4 year old feeding schedule: Amounts and food chart
Preschoolers are really coming into their own and developing into amazing little kids. This extends to their eating habits too! Many parents find a welcome relief from some picky eating behaviors at this age, though your kiddo will likely still have strong food preferences. Keep reading for more information on feeding your four year old.
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4 year old preschooler sample feeding schedule
As your child gets further into the preschool years, many parents begin to see a shift in eating behaviors. For some, picky eating behaviors start to fade and their four year old becomes a more adventurous eater. They continue to eat the same foods the family eats and like to put their own spin on meals such as building their own sandwich or pasta dish.
Preschoolers will likely need to eat every 3 - 4 hours, adding up to about four to five times a day. Children at this age may start to go longer between meals and snacks. Their ability to eat more at meals grows and they are often involved in other activities such as preschool or sports that impact their eating patterns.
Below is a sample feeding schedule for a 4 year old.
|9:30/10:00 AM||Morning snack (optional)|
|3:00/3:30 PM||Afternoon snack|
How much to feed a 4 year old: Food chart
Continue offering a variety of foods to your four year old without pressure or expectation that they try them. You might be surprised what they start to try now that they are a little bit older. Offering simple choices at mealtime can help get a preschooler excited about mealtime.
4 year old feeding chart
|Breakfast:||Cereal with milk, strawberries|
|Mid-morning snack:||Hummus and cucumber slices|
|Lunch:||Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, apple slices, carrot sticks and ranch dip, pretzels|
|Mid-afternoon snack:||Orange slices and string cheese|
|Dinner:||Pasta with meatballs, side salad|
Tips for feeding your 4 year old
Tip #1: Model healthy food habits
Preschoolers are highly impressionable and may be more apt to do as you do, rather than to do as you say. In this case, do your best to work on your own relationship with food and model healthy food habits for them. Try eating a variety of foods, avoid labeling foods as good or bad, and keep talk about weight in check.
Tip #2: Serve meals family-style
As your child gets older, they can be more involved with getting meals ready. If you haven’t already, try serving at least some meals family-style. This means putting all the components of the meal on the table and letting everyone serve themselves - including your kiddo! This gives them autonomy, and choice and helps them learn about what size portions feel good for their body.
Tip #3: Choose drinks carefully
When it comes to beverages, your four year old should drink mostly water or milk. Other drinks such as juice and soft drinks carry little nutritional value and are often full of unwanted added sugars. Choosing water and milk now helps to shape your child’s taste preferences and helps them to continue drinking them in the future.
Tip #4: Offer regular meal and snack times
At this age, your child may start to go longer between meals and snacks. They may even skip snacks from time to time. However, continue to offer meals and snacks at regular intervals instead of relying on them to tell you they are hungry. Sticking to a routine is helpful for your child to learn about their hunger and fullness cues.
Tip #5: Understand portion sizes
While your child starts to feel more and more like a small adult at mealtime, it’s important to remember they are not. Children, even those who eat large meals at times, should be served portions appropriate for their age. While it may seem easier to give large portions at the start of the meal, this can be overwhelming for your child. Start with a small portion and let them ask for more if they are hungry.
Night feedings for a 4 year old
At four years old, children should not need to eat overnight. In fact, waking up to eat in the middle of the night would likely impact their sleep negatively. Offer plenty of opportunities to eat throughout the day and introduce a simple bedtime snack if necessary. If your child struggles with night wakings due to hunger, talk with your pediatrician.
Feeding a four year old can be really fun! They are able to participate in the family meals more and more, and many kids at this age enjoy helping prepare simple meals and snacks. Preschoolers' taste preferences are still forming so continue to offer a variety of healthy foods and model eating the foods you’d like your child to enjoy.
4 year old feeding schedule FAQ
Q: How often should a 4 year old eat?
Four year olds should be offered food roughly every 3 - 4 hours. It is okay if they choose not to eat or eat only a small amount. Follow a set meal and snack schedule and offer foods around the same time each day.
Q: Can you drop night feeds at 4 years old?
Yes, 4 year olds should not need to eat at night. They should be given plenty of opportunities to eat during the day and should be able to consume enough energy during awake hours. If you have any concerns, contact your pediatrician.
Q: Why is my 4 year old eating less than usual?
Your preschooler’s appetite can change quite a bit from day to day and even week to week. If they are eating less in the short term, it is likely nothing to worry about. A four year old may also eat less if they aren’t feeling well.
Q: Is 30 oz of milk too much for a 4 year old?
It’s recommended  that a 4 year old drink no more than 24 oz of cow’s milk a day nonfat (skim) or low-fat milk (1%) Therefore, yes, 30 oz of milk is too much for one day. Drinking too much milk can cause young children to miss out on important nutrients from food.
Q: Is eating 4 times a day enough for a 4 year old?
It’s possible — many preschoolers eat about 4 - 5 times a day. This usually consists of three meals and two snacks served every 3 - 4 hours. Continue to offer food at these intervals even if your child doesn’t always eat or eat very much.
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