Mealtime Schedules or routines might seem scary – like you are going to be tied to a set schedule every single day and can’t change anything around if you don’t want your child to refuse that food on your plate. BUT they are much more flexible than the name suggests.
Just like a bed time schedule, things happen, kids have a big day and need to go to bed early or you stay out late and they end up having to go to bed later – it can make it a little more tough but its not the end of the world. The changes to this schedule on occasion are great to help kids learn to be adaptable.
Well having a mealtime schedule is a rough timeline of the meals that your are going to serve up to your kids throughout the day. This doesn’t mean that lunch is at 1200 everyday. Instead it means that you aim for breakfast 30mins after waking, then a morning snack 1-2hrs before serving up lunch and then another afternoon snack followed by dinner at 5pm.
Not only will this help you prepare what meals you offer to your kids, there are a lot of benefits for your kids to maintaining this structured routine every day.
Benefits of Mealtime schedules:
– Build trust
Promotes a positive feeding relationship between you and your child. Growing a good little eater is a lot more than just the food that you serve up, they also tune into the behaviour and attitude that surrounds the food and mealtime. A mealtime routine helps them to learn expect when food will be on offered to them so can trust that they won’t go hungry.
– Prevents constant grazing
You guessed it, a mealtime schedule can prevent the constant grazing. Not only because they understand food will be available at frequents times throughout the day. But also because it allows for a solid boundary to be implemented. When they ask for a snack outside of a scheduled mealtimes – let them know that ‘the next mealtime is in 20mins’, when they don’t seem to want to eat much during a mealtime let them know that ‘this is the last mealtimes for 1hr, are you sure you have filled your belly?’
– Helps to get into touch with their appetite
While we aren’t about to ‘starve it out’ until they are so hungry they will surely eat there vegetables – this is a tactic that should never take place at your kids mealtimes. Understanding what hunger and on the opposite end fullness feels like is really important to help your child understand and regulate their appetite!
– Supports adequate nutrition intake
Scheduling in 5-6 meals throughout the day opposed to allowing constant grazing, can make sure your child is hitting their nutritional targets for the day. It is much easier to keep track of what they are eating and build healthy well balanced snacks to hit those targets!
– Builds confidence
In both you and your child! Mealtime structures will help you gain confidence in when your child is truly hungry and how to implement the strong mealtime boundaries! It will also build your child’s confidence because they can understand and expect what is coming which will reduce the overwhelm at mealtimes and keep them focused on the task at hand!
If you need more help implementing a mealtime schedule and setting up a foundation of mealtime boundaries download the free guide: The Complete roadmap to successful mealtimes.