It’s not only unnecessary for them, but it’s exhausting for you to keep snacks at the ready in the car, in the stroller, and everywhere in between! Within reason, it’s OK to expect them to wait for food and not get a snack every time they want one. From Keep Calm and Parent On.
I constantly see mums going out with their kids for a quick errand, and they run around beforehand packing a sippy cup and snack because heaven forbid their child go an hour without eating! “But he gets so fussy if he goes too long without a snack,” they tell me. Or imagine this familiar scenario: You are out somewhere, say, the zoo, and your little one says she’s thirsty and needs water. What do you do? Do you
a. pull the filtered water packs you’ve prepacked for just such an occasion out of the stroller;
b. leave the exhibit and make haste to the nearest fountain;
c. tell her that the next time you pass a fountain, she should let you know so she can stop and have a sip?
The answer is c. It acknowledges the child’s feeling without catering to every whim. I am not suggesting that you shouldn’t be prepared and organized—good for you if you are. But let’s introduce some balance into our parenting. You are not facing the apocalypse—you don’t have to have bottled water with you wherever you go!
The bottom line is that you don’t want your children to be too hungry, but it’s also okay to expect them to wait for food and not get a snack each time they have a hankering for one. Parenting by being at your child’s beck and call is exhausting, and does not make you a better parent. Quite the contrary!
Reasonable increments for a child’s meals vary depending on the child, his age, and your daily schedule. Often kids will have one or two meals in the day where they eat quite a lot (normally breakfast and lunch) and another meal at which they don’t eat as much. You will know this about your child, and you’ll know if he’s being picky or if he’s really not hungry. But as an example, the family I nannied for the most recently had an eighteen-month-old and a three-year-old. The boys ate breakfast at seven and lunch at noon. I would give them a snack at ten, but then found that if we skipped the snack, they ate more lunch and did just fine. I always gave them an afternoon snack after naptime—usually some apple and a piece of cheese. And then they ate dinner at around five or five thirty. This will vary for your family. Just make sure of two things:
1. that there’s not too much snacking, and that snacks aren’t so large that they substitute for dinner,
2. that your children are eating at regular intervals, so as to avoid blood-sugar meltdowns. Think of it this way: If you usually eat at noon, it’s not a big deal for you to wait until one on a day when you have a lot of errands to do. Not so for kids. If you’re not going to be home by their regular lunchtime, bring a snack or plan to stop. Note that this is very different from being a human vending machine, however!