  Then a few minutes later, he signs hungry again.  I tell him that he needs to eat at meal/snack time and will have to wait until the next meal/snack time.  There are days it gets really frustrating because he does it all day, but most of the time, he eats well for me.

    You are setting precedents even at this young age, so if you start bribing or giving in to unwelcome behavior now, you will have a harder time breaking these habits at an older age.  I promise, he won't let himself starve.  GL!

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  • LO is like this too, he just doesn't wan to sit in the chair, but still wwants to eat. I always call him a trickster, because he'll sign, and I'll get everything ready to clean him up and get him down, and he'll inevitably take another bite.
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  • Sometimes I'll put DD in her chair and she'll sign and say "all done" after one bite. She's 17 months now but I've always just told her "not all done, it's time to eat" and sign eat. Sometimes I'll take a bite of her food and show her eat. She'll usually continue her meal until she's done. If she keeps signing persistently I just figure she's not hungry and let her down. If she's hungry she'll eat :)

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  • image CurlingRocks:

    TBH, I think your child is old enough to get that he needs to eat at meals if he is hungry.  DS sometimes tells me he's done when he just doesn't like what I've served.  Then a few minutes later, he signs hungry again.  I tell him that he needs to eat at meal/snack time and will have to wait until the next meal/snack time.  There are days it gets really frustrating because he does it all day, but most of the time, he eats well for me.

    You are setting precedents even at this young age, so if you start bribing or giving in to unwelcome behavior now, you will have a harder time breaking these habits at an older age.  I promise, he won't let himself starve.  GL!

    This.  We are pretty firm on our son eating in his chair due to earlier feeding issues and lots of "grazing".  If he doesn't eat a lot at one meal because he has chosen to play, he will make it up at the next meal.  

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  • Thanks so much for your input, ladies! I will try saving cheese and other favorites until the end of the meal and also taking him at his word if he keeps saying all done. Sometimes this stuff is just easier to figure out if I can get some outside feedback.
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  • My daughter has had a low appetite lately and after eating everything for months, started getting picky.  So I do what PP said and serve her food in courses...first the fruit or veggies, then the protein, then the pasta or bread, her new favorite.

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  • image NineTwentyOhEight:

    Don't give him the food he likes best until the end of the meal - serve what you want him to eat first, then when he says he is all done, you could offer cheese or whatever if you think he should eat more food. If he is really still hungry, he'll eat it. Even my kid, who is a cheese freak, will turn it down if she is truly full.

    At this age they really will stop eating when they are full, but I find that they also have fun just using their signs/words and learning they can control outcomes - it is how they learn cause/effect. When she learns something new my daughter practices it over and over. and over. and over. Our entire dinner is her taking two bites, signing all done, so I take the plate away and we continue eating, then she asks for more, I give her the plate back, she takes a bite and signs all done, repeat...it is frustrating sometimes but it is all a learning process. 




    the favorite food thing!  DD started doing this as well.  If she starts getting to the point where she is going to cry because we won't let her down, i do.  ( such a choking hazard with her crying and eating)  I won't lie.. sometimes we will take her plate away and jsut move all of her food to one of our plates without her seeing, then ask her if she'd like anything from our plate.  most of the time it usually works. or if we even move it to a different plate of her own.    Now she'll sign all done as soon as we sit her in her pack n play for me to work out or do house work haha.
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