3 year old feeding schedule: Amounts and food chart
Feeding a three year old can be fun and, let’s be honest, frustrating! By now, your toddler has likely developed strong preferences for food. But, on a positive note, they are also capable of eating a variety of foods and participating in family mealtime. Keep reading to find out all there is to know about feeding your three year old.
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3 year old toddler sample feeding schedule
When it comes to eating, three year olds are capable of so much! They are likely self-feeding, many times with utensils, and actively participating in family mealtime. Overall, they are eating the same foods as the family even if they show definite likes and dislikes. Parents should still be aware of high-risk choking foods at this age.
Typically, preschool-aged children will eat every 2.5 - 3 hours adding up to about five times a day. Most often, this is spread out as three meals and two snacks a day.
Below is a sample feeding schedule for a 3 year old which may be modified to meet your family’s needs.
|9:30 AM||Morning snack|
|3:00 PM||Afternoon snack|
How much to feed a 3 year old: Food chart
Picky eating behaviors are still common, and largely normal, at three years old. Keep offering a variety of foods and don’t pressure your child to eat certain foods. Model positive eating habits such as eating without distractions, consuming a variety of foods, and limiting talk about good vs bad foods. When the going gets tough, trust your kiddo will come around in their own time. Here are some easy toddler meal ideas to help you out.
3 year old feeding chart
|Breakfast:||English muffin with peanut butter and banana slices|
|Mid-morning snack:||Crackers and cheese slices|
|Lunch:||Pesto pasta with quartered cherry tomatoes, blueberries|
|Mid-afternoon snack:||Yogurt pouch|
|Dinner:||Baked chicken, roasted broccoli, rice|
Tips for feeding your 3 year old
Tip #1: Involve your toddler in food prep
Toddlers are natural helpers so take advantage! Let them help with food prep and planning as much as possible. Take them to the grocery store and explain how you choose foods for the family. In the kitchen, let them mix foods together, pour ingredients with help, or tear lettuce leaves.
Tip #2: Expect strong food preferences
Dealing with your three year old’s strong opinions can be tough at mealtime, but they are a part of typical development. Kids at this age often have strong likes and dislikes when it comes to food - and they make sure you know it! Avoid power struggles by letting them know they don’t have to eat anything they don’t want to and by serving less liked foods alongside foods they typically accept.
Tip #3: Reduce mealtime distractions
You don’t need us to tell you this, but three year olds are busy, busy! It can be hard for them to stop playing and exploring in order to eat. Transitioning to a new activity, especially when it’s not on their terms, can be difficult for some kids. Giving a five-minute warning before meal or snack time and using a visual timer can help manage your child’s expectations and get them prepped to come to the table when it’s time.
Tip #4: Offer choices when possible
While parents and caregivers should be the ones deciding what’s served, it’s okay to offer your little one simple choices. An example would be asking, “Would you like blueberries or strawberries with your breakfast?” Involving your toddler in decision-making helps give them a sense of control and can make it more likely for them to eat what you offer.
Tip #5: Focus on what you can control
Choosing the foods you serve your family is highly personal and can become complicated as children get older. They may begin preschool or spend time at friends’ houses. While it can be difficult to watch your child be exposed to foods you may not otherwise choose, it’s best to take a deep breath and focus on what you can control - what you bring into your own home.
When it comes to feeding a three year old, focus on what you can control! While you can’t decide what they might like or dislike on any given day, you can do your best to offer a variety of nutritious foods and to model positive eating habits. Overall, have fun and involve them in the feeding process when you can!
3 year old feeding schedule FAQ
Q: How often should a 3 year old eat?
Three year olds have small stomachs and need to eat regularly. Typically, a toddler at this age will eat about every 2.5 - 3 hours during the day. They may go up to about 4 hours if they are involved in an activity, but try to avoid getting overly hungry.
Q: Can you drop night feeds at 3 years old?
Yes, at three years old you can drop night feeds. Your child should be able to eat enough during the day and should not need to eat a night. If you are having trouble with this, discuss it with your healthcare team.
Q: Why is my 3 year old eating less than usual?
A 3 year old’s appetite can vary greatly from day to day. Therefore if they are eating less, it could just be a natural variation in appetite. Other reasons may include illness, congestion, or mouth pain.
Q: Is 30 oz of milk too much for a 3 year old?
Yes, 30 oz of milk a day is too much for a 3 year old. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends  that children ages 2 - 5 years old drink 16 - 24 oz of cow’s milk a day. Any more than this can cause your kiddo to fill up on liquids and miss out on important nutrients in food.
Note: The content on this site is for informational purposes only and should not replace medical advice from your doctor, pediatrician, or medical professional. If you have questions or concerns, you should contact a medical professional.
American Academy of Pediatrics (2023). Recommended Drinks for Children Age 5 & Younger. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/recommended-drinks-for-young-children-ages-0-5.aspx