There’s nothing more maddening at mealtime than sitting down to a dinner you’ve spent 45 minutes to prepare only to have your kids push aside their plates because they’re already full. On pretzels.
Navigating the hour before dinner is tough with children–especially young kids, for whom “dinner will be ready in 10 minutes” sounds more like “dinner will never, ever be ready and you will starve right here on the kitchen floor”. When he was younger, my preschooler Sam was particularly challenging at the 5pm Witching Hour, literally scaling the cabinets to get snacks when I turned my back to stir something on the stove.
Over the years, I’ve tried a few different pre-dinner approaches for my hungry kids–a handful of whole grain crackers, half an apple, no snacks at all–but I finally settled on a system that works.
Our house rule: If you’re hungry in the hour before dinner, you may have an “appetizer” of veggies. Or you can simply wait for dinner.
When I first established this a year ago, my older son was cool with it. Most nights, he waits to eat until dinner. My youngest, however, was (understatement alert!) not pleased. But after a few weeks, he adjusted, and now happily scarfs down all manner of veggies. The best part: Because he’s truly hungry, he’s open to trying new vegetables. He’s eaten bowls of plain romaine hearts, big stalks of celery, and plates of roasted Brussels Sprouts. He’s currently on a sugar snap pea kick.
This pre-dinner hour is also when my boys are allowed to have screen time (computer, video games, or TV). I’m not bothered by the sight of my kids nibbling vegetables while watching “Rescue Bots”. There are worse things than associating TV with mindlessly eating carrot sticks.
I’ll admit: There are nights when Sam gets full on veggies and just picks at his dinner. So we simply save his plate and heat it back up for him when he’s hungry an hour later.
How do you avoid over-snacking before dinner in your house? What works for you?