Circular 1037-12
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By Kathryn Tarulli, Dr. Diane Bales and Dr. Charlotte Wallinga — Department of Human Development and Family Science

Stop Eating When Your Full: Promote healthy eating habits by encouraging your family to stop eating when they are full.

Many young children do not know what it means to feel full. Young children can not understand "full" because it is such an abstract concept. Children have a natural sense of when they are full and need to stop eating. Often, adults teach children to determine when they are full based on external clues, such as a clear plate. Instead, it is important to encourage your child to pay attention to his natural sense of feeling full.

It is important to help your child learn what full feels like, and encourage not eating any more once they feel full.

Allow your child to decide when his or her stomach feels full.
If your child is full, allow her to stop eating, even if the plate is not cleared. This teaches children to recognize feelings of hunger and fullness.

Serve smaller portions.
If you find that your child does not finish his plate, try serving small portions at mealtimes.

*The Nemours Foundation. (2012). KidsHealth: Hunger and Your Preschooler. Retrieved from

Family Fun Activity: Filled Up

Use this easy activity to help your child learn.

bag full of flour

What You Need:

  • Plastic bag
  • Flour, sugar, or cornstarch

What To Do:

  • Help your child understand what it means to be full
  • Encourage your child to fill the plastic bag with flour, sugar, or cornstarch
  • Explain to your child that once the plastic bag is full, there is no need to put more in
  • Talk to your child about the importance of not eating more once his or her stomach is full. For example:
    • "When we are hungry, our stomachs are empty"
    • "As we eat, our stomachs get more and more full"
    • "Once our stomachs are full, we do not need to eat any more food"


This is publication 12 out of 24 in the Eat Healthy, Be Active: Keeping Children Healthy at Home and School series. For more information visit

Status and Revision History
Published on May 13, 2014
Published with Full Review on Mar 28, 2017

Diane W Bales Assoc Professor & Human Dev Spec, Family & Consumer Sciences
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