Do Your Preschoolers Rummage for Their Own Snacks?

Updated on March 27, 2013
I.X. asks from San Clemente, CA
24 answers

Both my 2 and 5 year old do. I have not been able to make a child proof latch work and have not added a lock to the pantry because it was a rental. Certain things go up high, but I can only do so much of that as I have to use all the shelves. I don't allow it, but they seem to do it anyways. guess I'll spring for that lock. Do you let yours get their own snacks? do they rummage?
to be clear, I don't keep snacks in reach per say. They go for raw oatmeal, raisins, nuts, cereal......the things that are edible yet in reach. Not sure why there is an assumption they are getting into junk. What junk food we keep is out of reach. I generally take it away and offer them fruit or carrots, or ask them to wait until the next meal. Its not one of the things I feel like going to battle on. I generally know what vicinity my two year old is in, but no I don't keep eyes on her at all times. And sometimes I know she's in the panty and I just don't give a damn because I'm sick and pregnant. Pick your battles right? Not asking how to curb it. If I wanted to go to battle on the issue I would. I just wanted to know how common it was.

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So What Happened?

I suppose I'd be more concerned if my kids were high on the weight chart. As it is, I can't even buy my kids jeans because they fall of the waist if they fit in the legs.

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answers from Denver on

My kids always ask before getting food. Just has always been the rule, and its the one rule they all seem to follow. Probably because I have ears like a bat and the memory of an elephant. I would either hear them sneaking the food, or I would see that something was missing and hunt them down until they confessed.
Seriously, I just don't like dinner spoiled.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

My kids didn't rummage. And don't. Now or when they were younger.
If they were hungry or wanted a snack, they told me or asked.
But all kids are different.

I didn't really have to lock things up, except for dangerous household things.

My kids are now 6 and 10. They can even cook and know how. If they are hungry they can get and make things themselves. But still, they ask first or let me know they are hungry or would like a snack.
Its never been a problem. They know their way around the kitchen.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

My five year old opens the refrigerator and climbs to get stuff. I think it's pretty common. We eat when we want to. Kids are just little people. I also think it's an independence issue just like dressing oneself and picking out clothes.

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Washington DC on

my boys aren't pre-schoolers any more....

we have a snack basket - they get their snacks out of that...

they can always make their own popcorn too...put a bag in the microwave...

Why not try a basket of items they can choose from so that they won't rummage through the pantry? The more you make it taboo, the more they are going to want to get in there and check out all the stuff!!

There are no locked cabinets in our home. Our liquor is above the refrigerator and they would have to move a whole heck of a lot of stuff to get to it....

So try the basket of might help your stress!!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

at age 2 & 5....seriously?

(sigh) Time to be in charge & not leave them unattended long enough for them to get into the food supplies. Not saying you do...but where are you when it happens? Taking it a step further....if they're not obeying you on this issue, then what happens when they decide to get into the cleaning supplies? Or when they fall off the counter trying to get into the taller cabinets?

I am NOT trying to be mean. I simply 100% believe it's time to make them understand their boundaries. I recommend watching the "1-2-3 Magic" video. It will teach you how to be in charge & will teach your children to obey your rules. :)

6 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

I do not mind if my kids are hungry and get a snack from the fridge or pantry. Most of the time, they ask me first or tell me they are hungry so I offer healthy treats. 1-2x a day they can have sweets (a brownie, cookie, etc) if we are at home all day (weekends). Usually it's applesauce, bananas, yogurt, lunch meat, pickles, cheese or chips/pretzels. Lately though my 3.5 year old son has been going into the fridge and pantry and just helping himself! LOL We do not mind as long as they are eating their other meals and not just gorging on snacks. I definitely live with a family of grazers!!! Sometimes lunch/dinner are light because we had a larger snack earlier in the day. I want my kids to feel like they have choices and independence in their food choices and not that they live in a house where they are not allowed to choose food freely. Obviously I do not allow them to snack on candy/treats all day longer either :)

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

I want my girls to be somewhat self-sufficient and to encourage that I recently made a snack cabinet and an area in the frige.
I got pink and green containers at the Dollar Tree in the baby section, I think 6 for $1. I filled them with Goldfish, animal crackers, soup crackers, etc. So when they want something, they ask first, then make a selection. It also helps when we're running out the door and need to grab snacks on the go, already proportioned by me. We come home, place in the dishwasher and refill when clean.
My area in the fridge, has sugar-free Jell-O, string cheese, cut up strawberries, celery, small bottles of water, etc.
They love having their own areas and I love they are learning to make their own choices and doing things for themselves. They are 5 and 8. I guess the main thing is having healthy options and asking first.
I even made myself so I no longer stand in front of the pantry with a glazed look on my face!!!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

There is a bottom drawer in our fridge that he can get snacks. Fruit, veggies, cheese, yogurt, apple sauce, etc.He is welcome to get whatever he wants out of that drawer. BUT, he has to pass what he gets by me first. Otherwise, he'd eat cheese all day! He doesn't rummage through the rest of the fridge. He is 4.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Rochester on

Rewording the whole thing ('s been a long day.)

First, if they are doing it, then yes, you ARE allowing it. Allow means to let something happen, not whether or not you approve.

My two year old knows to ask. She sometimes asks for things I don't want her to have, and I do struggle a bit with keeping foods out of the house vs. teaching restraint, but that's a very tough issue for this child for other reasons altogether. I think it's more important to teach restraint. Putting a lock on the door doesn't really teach them WHY they should ask, or a lesson about healthy snacks, etc.

If you really don't want them to have it, it shouldn't be in the house. If it's a special treat, keep it up high. Keep healthy snacks within reach, but begin teaching that they ought to ask first.

And last, Sue makes a really good point. I always know where my children are at and what they are cannot really turn your back on a 2 year old for a MINUTE! I did that once...for about 30 seconds...and found my 10 month old on TOP of the piano. A two year old doesn't know that colorful kitchen cleaner isn't juice, etc, and it's absolutely time to teach some lessons in your kitchen!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Oh Jane, no, my son is not allowed to do this. The snack cupboard has always been within reach, but he knows-- anything he gets out without asking goes away for the rest of the day. Sweets and treats are kept up high, but popcorn, crackers, almonds, raisins, etc. are accessible-- but he *knows* that he is not allowed to do this.

You have to treat this as a discipline issue, with a consequence and a lot of consistency. If you don't allow it, simply *do not allow it*. Let your older one know that this is "sneaking food" and that if he sneaks, he loses privileges. My son snuck candy off the old gingerbread house and lost tv and sweets for a week. No repeat incident as of yet. He knows that if he sneaks food again, he will lose his Legos, sweets and tv time for a week. I don't tolerate this behavior and he *knows* what's expected. Sneaking is dishonest, too. This is like stealing.

My cue to my son (nearly 6) if he starts to look in the cupboard is "no shopping--- if you are hungry, you may ask for a snack." That said, he IS invited, and quite often, to "pick one thing from the cupboard you'd like on your plate" and then I serve the portion which I deem reasonable. Because I invite him to do this fairly often, it's not forbidden or exciting.

You may want to start there with your son, letting him know the new expectations, consequences, and that there will be times that he will be invited to choose a snack-- but that he can only do this when invited. Any sneaking/helping himself-- and there's a consequence immediately.

Good luck!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

my kids are 8 and they still ask me if they can have something, and they know 'no' means 'no.' i choose their snacks and how much. everything has always been within reach, but boundaries were set. it will make your life easier if you teach your kids the same.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

I was in charge of handing out snacks. I have one kid who would eat five or six cheese strings, yogurt tubes or granola bars in one sitting, then refuse to eat supper if he was left to his own devices. I never locked anything up, they just knew they were not supposed to help themselves.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

With my grandkids - they know to always to ask. The same is true at home. They can get some things for theirself but they first must ask. But I don't prepare everything for them all the time, just depends what it is. Sometimes for a snack I'll give them crackers and PB and they fix themselves the same with sandwiches, stuff like that. They're a part of food preparation most of the time too, which I think is important for kids to learn. Although yours are young they can still be a part of it.

When my kids were small a friend of mine was visiting (she had 4 kids too) and she saw my kids asking if they could get an apple from the fridge. Of course I told them yes. Anyway, my friend said to me, "I've never seen anybody do that before, you make your kids ask to get something to eat." I was kind of stunned a bit. I just said yes and we always had to when I was growing up. She let me know she thought it was strange and kind of cruel. - Well, as time went on and her kids got older she always had a mess on her hands not only with food everywhere but she couldn't keep enough food in the house. They had no respect.

Can you imagine as the kids get older and everyone just takes anything any time - easy way to wreck your menu plans.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Syracuse on

My 4 year old son always asks, but my 3 year old son is always rummaging through the fridge and cabinets. If I catch him, I tell him to go and sit down at the table and that I'll give him a snack. I don't really allow them to just get food whenever they want it but my 3 year old is a grazer and likes to eat often. The cabinets are stocked with healthy foods (chips are hidden) and the food he's usually grabbing is an apple or some other healthy snack.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

We always had some snacks available. The fridge was filled with fresh fruit or cut up vegetables, string cheese or cheese cubes.

Packaged snacks were on a lower shelf, but our daughter always asked, before she picked out something.

She also asked before she got up and out of bed on Sat and Sun Mornings until she was 4.. Then we told her she could get up quietly, get a snack and watch her videos.. Allowed us an extra hour of sleep..

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

Absolutely not.

The kitchen is not a free for all, and we don't teach healthy eating by allowing our children to eat whenever they want (especially at an age where they haven't learned the difference between eating for hunger, boredom, emotion, or curiosity). As parents, it's our job to teach them how to eat appropriately.

My boys are now 10 and 11 (almost 12). They know what healthy snacks are, and know how to read a clock so they understand when it's okay to have a healthy snack and when it's too close to mealtime. They didn't know that at preschool age...which is why they were not allowed in the kitchen without supervision, and were not allowed to rummage.

ETA: Neither of my boys are overweight either. They both could stand to gain about 10lbs, actually. But that doesn't mean that they should just eat whenever. They eat at normal snack and mealtimes, and get plenty to eat at each meal.

Those "skinny years" don't last forever for all people, so it's important to ensure that they know how to eat right...even now.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Sioux Falls on

Most snacks and juices are within reach in our house but my son (3.5) will always ask. He used to sneak raisinets when I had them in a bowl on the countertop but that only happened for about a week. Funny...even if dad offers a snack, he will ask me if it's okay.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

No way on the preschoolers. If they go in without permission then they get no snack! My triplets are 8 and they are not allowed to go in without permission. If they ask, they can go get something and they know what they're allowed. They've just recently started pouring their own drinks with permission, 2 out of 3 do. The 3rd is still skittish.

K. B
mom to 5 including triplets

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boise on

Yes, if they didn't I would never have a moments piece (8 kids). Instead I keep what they can have, at anytime, down where they can reach. The things that are only meant as a treat are put up higher where they can't get them. Even when they push a chair up to the cupboard :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Sure but as long as the stuff is healthy I don't see it as a problem (cut up veggies in the fridge, fruit on the table, raisins, trail mix, stuff like that in the pantry.)
If you have treats like candy or cookies just keep them out of sight and out of reach and there's nothing to worry about.
If you're on a budget and worried about them eating you out of house and home don't buy the prepackaged stuff it costs a fortune!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

My kids are 2 and 5 and they rummage too. My five year old can open the pantry easily and get what he wants, but is usually pretty good about asking first or at least picking something he knows I would be ok with (as opposed to cookies).

My two year old can't open the pantry yet (she hasn't figured out how to pull it from the bottom...yet!), but she is always going through the diaper bag to see what's in there.

It drives me crazy!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Sometimes, yes. She knows she can have raisins (though we are going to cut back in case that contributed to her cavities), bananas, non-sugar cereal, goldfish...fairly healthy things vs candy and cookies. I would go to a baby store and look at different options for your pantry. For example, if you have bifold doors, there's a lock that goes up at the top.

I also tell DD when she can't have any more. No snacking all day and then not eating dinner.

You can also set up "their shelf" and give them what you want them to eat, and even include small bowls for their use. My SIL used to put cereal down low in Tupperware and a small container of milk in the fridge so she could sleep in on weekends.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

My 4 year old son has a few go to snacks (string cheese, apple, yogurt) he can get himself, but normally he just tells me that he is hungry and I give him some choices (I'm usually hungry too, so we eat a snack together). We did have a few days where he was sneaking/hiding food (like candy and cookies), not sure what that was about as he is normally allowed treats when he asks for them or we have something after a meal, but we discussed it and he stopped. Have them come and tell you when they are hungry, or try putting out a few different kinds of snacks in a place they can reach so they can grab those as needed. If they are eating things like raw oatmeal, it sounds like they just don't know what else to get.


answers from San Diego on

Yes, we do. It's healthy snacks and he knows the shelves that he can pull from. We actually keep the junk totally within reach as well, but he knows that's the 'candy' shelf and it's not for him to just grab. Perhaps, we are just lucky right now because he knows he needs to ask first before grabbing from that shelf and we require him to eat something healthy in order to get something from that shelf and we don't always say yes.

I honestly don't care so much if eating from the healthy snack shelf 'ruins' his appetite for meal time, so long as what he's eating is healthy. If the healthy snack turns out to be his dinner, then that's fine with me, so long as healthy food is nourishing his body. Most of the time, however, he is hungry for dinner.

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