22 answers

The Fridge.. Free Access?

I'm curious how you handle the fridge in your home. My husband lets our 3 year old go to the fridge and get what she wants. I think she shouldn't be allowed. When she gets hungry she goes and grabs things which interfere with her schedule. For example, around dinner time she goes and grabs snacks and it's just hard for me to deal with that while I'm getting things ready. What do you think?

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

My daughter is 8 and still asks me if she can have snacks. I prefer it that way. At least she's not ruining her dinner. Try to get her in the routine of asking before helping herself. maybe try getting some really light healthy snacks she can opt for like veggies or fruit if she cannot wait for you to finish cooking.

There is a very simple solution-pre-bag carrot sticks, etc. grapes, things that will not ruin her dinner, but that are healthy, and put them in a brightly colored bin in the refrigerator, telling her that these are HER special snacks. We do that also in the pantry with non-refrigerated snacks.

More Answers

I have 2 girls, 2 & 5 that I have allowed access to the fridge from the time they were strong enough to open the door. They know what things they are allowed to have. We have lunchmeat like OM beef bologna, ham cheese slices. Also a regular supply of yogurt (vanilla is favorite). They also like to munch on carrot sticks & lettuce. If they want something they can't handle themselves, like juice, applesauce, or jelly for PB&J, they get out the "stuff" & put it on the counter, then come & get me for help. My wife & I keep limited junk food & snack items in the house, & they are kept out of reach of little hands. We have cookies, chips, lollypops that they must ask for. And we decide to give or not to give, & how much. They also snack on breakfast cereal. Most of the time, even given a choice, they will prefer the good stuff over the junk, making it easier to allow them free access.
As far as obesity fears, my 2 1/2yr old is about 30lbs & can still fit into some 18m size clothes. My 5 yr old is about 36-37lbs & still fits loosely into some 3t size & mostly 4t size clothes. They are both also very active. They could run all day if I let them.

Hi Ava, My name is N. and I can understand your frustration because my husband would undermine my good intentions as well, never on purpose of course, when our children were younger. I had to explain to him, sweetly, that although I support his efforts in being a good dad and really appreciate his willingness to distract our child and keep them occupied while I prepare our meals it is really not necessary for him to always let our child have what they want. I expressed to him the need for us to stand united in all areas of child training and that if we allow our child to see that one of us goes against the desire of the other it will become ingrained in the child and they will learn to go to one parent as opposed to the other to obtain whatever they want. It took some time but he understood and worked on ignoring the whims of the children ... sometimes by taking them outside when they felt "snacky" in between meals or reading a book or by just explaining that they must learn to be patient while mom cooks a good meal for them. Some of our children would assist in meal preparation which helped to make meal time fun and when they didnt feel like they would find other things to do until dinner was served. My husband was always around for dinner because that was our time to bond as a family so as our children aged they came to appreciate meal times and patiently waited for dinner to be served or delivered.

I always let my kids have free access, but they have to ask first to make sure what they are taking I did not need for something I was making, and to make sure it's not too close to a meal. Then I have made sure it's all healthy food they have access too...any unhealthy snacks are not in the fridge, they are out of reach in a cabinet for the occasions they can have some junk. None of my kids have weight problems. I also ensure they only have access to milk and water to drink, we have no soda and very little juice in our house.

I don't let my kids have access to the fridge. It's been a rule from day 1 and to be honest, they never really were fighting me on it. Every once in a while. My 5 year old rarely will open the refrigerator door and when he does I just ask him what he's looking for and then we deal with that issue. I liked that one idea the lady before me said that there are 2 snack times, the breakfast to lunch and lunch to dinner. I also read on the Supernanny website about having snack jars and every day the kids put the allotted snack food into the jars and they have a certain time they can eat it and when it's empty, that's it. that website sometimes has some cool things.

Anyway, hope this helped. good luck.
P.S...of course it helps when hubby is on the same page. :)

We also have a 3 year old (and a 3 week old!). We tell our daughter that if she's hungry, that's fine but you need to ask us first if you can have a snack before just going into the food pantry/fridge. Because if she pulls out something that's not snack worthy than she can't have it and we will find something else. That's how we handle it in our house and it seems to work pretty well!

There are several issues to address with this.
1) your 3 year old is at an age where she wants to be encouraged to do things on her own so it is great that she is capable of getting her own snack

2) your 3yo is not old enough to know what and when it is ok for her to get a snack or to understand what 5 minutes (or 20 minutes) of waiting for dinner means when she is hungry

and 3)she needs to have good manners and respect for your rules and to develop healthy eating habits (and your husband should respect this as well)

so, I would say, if she asks permission, she should be allowed to get a specific item out of the refrigerator (not stand there with the door open wasting electricity). She should not be able to have a snack if it will ruin her dinner (although, if you eat later than she can last, you may want to offer a snack an hour or so before dinner so that she can make it, or give her her dinner earlier than you and your husband eat). You need to discuss the reasons you don't want her running to the fridge any time she wants with your husband, and stand firm on this, you are in the right! You can always install a lock on the refrigerator door and lock them both out - of course, that leads to your waiting on them which is definitely NOT the goal ;)

I have 5 little boys and they always ask before they can have a snack...I also label everything(like their water bottles), they have a shelf in the fridge with yogurt and fruit and they have a basket in the pantry with their granola bars and other snacks...so when they do go for a snack I've already helped them with their choice and they just decide what they want. I agree that they need to make good choices so we help by providing good things to choose from and that it's okay for them to have this independance as long as they ask first. If your daughter is hungry before dinner a piece of cheese or a handful of nuts is a great option...they will hold her til dinner without ruining it and then you don't have a major meltdown...plus they are healthy, quick and mostly mess free :) You could also give her a regular time to snack(half of its allure is doing it by herself) tell her hey it's 3:30 come get a snack or wait til dinner...I am a big stickler on no kids in the kitchen while I cook...my 21month old sits or stands on the edge of the kitchen floor while I'm at it...of course for me it's crowd control...if I let in one then all 5 are underfoot and I'd never get anything done! Goodluck!

I would not allow her to grab snacks, and I would also have a talk with your husband about it. Maybe you can come to some compromise. My husband is the same way, he will let my son have snacks anytime, but mostly as a function of not thinking about it, and before you know it, he's filled up with pop tarts and potato chips. I'm the one that puts the kabash on that most of the time. After I start the lecture about how junk food is bad for you and you should not eat so much and I'm stopping him because I love him and want to grow up to be healthy and strong, my husband starts to chime in, because he does not want to be the irresponsible parent.

Maybe you can try involving you three year old with dinner somehow, so it distracts her. I used to let my son stand on a stool and play with a measuring cup and water in the sink at that age, or let him help with the salad, or let him stir things that were not hot, or hand me the spices (and let him play with the closed spice jars while he waited. He still loves to help at 5 and it's a positive way to try to address the issue of being bored and hungry while you are waiting for dinner to be cooked.

Or perhaps you can start dinner a little earlier, or feed her earlier if your husband is late and you have to eat later. We always had a sub on hand - like chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, frozen veggies can be cooked in small quantities in a coffee up in the microwaive. If we had to, we fed him dinner earlier so we could relax and have dinner when we were hungry. Often times, my son would eat again with us.

Absolutely no free access to fridge or pantry. One of the reasons for which obesity runs rampant in this country is that people eat whenever and wherever. When I traveled abroad (France and Italy) I noticed that people ate only while sitting down and at (more or less) established times. Coming back to the US after 6 months it shocked me seeing people anywhere/anytime. Our kids need to learn self discipline at mealtimes.

i have a 3 yo who likes to think the fridge is her 24 hour buffet! i tell her she gets 1 "real" snack between b-l and l-d, anything else she wants is carrot sticks or cherry tomatoes. when she grabs a cheese stick, for example, i tell her she already had her breakfast to lunch snack, and that she can save that for after lunch. good luck!

In my house the kids can choose the snack they want at snack time. So if I am in the shower at 10:00 am and my 4 year old wants a snack, I say yes, choose something healthy. Then I remind him of the healthy choices we have. So off he goes into the fridge and helps himself to a healthy snack. He's happy, I'm happy . . . and clean.

When my 2 year old wants a snack and goes to the fridge, if it is snack time, no problem, and I will help him make a choice. If it is not snack time, I redirect his attention.

When my 6year old daughter comes home from school I allow her to choose her snack. She is capable of getting it herself. No problem since i am in the kitchen anyway. if she picks something riduiculous, then she needs to change it.

I am one of those people who loves to control everything when it comes to my kids. I am also one of those people who realizes that controlling everything in my children's lives can have serious consequences.

I want them to learn how to make proper food choices. The only way to do that is to give them the space to do it. Of course I am watching closely to lend some motherly advice.

Some times, like today, I have been out of the house for much of the day and unbeknownst to me, my daughter made some very poor food choices, starting with candy from the memorial day parade. She now has a bellyache - what a great teaching moment. So now if I see her making a not so good choice we will talk about ow she felt when she made bad choices in the past.

I know that if I control every single move they make, once they get a taste of some freedom, all hell will break loose. Boy have I seen that happen so many times in college!

I am a SAHM. My job is to teach my kids. When they reach a certain age I will teach them about making proper food choices.

I do not think it is bad that your 3 year old goes in the fridge, but i do think she should ask first. As long as someone helps her make the right choice at the right time, I think it is fine. Setting limits while giving indepenence is a good thing.


Can you re-arrange your fridge so she can't reach snack type stuff? Big drink containers that are too heavy for her or fruits & veggies that maybe you wouldn't mind her eating down where she can reach.

Hi A.. No, I never allowed free access to the fridge or pantry. 3 year olds are not old enough to make wise food choices. My kids always had to ask before helping themselves, about whether it was a time that they could eat and what they could have. My 8 year old still needs to check with me before taking something to eat. My 12 year old does not, she makes good choices and if it's early evening, she will ask how soon dinner is and not opt for a snack if dinner is soon. But you need to set the guidelines now. She should have to ask if it's a time when she is allowed to have a snack, and she shouldn't be snacking constantly, that's what leads to a lot of the food and weight issues in our country. If she enjoys the privilege of using the fridge, let her know that she'll be allowed a morning snack, afternoon snack and maybe an after dinner snack if she eats all of her meals, and then leave her a choice of things that she can select one of.

There is a very simple solution-pre-bag carrot sticks, etc. grapes, things that will not ruin her dinner, but that are healthy, and put them in a brightly colored bin in the refrigerator, telling her that these are HER special snacks. We do that also in the pantry with non-refrigerated snacks.

I agree with you Ava...a young child should not be allowed to go freely into the fridge. Children need to be kept on a schedule and shouldn't eat anything but a healthy diet.

Put your foot down with your husband...and teach your child to ask first.

Children need guidance for what to eat and when too! Letting her "graze" may cause weight problems in the future. If you choose to let her choose at least give her healthy options and not junk! A.

I believe in having children on schedules. I also don't allow my children to open the fridge by themself. Actually my 8 1/2 yrs just started being allowed to get a healthy snack occasionally out of the fridge..with our permission.
When you mention to your husband that this is the way you want to do it I would say its very important to have consistency with young children. You and your husband are in charge not her. Allowing her to decide when she is going to eat is puttin her in charge.
Also I think this can be a serious choking hazard giving the kids access to eat anytime they want. What if your on the phone, in the bathroom and she starts choking? This can happen so quick when they are little.

Hope this helps. D.

I am pretty anti-schedule when it comes to eating. I believe it sets children up for eating disorders later in life. We should never be forced to eat on a schedule and should listen to our bodies and eat when we feel the need.

Especially small children know when they should eat. I always had bite size snacks in the fridge for my daughter, things like carrot sticks, etc. Healthy stuff, no junk. If you have junk food in the fridge, that's not hunger, that's cravings which is not a good thing. My doctor told me to let her eat what she wanted to (not junk food of course) and when she wanted. This worked for us.

Provide filtered water, not juice that is accessible since often thirst is mimicked by hunger.

You want your children to be independent, right? If we control everything for them, they will grow up not trusting themselves and not being able to make a decision. I see this on a daily basis with my husband who had a very controlling mother. The other thing is that children will rebel against this later on. Think about how you would feel if your food was restricted and you were powerless to do something about it.

This is not to say that children should rule the household. Appropriate snack should be given since small bodies need to eat more often, they go through growth spurts that we may not notice until they are over and children can still sit at the dinner table even if they don't eat much. Raw veggies give them nutrients so long as they are organic and will contribute to healthy growth.

S. Hoehner

I do not think children should be allowed free access to the fridge, there should be meal times and healthy snack times but not free range. I know people may think it harsh but with my stepdaughter we have an "ask for snack rule", if it's too close to the next meal time then she is denied. Also there are no snacks allowed if the meal is not finished and kitchen is closed 1 hour before bedtime. We do let her make her own snacks and lunches when she has our permission to do so. Children need limits, and parents are supposed to create these limits. If you little one has to wait until the next meal to eat, she will be ok.

Shame shame hubby, but make sure you have things in there that she likes that are good for her. There is no sence in making things difficult for her if he won't agree with you on this. My sister's kids and my grandchildren come in and know that there is always yogurt in the fridge, or we have fruit. They love it that Aunt T./Grandma have these goodies in there for them. And they are good for them, so if they are not hungry when it comes time to eat, they still have good things in their belly. Applesause and fruit cups are another good thing to keep in there, or fresh cut up veggies and fruit.

My daughter is 8 and still asks me if she can have snacks. I prefer it that way. At least she's not ruining her dinner. Try to get her in the routine of asking before helping herself. maybe try getting some really light healthy snacks she can opt for like veggies or fruit if she cannot wait for you to finish cooking.

I'd merge the two and allow her to use the fridge freely WHEN it's time for her to eat. Perhaps you and Dad can agree that the fridge is off limits 1-1.5 hours before a meal?

Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.