It seems common at day cares to have an eating scheduling like: 8am breakfast 10am morning snack 12pm lunch 3pm afternoon snack 6pm dinner (at home)

I hear that more frequent, smaller meals is better for adult digestion. But are those in-between meal snacks important? My slow eater could be eating all day. When he's at home and I'm less disciplined about keeping to schedule, we can't seem to keep up both snacks.

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    The emphasis at day cares on an eating shedule seems to me to be motivated to a large extent by keeping children busy and their day structured. It's also an excellent moment for the older children to practice small social skills (saying thank you, sharing, ...).
    – Tim H
    Apr 21, 2011 at 14:36

3 Answers 3


My son's day care indicates on a board what meals each child has eaten during the day. I've observed that many children don't eat the snacks and some children eat three serves at lunch time.

So just because it's in their schedule doesn't mean your child will be eating every time there is food offered. Each child is different.

It's important for development that children aren't left hungry so the day care center is just being responsible by offering snacks; and lets be honest, we're talking about slices of apple and dry biscuits, not chocolates and ice-creams.

Also these snack times are used as a reminder to staff to ensure children are stopping play to have extra fluids, wash their hands to prevent nasties like cold and flu spreading and reminders to take a toilet break for those who are toilet training.

So if your child doesn't eat regularly in between meals at home there is a chance they're also not doing it at child care. If he has enough food to eat at school and he's not asking for food at home then I wouldn't worry about it. Sounds like he's just being well looked after.


Yes, in my experience it's important to offer between meal snacks. My children lose patience with one another when they are hungry which leads to more disagreements. Snacktime, like a fixed mealtime, encourages them to take a break, recharge, and be social. It's also an opportunity for my kids to practice hospitality with one another (sharing).

As for the time it takes to eat, we have set time limits for meals. This is usually the time it takes for the adults to eat plus 5 minutes. Generally, 20 minutes is sufficient for everyone to eat dinner and if the conversation takes longer then dinnertime is naturally extended. I find that when my kids are hungry they focus on eating and the meal does not take very long.

I also find that when they are preparing for a growth spurt they eat alot more food. Predicting the growth spurts is next to impossible. However, I can make sure they have enough food by providing between meal snacks.


Our stomachs are the size of our fists. This is true for children too! Look at the fist of a 2 or 3 yr. old. That's not a lot of room and their little tummies empty out in a few hours. State guidelines dictate to child care centers the frequency of meals/snacks in most if not all states. These guidelines are based on normal development and reflect best practices for meeting the nutritional needs of young children.

Snacks do not have to be large to meet their needs. Remember the size of their fist. Think of easy, healthy snack foods that will keep their little engines running until a mealtime arrives.

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