Why does my child eat better at nursery than at home?

Quite a lot of parents tell me that their child eats much better at nursery (or with their childminder) than at home. Some say they even wolf down meals there that when served at home, they reject outright! They are puzzled – and frustrated! 

So what’s the reason?

Many parents assume that it’s simply positive peer pressure: Their child sees lots of other children eating around them at nursery and just ‘joins in’. While this can be a contributing factor, there is as much – if not more! – negative peer pressure at nursery. They see plenty of fussy children around them not wanting to eat things!

No, the real reason is all about the dynamic between adult and child.

Whilst the nursery staff want the children to eat well, there isn’t that same intense parent-child dynamic at the table that there is at home where your child can tell that you really – really! – care what and how much they eat. Also, there are a lot more children per adult at nursery, so inevitably less focus and pressure on each individual child to eat their food.

This means that your child has a lot less to react against at nursery. There’s a lot less attention and power to be gained by NOT eating something. And if you’ve read Getting the Little Blighters to Eat, you’ll know that this is the root cause of fussy eating, not the food itself.  Of course, your child may be very attached to their key worker or another member of staff at their nursery, but it is their relationship with you around food and mealtimes that they are most interested in exploiting! 

So those raw carrot sticks that they ignore at home, or that cottage pie that they push away sulkily when they’re with you, suddenly become rather appealing when they’re hungry anyway.

They may as well eat it!