I'm bored. Mum!
A new study carried out at Aston University suggests that children as young as four eat 79 per cent more calories on average when they are bored.
In the study, children who were feeling bored ate 95 kcal when they were already full, compared with children in a neutral mood who ate just 59 kcal.
Children’s eating behaviour is shaped by their genetics, temperament and other factors, including parental feeding practices. Often when children experience negative emotions such as boredom or sadness, adults will use food to soothe them. But this behaviour, which is known as emotional feeding, appears to increase the likelihood of children eating more when they are upset, potentially teaching children to seek food when their mood is low.
Children and parents were given a standard meal that they ate until they were full. Children then took part in a series of everyday situations, one of which was boring. The researchers found that if parents reported using food to soothe their child’s emotions often and the child was highly emotional, they would eat five times more kilocalories when bored (104 kcal) than when they were in a neutral mood (21 kcal).
Dr Stone says: ‘If children are eating this many more calories during a four-minute period of boredom in a laboratory, the potential for excess calorie intake is potentially very significant.’
But Dr Stone stresses that the experience of boredom is important in the development of children’s sense of self and creativity, so she does not recommend that children should never be bored. Instead, she suggests that children need to learn to experience boredom without turning to food and that parents could try to divert their child’s attention away from food when feeling bored.
For more information and support about fussy eating in children, visit www.childfeedingguide.co.uk