Toddler Dinners: Scheduling

Week 25I realized through some questions I have gotten lately that you don’t get all the pieces parts of our feeding world. It just hasn’t come up in posts before and I forget you guys don’t live here.

We are a very scheduled household. Love me or hate me, it is how we work. 2 type A parents will do that to a kid. So a few facts of our household:

  • No free range eating – Landon eats 3 meals with maybe 2 snacks. No leaving snacks out to graze on. At snack time, Landon sits down with his small snack. What he eats when he is there is what he gets. Once he leaves, that’s it. Now at a park or something, this might vary but at home, high chair for snack. Sounds silly but we have the same routine for the dog. We don’t leave food out. You eat when it is time. We have never really ran into him being hungry at weird times.
  • No snacks after 4:30 – This is pretty much the rule. With daycare, this isn’t a problem. He gets up earlier from nap there and gets snack. At home though he might nap until 4 but dinner is at 6ish. I don’t want him filling up on snack before dinner. Plain and simple. Exception: sometimes he asks for veggies when I am cutting them. This is allowed…I mean DUH!
  • Landon loves breakfast – Just like his mama. On the weekend, he sometimes does 2 breakfasts instead of breakfast and snack. He seems to like a lot of calories in the morning…like his mama. Like Saturday we were going out for breakfast at 9 but he would be hungry by then. Before we left, he had 2 bowls of cereal and some yogurt raisins. We get to the place and he eats a whole biscuit with apple butter and then 3/4 of a giant pancake. All with a 10oz sippy of milk. I realize he can do this and it works for him. It has taken time. So know your kid.
  • If he doesn’t eat, he doesn’t eat – This one has taken me awhile. We try everything in our power to make him eat (bribes, threats of timeout for bad behavior, etc) to get him to eat but sometimes, he doesn’t eat much. Call it being 2 or just not being hungry, whatever. We let it go. He has NEVER woken up hungry in the night. I figure that is a sign.

Any questions from that? I don’t know what I don’t know so feel free to ask. It gets me thinking and gives me topics for each segment of this series. Do you have any scheduling rules in your house? Do you think it might help?

And lastly, here is some meals from the week:

Toddler Dinner 1
Toddler Dinner 2
Toddler Dinner 3

Toddler Dinners is my weekly series of posts to explore the world of feeding munchkins. Each Monday I will post our previous week’s meals and a rating on how they went as well as discuss numerous issues we all face. Find out more here.
Also be sure to follow me along throughout the week with your creations on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #toddlerdinners.


  1. We aren’t very strict in our household when it comes to eating times, and I always give Sebastian options for snacks (Gigi gets whatever he chooses). My husband leaves for work before the kids & I wake up, so it is just the three of us for breakfast and lunch. We all eat the same thing, and we all sit down together to eat, but there is no set time. We have breakfast whenever we wake up (which is usually 7:30, but sometimes as late as 9:30) and lunch happens whenever we all start getting hungry (anywhere from 11:30 to 2:30). Snacks don’t happen every day, but there can be anywhere between 1 and 3 in a given day. We generally just have snacks when the kids request them, or if I know one of them is having a growth spurt. My husband gets home from work anywhere between 5:30 and 8:30, so there is no set dinnertime, either. Making sure that he is here to share the meal with us is more important than having dinner right at 6 PM. When he gets home, he has to shower all the yuck off from work, so I know that I have an hour to make dinner from the time he gets here until he’s re-dressed and ready to eat. Only recently has Sebastian started becoming a little bit picky, but we make him take a “Try It, You’ll Like It” bite of each food on his plate. If he decides after that bite he doesn’t like the food, he doesn’t have to eat it, but he doesn’t get seconds of anything else until he finishes all of his firsts. He went through a phase when he was two where he would only snack and not eat real meals, so I would leave out a plate of just a few veggies, fruits, cheeses, or crackers for him to grab as he pleased. He would usually eat it within two hours and then a little bit later I would put out some more. That phase lasted for about 3 or 4 months, and I didn’t see it as a big deal. As long as he is eating, I’m happy! =)

    • Now I should have noted I never have to wait on the husband. Or if I do, it is maybe a half hour while he mows grass or something. I completely understand wanting the meal together. I am a big proponent of family dinners

  2. I would like to have your rules but I struggle with it because there are days that I KNOW Brady does not eat at daycare (fish fillet for lunch, hummus for snack). So, on those nights as long as he tries what we are serving, if he does not like it, I will give him something I know he loves like yogurt, grapes etc… On those days I struggle, because I know he has not eaten since morning snack and don’t want him to be hungry. We never let him eat after we get home (4:30ish) and dinner is served between 5:30 and 6:00.
    I am interested to see what happens when #2 comes. Mealtime was really hard for at our house until Cate started eating solid food…it is still crazy.
    Is LT consistent? One day Brady loves tilapia the next day he won’t eat more than a bite. This is one of my biggest frustrations. Do you buy organic? Are there certain things you will only buy organic? Do you let him dip? If we let him, Brady would eat anything if he could dip it in ranch dressing. Are there certain things you do not let him eat? Okay…sorry for all the questions.

    • Yeah I imagine Dolphin will shake things up. With Landon, he went to bed at 5:45 as an infant. So who knows!

      I will work on replies to those questions but in short:
      He is pretty consistent unless it is a clear control battle (aka being a little shit)
      I buy organic sometimes. Do so more in summer. Get fresh veggies from my in laws with fresh eggs.
      Landon isn’t a huge dipper. He likes things plain really.
      Hmm not eat. Just no Asian pears or ranch because of allergy. Everything else is game.

  3. I too find that in the past I struggled at meal time. Always trying to force my kids into eating SOMETHING! But you are right, they won’t go hungry (or wake up in the middle of the night hungry) so offer them what you are serving and if they don’t like it TOUGH. I figure they eat at least one really big meal a day and I am sure to pack it with all the food groups. They seem to survive.

    I totally agree on the schedule thing. We only do an afternoon snack and eat a fairly early dinner at 5 but I have considered moving that time frame up so we have more after dinner time to play and bathe, etc. They are usually hungry then anyway!

    • We used to eat earlier but it was hard to do family dinner that way. Now we seem in a good rhythm with 6 and go up for bed at 7-7:15. But do what you can. Everybody’s routine is unique.

  4. I wish I would have set up a schedule like this when my oldest was young to get into a routine. I was a younger Mom (21) and living with my in-laws and I just kind of went with the flow of things in the house. Five kids in I try to learn and grow with each one and try to get better. We don’t have set schedules for eating but there is a rule if you don’t eat dinner then nothing follows. If dinner is eaten than any snacks or drinks have to be requested before 8PM (My oldest is 11 and this still applies) The kids will coming running “Is the kitchen closed yet? Can I have…”
    I have learned to pick my battles. I too used to sit there and try anything I could to get through meal time. Sometimes they just aren’t hungry. I have never had one of them get up in the night hungry.

    • It is a battle of wills sometimes and not easy but I think it really is our consistency that is key. We don’t give in so he has slowly stopped negogiating. Not that dinner is at 6. He can’t tell time. But he knows the table rules and knows what is coming.

  5. I’ve only recently started reading your blog but I have to say your toddler dinner series has changed my life. My three year old used to eat everything but recently decided that cheese and bread with butter was all she needed to eat. Ever. I’m now offering fruits and veggies and I’ve implemented your rule about not getting more of what she loves unless she tries everything on her plate. It’s working and meals are SO much less stressful now. I’d love to blog about it, with your permission, of course 🙂

    As for scheduling, we eat at 5:30 every night. My youngest is 21 months so it’s hard to stay strictly to the no snacks before dinner rule because sometimes she’s starving when we get home. We’re pretty flexible with snack and lunchtimes. Lunch usually happens with DD2 wakes up from her nap.

    When my 2nd was born I started cooking three large meals on the weekends and then warming them throughout the week. It’s the only way I can manage two toddlers and not serve cereal for dinner every night.

    • Well this just made my day :). Blog away!!

      Yeah I know Landon wasn’t good at waiting until 6 at 21 months. That has only happened in the last 6-9 months. Before that we just ate separately. It kinda sucked but it was needd at the time. I don’t regret it. There was just no way for me to make dinner for us all by 5:30 with working.

      I wish I could do the cook on the weekend thing but we just enjoy play time too much since we both work full time.

  6. Your dog has to eat in the high chair??? (same rules for the dog as L?)

    We are super duper structured with food too. No sippies of milk all over the house. Even now that they’re older and can get their own food, they know they can not eat something without asking first. Because 5year olds should not be in charge of their own nutrition.

    Plane trips and long car trips (like the 10 hour one we will make in a few weeks)… all bets are off. They can eat whatever if they are good.

  7. We’re the same about not snacking much between meals. Sometimes I even forget to give D a snack on the weekends and he doesn’t ask for one, so…ok I guess? I am really looking forward to taking back complete control of his meals b/c I think there was a lot of chocolate offered at snack time at my MIL’s and as a result, he often didn’t eat well at dinner. We had been doing well with family dinners, but then family crises happened and then he stopped napping and we felt like we had to rush to get him fed, so we’ve gotten out of the habit. Hopefully we can resume it soon. Did you find the kale chips at TJs?

  8. Hey Brandy!
    I am a new subscriber to your blog and I am inspired!. I was doing my residency when I had my darling daughter and lived in Raleigh for 10 yrs before moving for fellowship. My daughter (now 2.5 yrs) has been a horrible eater since the day she was born and I have gone through meltdowns so frequently that I can’t even keep count. Between studying, working and taking care of my daughter I have found myself to be a failure as far as feeding her is concerned, gone through every known thing in world….endoscopy looking for organic medical problem, feeding therapy etc etc. As I look at your pics posted, my daughter eats 2 teaspoons of 1 thing for dinner before quitting and though she is growing tall and is good for all her milestones , she is 1 percentile on weight.I feel miserable and was constantly looking for new ideas for food.
    My biggest issue is that I am from India originally and all our recipes take forever to cook and between returning home at ungodly hours it is impossible to cook them!. I have tried few of the things mentioned by you but no success yet.I do have to mention that I am definitely inspired by all your schedules and portions and funky tableware and am going to start from a scratch to see if some food ideas pictured by you work.
    I took the time to write this message bcs I really think ur blog is a great resource a….Will keep on posting messages to share my success or failure.

    • SO happy to hear of new readers! And sorry for your predicament. I really hope my ramblings can help!

      Another thing to check out is some quick meal ideas from my cohorts at Liberating Working Moms. I make most dinners in less than 30 minutes because I have to. Check em out!:

      And feel free to comment your successes or contact me for more help if you need. Always willing to help!

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