Imagine: It’s 8.30 in the morning, your child needs to be at school or nursery in a matter of minutes and he keeps refusing to eat breakfast.
You know that she will get a snack only in a couple of hours or there is a swimming lesson first thing in the morning, so you feel like skipping breakfast is not an option. Why wouldn’t she just eat!
Whatever is the reason for it, when kids skip breakfast it stresses us out. A lot.
Why do kids skip breakfast?
Here are just a few reasons why kids may be skipping breakfast:
Reason 1. Your child is not a breakfast person. First of all, some people are just naturally not hungry first thing in the morning. They need an hour or two before they feel like eating. If your little one is like this, getting him to eat in the morning can be a life-long struggle.
Reason 2. Not enough sleep. Eating is rarely a huge priority for kids who are busy with a million other things at any time of the day. But if a child feels tired and sluggish in the morning, eating may be completely off his radar.
Reason 3. Eating too late at night. This only seems natural, does not it? In countries where the evening meal is late, breakfast is a pretty small affair. For example, in Spain, where my husband is from, dinner rarely occurs before 8-9 pm and breakfast for kids typically consists of a couple of dry cookies or crackers and a few sips of milk. The bigger and later is the evening meal, the less hungry we are in the morning.
Reason 4. Morning rush adds to the stress. The more we ask kids to hurry, the slower they seem to go, right? The same can be true with breakfast. If the kids anticipate being rushed and pressured, they may start resisting it by eating less and slower.
How to help kids eat breakfast:
Like with any other meal, it is key to avoid forcing or taking control of what or how much they eat. The best way to help kids eat in the morning is by adjusting the schedule and changing up what you offer.
Here are a few suggestions that may help:
Breakfast is an important meal but it is just one out of 4-6 eating opportunities your child will have daily. To help him stay fueled even if breakfast is skipped, schedule regular meals and snacks throughout the day, with the morning snack served 1.5-2 hours after breakfast.
If your child goes to school or nursery, discuss with the teachers the snack options offered there and send some food in if it is allowed.
For small kids who take the breast or drink formula/milk first thing in the morning, make sure their morning breastmilk/formula/bottle does not interfere with their appetite for a solid breakfast. Milk and formula are pretty filling. It’s best to allow at least 1.5 hours between the morning bottle or breastfeed and breakfast.
If your schedule allows for it, try waking up kids at least half an hour before they eat breakfast, to maximize appetite and allow time for a relaxed meal. Let them be alert and hungry to enjoy their breakfast in a stress-free environment.
Monitor that they get enough sleep: toddlers need 11-14 hours of sleep, preschoolers 10 to 13 hours, and school-aged children 9 to 11 hours.
Check the timing and options for the last meal of the day, whether dinner or bedtime snack. Is it too close to bedtime? Can it be scheduled a little earlier?
Look outside the breakfast cereal box and be creative. What do your kids ask for nonstop during the day? Is it yogurt and cookies? Crackers and cheese? Granola bars? Pasta? Serve it at breakfast to get them into the habit of sitting down and getting something to eat first thing in the morning.
If everything fails, prepare a few breakfasts on the go options you can grab at the last minute. Healthier muffins (see my whole wheat low sugar muffins recipe), that can be made in advance and frozen, store-bought or homemade smoothies, or fruit/yogurt pouches are all easy options and help your child start his day with some food in her belly.
Does your child eat breakfast? What is his favorite morning food?