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Here’s How (and Why) to Schedule Your Child’s Snack Time

A mother preps some healthy snacks with the help of her children in a sunny kitchen.

Are you tired of your kids grazing on snacks all day long? Healthy eating is an essential part of your child’s diet, but establishing structure and setting boundaries will lead to happy parents and healthy kids.

There are many benefits to having a scheduled snack-time each day. We’ll teach you how to schedule it into their day to help keep your kids full and healthy without spoiling mealtime.

Benefits of Scheduling Snack Time

Unstructured snacking can lead to overeating or poor nutrition, power struggles at mealtime, and even picky eating habits. If any of that sounds familiar to you, don’t worry, it’s not too late to fix it, and while resistance is inevitable, your kids will learn to adapt.

  • Kids Thrive from Consistency: To children, consistency means they know what to expect, which helps them feel more secure. When you are consistent with routine snacks and mealtimes, they will learn over time, and better predict when they will eat next. Your kids will push your buttons and try to get snacks at different times, but as long as you stand your ground, they’ll learn.
  • It Gives You Time to Preplan Healthy Snacks: Scheduling in snack-time allows you to prepare healthy options. Get your kids involved if they enjoy being in the kitchen with you. Engaging them in making snacks will, in turn, teach them to want healthy snacks and eventually prepare them themselves.
  • Helps Fill Nutritional Gaps: If your kids eat a lot of grilled cheese and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, providing healthy snacks will help fill those nutritional gaps. Whether it’s a cheese stick or sliced fruit, tailor the snack idea to what they don’t usually eat at mealtime.
  • Puts and End to Mealtime Power Struggles: Dinner time shouldn’t feel like a battle between you and your child. In a perfect world, they’ll come to the table hungry and ready to enjoy your meal in its entirety. But, we know that’s just not the case. However, scheduling in snack time will help eliminate some of those struggles, especially when meals and snacks are spaced out appropriately.

What Does a Schedule Look Like?

Young children have small stomachs, which means they need more opportunities to eat each day, which is another reason to schedule it in. Snacks should be about two to three hours after the last meal.

Give your child a snack twice a day, one after breakfast and one after lunch. A healthy nighttime snack can also be offered if your child had an early dinner.

Buy and Prepare Healthy Options

A young girl enjoying an apple as a healthy snack while playing at the park.

Get your child involved in choosing healthy foods that you can purchase and prepare as options to eat throughout the week. If you only have healthy choices in your home, then that is what your child will have access to. If you are stuck on snack ideas, here’s a quick list:

  • Sliced fruits
  • Sliced veggies
  • Yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Parfait
  • Cheese stick
  • Granola bar
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Natural fruit leather
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Apple sauce
  • Hummus and pita bread
  • Fruit cups (packed in water)
  • Guacamole
  • Cheerios

Always offer two healthy options that way they feel like they are making the decision even though ultimately you are. It’s good for your child’s self-esteem and helps with their decision-making skills too.

Give Them Fun Snacks, Too

The more your children eat healthy foods, the more they will crave and ask for them. So, if you accomplish that over time, you should pat yourself on the back. However, it’s also good to offer “fun” snacks at times as well.

Every so often, surprise your child with a fun dessert after dinner, or offer something out of the ordinary. Don’t confuse this with rewarding your child with food, as that can lead to unhealthy eating habits over time.

If there is a fun occasion or you are celebrating something or someone, then it’s the perfect time to allow your child to enjoy these exciting snacks. They’ll eventually link these types of foods to these occasions rather than eat them all the time.

Kids are so resilient, and learn to adapt to changes in routine. If your child asks for a snack during a non-snack time, simply tell them when snack-time is, and the kitchen will open back up again soon. Use distraction and offer them an activity to do in the meantime. If anything, be consistent and be patient, time will come.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »
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