“I want my child to eat more, so I just let them snack whenever they want,” said the picky eater mom 📩
And I hear you! You might think “Well if I just let them eat when they are hungry then they’ll eat more, right?” 🤔
But it’s not usually so.
Snacking all day (or often called “grazing”) can interfere with appetite regulation and typically leads to children eating less. (Or falling into the habit of “mindless eating” which we also want to avoid)
Just like eating, we can all agree sleeping is also essential for proper growth and development.
And if you wanted your child to learn to sleep better you probably wouldn’t just let them nap anytime they wanted throughout the day to make them learn to “sleep more”.
Parents and caregivers recognize and accept that their child needs a usual nap/bedtime routine. This routine allows for developmentally appropriate “wake windows” in order for them to get tired enough that they ARE ready for bed/nap when it comes that time.
Appetite is the same way! We need ample (but age-appropriate) “hunger windows” to build an appetite so when it’s time to eat we are actually hungry!
Snacking all day is similar to letting your child take a nap right before bedtime and then being frustrated when they aren’t sleepy for bed. Because they didn’t have an appropriate amount of time to GET tired they won’t BE tired when it’s time to sleep. 🤯
Hunger and fullness are the same away! We need to focus on maintaining a routine of 3 meals & 2-3 snacks set about 2-3 hours apart to allow the child time to DEVELOP an appetite.
Just like all things with children, it takes time! But once you embrace and start maintaining a meal/snack routine you’ll find how much less stressful it is than having to dish out snacks all day long 🤪 and you’ll also find your little one will start having better focus at meals times!
So trust that just like your nap/bedtime routine, your child will thrive best with a predictable and consistent meal/snack routine ❤️ you can even incorporate “before meal rituals” – similar to your typical bath, brush teeth, & story before bed- to help your child transition from playing to sitting at the table!
To help make transitioning from one activity to the next easier it’s a great practice to have “before meal time rituals” to signify to your child that they are moving onto the next part of the day.
Some great options for this are:
1. Washing hands
2. Helping to set items on the table (Jax’s favorite)
3. Signing a song
4. Helping to prepare foods (Learn how to cook with your toddler/child here)
5. Taking a moment to be grateful or pray, if you feel so inclined
6. Offer simple and similar options for your child to decide between