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Old 01-06-2013, 07:23 PM   #11
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Re: When to start enforcing meals?

We start gradually phasing in the "eat what is for dinner, and no extra snacks in-between" around 18-20 months. We don't make a huge deal about it, because they don't really get it yet. I try to make sure that we have a regular snack in-between meals so that there is never a chance for the toddler to become absolutely starving to the point of having a tantrum. Just a small snack, and only enough to hold them over until the next meal. When they want to get down from a meal before they are finished eating, we bring them back to the table and remind them that it is time for eating. There are always times when the child doesn't want to eat dinner, so I will make sure there is a bedtime snack (it is my opinion that children sleep better when they do not have an empty stomach).

Like I said, we phase it in slowly, and by the time they are about 2 yrs., they are pretty well able to stay at the table and eat a meal. DD3 is 2 yrs., 9 mos., and she will sit at the table most nights. Most meals are fairly non-dramatic, but we still have the occasional meal where she refuses to eat what is offered. Again, I will provide a small bedtime snack, but nothing more. The next meal is breakfast.

I disagree that they do not understand that it is time to eat, and that they need to sit and eat at the appropriate time. Stated simply, children can grasp many complicated concepts. It may take time to establish the habit of eating at meals instead of snacking all day long, but it can be done. I have 5 children that prove it, as well as many nieces and nephews who have all learned to sit at the table and eat when it is meal time.

If I had a child that had feeding issues, severe allergies, weight gain issues, etc., I can imagine that I might feel differently about this. However, I think that *most* children can do this with patient guidance from their parents.


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Old 01-06-2013, 07:32 PM   #12
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I used to be so rigid when the big lids were younger now I've realized healthy grazing is better than big meals. So basically we have healthy snacks and light meals available several.times a day. I don't force the 2.5 year old to eat ever. She eats about 5/6 snacks small meals of apples/yogurt/meats/cheese. I make dinner at around 6 (crockpot mostly) and big kids eat when they have a chance. Breakfast is usually an oatmeal muffin or a smoothy that big kids take on their way
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Old 01-06-2013, 07:36 PM   #13
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Re: When to start enforcing meals?

we dont enforce meals. the kids eat what they want when they want. i guide them though, like i suggest a snack between meals so they dont get grumpy or ask them if they are ready to eat
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Old 01-06-2013, 08:09 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by KaleidoscopeEyes
we dont enforce meals. the kids eat what they want when they want. i guide them though, like i suggest a snack between meals so they dont get grumpy or ask them if they are ready to eat
Yep grazers here. I make dinner not multiple things but they don't have to eat it- even the teens. Breakfast lunch snacks if I'm eating, ill ask the 2 yr old if he wants something. He tells me when he's hungry or if he's fussy I'll encourage him to eat
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Old 01-06-2013, 08:20 PM   #15
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Re: When to start enforcing meals?

DD is 27 months. Her schedule is
7:30 - milk
9ish - breakfast
12 - lunch
4 - snack
6 - dinner

sometimes she gets a midmorning snack, but that's only when we're around other kids and they're getting it, so it's hard to regulate.

She has been on this schedule for atleast the last year. I don't think your son is too young to learn what mealtime is. If you want to continue grazing, I would limit what you're offering. i.e., you can graze on this cut up sandwich or fruit or whatever you didn't eat at lunchtime. But not just anything you ask for, like cereal, etc.

that part simply depends on what you're comfortable with in your home. I like eating meals as a family, so we don't graze all day. If you're happy being grazers and eating at various times, then do that - just make sure you're hitting all the important food groups.
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Old 01-06-2013, 09:16 PM   #16
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Re: When to start enforcing meals?

For breakfast and lunch I let my kids choose what they would like to eat.

For dinner, I make one meal and that is it. I always supplement the main meal with yogurt, a slice of whole wheat bread and fruit for the kids but they do also need to at least take a bite of everything else on their plate. If I make something that I know the kids hate, then I will make them something separate.

Even if my kids decide to eat none of their dinner, if they ask for fruit later on I will let them have it. If they ask for anything else I say "so sorry but you'll have to wait for breakfast to eat again".

I have no idea if my way is great, but it works for us (at least so far).
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Old 01-06-2013, 09:48 PM   #17
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Re: When to start enforcing meals?

We're grazers. We don't have a set thing we eat on a daily basis (to be honest I kind of get bored with the same ol' same ol'). I never enforce meals, my kids eat healthy all day long, and I don't really make a meal until dinner. They normally eat all or most of their dinner, and if they don't like what's for dinner then they get their default dinner which is a sandwhich, apple and yogurt. That hardly happens though.

I personally don't think 2 year olds get it just yet. Their tummies are small and use up a lot of energy in a day. I personally couldn't imagine only giving a 2 year old 3 meals and 1 snack in a day. I'd need more than that in a day.
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Old 01-06-2013, 09:49 PM   #18
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Re: When to start enforcing meals?

We carry such odd schedules, we pretty much graze as well. However, I have set foods for set meals, WHEN they decide to eat it is up to them.

Snacks are ONLY healthy foods. Yogurt, fruit, string cheese, applesauce, etc. They can have a million snacks a day if they want... but they only have certain options for snacks. A snack is not a bag of chips or candy around here.

I will make dinner sometimes... not even all the time. My dad currently lives with us, and he goes to bed around 4:30pm (he's up at 3am). So, he eats when he's ready. Hubby works over an hour from home, but gets off anywhere from 5-7pm, so he might be home anytime between 6pm and 8. The kids are in bed at 7:30, so they have to eat before he gets home, typically. I will usually make them dinner, but it might be three different things (one wants soup, another wants a deli sandwich, the other may opt for a peanut butter and jelly with fruit). We don't buy junk food hardly ever, so it's just not an option around here. Other than that, I let them eat whenever they are hungry. -shrug-

They are 11, almost 6, and almost 5. The older two are in school during the day.
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Old 01-06-2013, 09:54 PM   #19
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Re: When to start enforcing meals?

Originally Posted by mcpforever View Post
Sometime between 18 and 24 months. By that time I have a pretty good idea of what my child likes vs what they prefer. If I know they like it, then that is what they can eat. If they would prefer yogurt, then they can have that when I am serving it and not until.

It's also the same age when they learn that they can say "I don't like it" and not have to eat (much of) it. Then they figure if they can get out of eating something by saying that, then they can get out of eating everything but what they prefer/want.

At this point, I would offer a variety of small servings for each meal, a mid morning snack, and a mid afternoon snack. If he says he's hungry between meal and snack times, he can have what he didn't eat at his last meal/snack. He will not be happy at first and will test and push, but eventually he will learn that he can eat a variety of good foods and not just his favorites.
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Old 01-06-2013, 09:58 PM   #20
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Re: When to start enforcing meals?

Originally Posted by MDever View Post
We have always had the "that is your choice" stance on meals. We offer 3 meals and 1 snack per day. We also only drink water between meals because they can get too many calories many of which are empty from juices or milks. It may take a week or even two for him to stop testing but if you stay cool and stand your ground he will catch on. He is going to have a major protest because he is very used to getting fed a certain way. Be kind but firm. Try not to get to chatty. Try to say the same brief statements like "I'm sorry, now is not a time for eating. We will eat at ______" if he refuses the meal say "ok that is your choice". No snacks or special drinks between meals. It will even out
We start this as soon as they start eating solids. By then my nursers are on a pretty good schedule and we stick to it and add in meals. By the time they are weaned they eat only at regular meal/snack times.

One of my daughter's was a pretty servere FFT case and our doctor didn't want us to let her snack all day. She said for a lot of kids they end up worse in the long run.
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