It’s Not All Mary Poppins

No-Snacking Check-in

A few of you have asked how it’s going since we quit morning snacking in the daycare.

In a word: Terrific!

There was an adjustment period for Rosie, at 17 months the smallest both in age and physically. Promptly at 10, our former snack-time, she would run to her high chair and bang on it. When that got no response, she’d wallop the fridge. (Not a lot of words for our Rosie just yet, but she communicates just fine, thanks!)

Was this genuine hunger, though, or just habit? Even if it was hunger, was it mild, so she could wait till lunch, or severe enough that I should feed her? I wasn’t sure how the non-snacking would go with the under-twos, after all. I was willing to bend on this one for them.

Yes, this would mean different expectations for different groups of toddlers, but we already have that, don’t we? The Big Kids use the toilet upstairs. The Middles use the potty in the living room. The Babies are in diapers. Big Kids don’t have to hold on to the stroller when we walk, Middles do, and Babies ride. Big Kids put on their own snowsuits; Middles need more help, and I put the Babies snowsuits on them. There are lots and lots of these types of distinctions in a day. I wasn’t worried about perceived injustice. Which is not to say a three-year-old might not see injustice, of course, but I was quite prepared to defend the difference in just those terms: “She’s a baby. You’re big.” And, secure in my role at The Boss At Mary’s House, I didn’t worry about a whole lot of back talk, and tantrums? Don’t happen here. (Well, with very, very rare exceptions.)

Still, I wanted to know if this was just habit. My compromise was to give her one of her sippy cups of milk at the prior snack-time. Rosie is quite the milk baby. Left to her own devices, I’m sure that her diet would still be 90% milk. (The remainder being comprised of crackers and pasta, natch.) Her parents and I have talked about her minimal ingestion of solid foods, but they were not quite ready yet to reduce her milk intake. So. Milk at 10:00, and water with lunch at 11:30.

It worked like a charm. She’d suck that milk back in two minutes, and then be on to the next thing. The added bonus? With milk separated from meal by an hour and a half, and only water in her sippy cup, she was eating more.

On the second week, she had stopped asking for milk. (How does mostly non-verbal Rosie ‘ask’ for milk? She runs over to her backpack, hanging from its hook in my front hall, and pounds the wall beneath it, yelling “MUH! MUH!” Crude, but effective.) No more running and pounding and yelling. Just play.

What to do about that milk? I now give it to her after lunch, during the snuggle-and-story time that precedes nap. Perfect! Added bonus: she doesn’t always finish her milk. This has been the nudge she’s needed to make the mental transition to viewing solids are her ‘real’ food.

Grace, who has been going through a major growth spurt (2 cm between Christmas and Jan 25), was also asking with more than normal intensity after snacks. She, however, being three and a half, could understand my explanation. She’d have a drink (of water) at ten, and then a good, solid lunch. Either she’s accustomed to the new pattern, or the growth spurt has tapered off — likely both — but after three weeks she was no longer mooching for food mid-morning, either.

I know I had parental buy-in from her parents, even with the growth spurt factored in, because when I explained it, mom’s response was, “Great! She’ll be nice and hungry for dinner!” Which got me thinking: “nice and hungry” is an expression I heard routinely from my parents, and from the parents of my friends, when I was a child. But it seems to me that these days, you don’t hear that very much at all. Instead, you see parents scrambling for the crackers. Hmmm…

Another bit of parental feed-back came in last week. I thought I’d told all the parents of the change in eating patterns, but it seemed one had missed it. (Probably I told dad in the morning, and he forgot to relay it to mom.)

Mom asks me at the door: “How’s Jazz’s eating here? Because she’s eating WAY more at home, and with WAY less fuss.”

HA! An unaware subject validates the experiment! Or at least, confirms that the results extend beyond my home. Woo!

So I explain the new no-morning-snack regime, and mom is very impressed. “Excellent! We are absolutely going to do that at home!”

It’s been four weeks now, and I declare the experiment a success. It is no longer an experiment, it is simply How It Is. Children in my home will get a three-course lunch, and then a light, healthy, sit-down late-afternoon snack. That’s it, that’s all.

Love it.

February 12, 2013 - Posted by | food, Grace, Rosie | , ,


  1. I’m so impressed with this. Being a come into the home nanny has proven that as much as I adore this idea, I can’t introduce it full swing to my children. Though, since I browsed your blog and read your initial entry on no more snacks, I have been more inclined to regulate snacks. The 3 year old, T, would eat snacks all day. Same for the 17 month old, E. But they absolutely fail at eating solid meals when their snack demands are met. Though having multiple adults to hassle they get away with so many more bites and tastes of everyone else’s foods during the day. Impressive work!

    -Miss Ashley

    Thank you. Two of the things I love the very most about my job are that I am self-employed and I work from my own home. Some days I’d love not to live in a home filled with baby and toddler stuff, given that my own kids outgrew that well over 15 years ago, but I love working from home. Being able to control your work environment is extremely satisfying, and would probably be one of the things I’d really find difficult about being a nanny!

    Comment by miss ashley | February 12, 2013 | Reply

  2. One of the reasons I often hear for snacks for kids is that their behaviour deteriorates when they’re hungry, ’cause low blood sugar. I have to admit to having bought into this idea, perhaps because it sounds a bit ‘sciency’ but now I’m wondering. Apart from protests About the lack of snack because of habit have you seen any evidence of this?

    I know. I hear this all the time, too, and I’m dubious that it’s as significant a factor as all that. Maybe I’ll compose a full post on this one, but the short answer to your question is: No, I have not. Initially they were asking after snack at the usual time, mostly out of habit, I’m sure, but at no point did I see a terrible downturn in behaviour, or an uptick in tantrums/whining. At no point did I see any of that at all.

    Comment by laineyinthelake | February 12, 2013 | Reply

  3. So what time do your kids arrive and what time have they had breakfast at home? We have snack at 9am, lunch at noon and afternoon snack around 3:30. Most of my kids arrive at 7:30, so I know that they had breakfast before 7 am. For mine waiting till lunch would be too long. Here an example of a snack would be 1/2 a banana and one of my handfuls of cereal and some water to drink. I’m a big believer on not giving children large portions, especially for snack. We have no issues on anyone eating their food here.

    I open at 7:45. The first child arrives prompt at 7:45, the last at about 8:45. We have lunch at 11:30, and afternoon snack at 3:15 or so. So the earliest arrivers are potentially going 5 hours between breakfast and lunch.

    Now, this was my experiment. There is no reason, if you’re happy with the status quo, and your children are eating a good variety of healthy foods, for you to change what’s working. I am curious, though: what do you mean by “too long”? What would happen, do you think, if they went five hours, instead of three, between pit stops? My experience suggests that, after a week or so’s adjustment, you’d be pleasantly surprised.

    The concern I have about feeding children every 2 or 3 hours is that, with that schedule, they never get to feel hungry. If they don’t feel hungry, then what becomes their cue to eat? Habit, schedule, pattern … even boredom, fatigue, sadness… None of these things have anything to do with nourishing the body, which is the entire point of hunger.

    If something I’ve said niggles in your mind a bit, think it over, even run your own experiment, see what happens. But, as I say, if what you’re doing is working and you’re happy with it, then stick with it.

    Comment by Laura | February 12, 2013 | Reply

    • No, nothing about your experiment niggles in my mind. I was just curious. A few of my kids are telling me they are hungry by morning snack, so I wonder if sometimes they aren’t eating much breakfast at home. There are days that they all arrive later, like today they all came around 8:45, so I am skipping snack and will serve lunch slightly early. I also have to consider the expectations of the parents. If they are happy with their child eating every 3-4 hours, then I wouldn’t change this.

      Comment by Laura | February 13, 2013 | Reply

  4. I wonder if part of the reason that snacking has grown so much more common is that adults are frequently told now that the best way to boost metabolism is to eat several smaller meals, and the adults just then incorporate this into the schedule for the kids as well. However, this philosophy obviously isn’t going to help much when the majority of these snacks are so carb based.

    Comment by Kelley | February 13, 2013 | Reply

    • Hi Kelley – some folks seem to have a metabolism that takes a while to get going in the morning. How about having a late breakfast and skip the “snack” – that may allow you to focus more on the proteins, fruit, fiber or whatever you prefer your 3 y/o to eat.

      Comment by Margaret Paschal | February 13, 2013 | Reply

  5. I like your idea, but I wonder how to implement it. My 3 year old definitively deteriorates without a morning snack (crying because a toy is “wrong”, etc.). But then he’s rarely hungry for breakfast. Not sure how to handle that.

    Comment by Neuro | February 13, 2013 | Reply

  6. Ah yes, the ol’ “good and hungry”. At least, that’s how I remember the expression when I’d bemoan that dinner wasn’t for another hour. And you know what, I ate. 😀 Great post. BTW, love the visual of Rosie banging on the fridge…”C’mon Lady! Let’s go with the snack!”

    Comment by Sheri | February 13, 2013 | Reply

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