Your Starving Fussy Eater is Home from Childcare

Your starving fussy eater - Fussy Eater Solutions 19
Your starving fussy eater - Fussy Eater Solutions

Your starving fussy eater is home from childcare. He is distraught, cranky and gulps downs a chocolate flavoured milk bottle in seconds, you struggle to help him calm down. Again today he has not eaten anything at childcare.

This has become a daily occurrence and you wonder how best to address the issue. This post will help you ask the right questions to determine whether your child needs further support, whether the childcare centre can provide a more supportive environment, or whether a change of childcare centre may be appropriate.

If a change is necessary then this post also outlines criteria you can use to assess prospective childcare centres as to the level of support they can provide your child.

Childcare centres can help fussy eaters 

I always recommend children attend childcare where meals are provided.  It provides beneficial structure and routine, a wide range of food, as well as peer modelling from other children. Peer modelling is shown to increase the likelihood of your child eating new food[1]. Childcare centres, therefore, present wonderful opportunities to support your child.

I recently wrote this article about children who eat everything at childcare and are much more challenging to feed at home. However, some extreme fussy eaters may struggle at childcare and may come home starving.

Here are some questions you can ask your childcare centre to determine why your fussy eater comes home starving from childcare:

  1. Does my child reject all food offered?

  2. Is my child upset at mealtimes and if so how much?

  3. Does my child sit with others during meals?

  4. Does my child look at what others are eating?

  5. Does my child touch the food or explore it in any way, including mouthing it, or spitting it?

  6. Is my child reactive to smells?

  7. Is my child reactive to the noise?


Best fussy eater feeding practices for childcare centres 

If many answers to these questions concern you, then it may be useful to determine whether your childcare centre is using best practice to deliver meals to fussy eating children.

In my view, the best practice for a childcare centre is to provide meals around 4 aspects:

  1. Provide some structure, children are encouraged to sit down for their meal. The environment is comfortable and ergonomic.

  2. Follow a routine that has most children hungry at meal and snack times. I know many centres adapt to parents’ routines. In fact, I recommend parents adapt and follow the childcare centre mealtime routine.

  3. Offer a range of food from the middle of the table so children may help themselves whenever possible. I have been to childcare centres that very successfully implement this rather than plating for children. This not only empowers children, it allows them to leave food they are not quite ready to eat, on the table. It also gives them exposure to unfamiliar food.

  4. Offer a range of staples, such as bread, fruit or yoghurt, with the main course. This enables a fussy eater to eat something successfully. When a child has refused what is on offer, responding by offering previously unavailable alternatives, may reinforce the child’s behaviour and delay their acceptance of new food.

Not all childcare centres accommodate fussy eaters 

You might find your current childcare centre will not be able to accommodate the changes necessary for your child to stop coming home from childcare starving.

Don’t despair, I have found centres that are more than willing to assist parents of fussy eaters. You may need to contact many local childcare centres, using the above criteria to find the one that is right for your child.

Your starving fussy eater may need extra support

When fussy eating is extreme some children are able to switch off their appetite completely! They can go on for hours without food. It is a terrible thing to witness as a parent. There may come a time when you realise your family needs intervention, because starving an extreme fussy eater never works.  Throughout the years extreme fussy eating problems compound. It is extremely debilitating for children to grow into teenagers or adults who are stuck with such difficulties, so the earlier you can get professional help the better.  Here you can book your 15 min free assessment.


Birch, L. (1980). Effects of Peer Models’ Food Choices and Eating Behaviors on Preschoolers’ Food Preferences. Child Development, 51(2), 489-496. doi:10.2307/1129283.

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