Preschoolers Steal Snacks

Updated on October 14, 2010
J.O. asks from Novi, MI
21 answers

My two preschoolers steal food from our pantry. They take the "junk" I have for special treats (like a day at Lunch Bunch at preschool). These might be 100 calorie snack packs, or cheese and crackers. Nothing terrible like donuts! It's not the kind of pantry I can lock. They use chairs or anything to get up there. I don't want to stash food in other rooms; we'd get bugs!
They do this all day long. They don't eat meals. They don't stay out of the pantry, taking even healthier stuff.

This starts the moment they wake. They dash downstairs to steal food, so I have to dash down there and give them only cereal and fruit (and then I don't know what to do with the baby), and they usually scream and often waste the food I give them. I can't get them to eat veggies, hardly at all. All they do is steal food and plot how to do it.

Can I not keep food in my pantry? This is ridiculous. They won't stop.

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answers from Jacksonville on

Three things come to mind:
1) If you don't bring it into the house they can't get into it and eat it,
2) If you put it into some sort of lockable container, they cannot get to it,
3) there should be some sort of disciplinary action taken for repeated disobedience about going into the pantry.

The first thing I would deal with would be #3. I have never locked my pantry. I have never really needed to. Make the rules about accessing the pantry clear, and then enforce them. Make no exceptions. Once the "stealing"/snacking is dealt with, they will start eating meals.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

You need to either not buy the food or get it out of the pantry-only 2 options here. If you like having the treats around buy a bin with a lid and keep them in there-hidden someplace else where only you can access them. You are more likely to get bugs with them in the pantry than by doing this.

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answers from Honolulu on

So what do you do to them, when they do this????
There has to be some kind of repercussion....
They are controlling the household. If they do this for food... what else are they doing? And not listening to you???
They also know, you are "busy" with baby.. .and are not easily nor quickly able to get to them... they are 'faster' than you... and you said they "plot" how to do it.

How OLD are they????

You really need to stop buying these foods/snacks... or you have to put them somewhere else.
OR, research different kind of locks... for the cabinets. It seems to be a NECESSITY, in your case. Or they will keep doing it.

Also, they don't eat 'meals.' And only snack. Just take away the snacks... and if they starve they starve.

It is a game to them.
They out think you....

If they scream, they scream. DO NOT GIVE IN to their screaming. Don't give them any food... since they waste it anyway and refuse to eat it.
TELL them this.

The book "Have A New Kid By Friday" is good for ideas... and not derogatory. You can get it from Amazon or even E-bay.

Do they have any type of discipline or punishment???

Have them WORK for their "food" or treats. They are old enough, I assume, to be doing simple chores. ENFORCE this.... list it down on a paper you post up in the kitchen. Have them wipe tables, pick up toys, do things for each other and you.... tell them, they have to do an "x" amount of things, for the FAMILY... meaning, each other or you/Husband, to EARN treats.... EACH day. And you check it off on what they do or not. Daily. THEN that way, you also have a tangible and visual thing, to SHOW Daddy... when he comes home.

Do they do this when Daddy is home too? What does HE say about it????

Sit them all down, in a family meeting... and clearly, state the "problem", their consequences... and what they can or cannot do.
And if they do not cooperate.... then, you do whatever repercussion, you have all "discussed." Mind you, you don't let THEM decide the repercussion... YOU and Hubby, state it.

Or you take away their toys etc. That's it. And put it where they cannot get it. They have to earn it back.

I would, start making them responsible... for their disrespect...

Also, you can make a SEPARATE box... for "their" food/snacks... and ONLY from that box, they can grab things from. Maybe they want what you buy for Lunch Bunch, and they want the same things, too, at home. TELL them that things cost money... too. At this age, you can tell them ideas like this... make it a lesson... my son is only recently turned 4... and he KNOWS that some things cost more than others..... and that "wasting" something wastes money. We teach him that. If he wastes something, carelessly, then I don't buy it next time. For example.

all the best,

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I suggest you give them one more warning, and then take ALL of the food out of your pantry (trade places with the dishes, if the dishes are up high), or put a lock on it.

I try to say yes as often as I can, but I am MOM. My word is all powerful, and when I say NO, I mean NO. And I can say it with a smile, and the only thing tantrums bring is timeouts. Not even a bead of sweat. You want to throw yourself on the floor for entertainment? No biggie. It doesn't bug me one bit :) It drives my husband nuts that I don't get angry when my son gets angry... but I don't see the point of fighting with a child. I've already "won" by virtue of being his parent, there's no need to fight, that's just poor sportsmanship.

My son had a drawer that was all HIS for dry foods (like glad or ziplock containers of cereals, veggie chips/air puffed peas etc, goldfish, etc), and the bottom shelf on the door of the fridge for his perishable foods (yogurt, milk sippy, fresh fruit and veggies, leftovers from previous meals, applesauce, etc). He was allowed to eat any time he wished from either of these places. Any meals he didn't finish just went into containers on the door of the fridge. Since the only food available to him was healthy food... it didn't matter to me. It also encouraged his independence in a safe and moderated way (since I stocked those places).

Feeding on demand worked so well as an infant, that I really just kept it up as he was a toddler. What was interesting was that he naturally fell into a 6 small meals a day rhythm... the same way of eating nutritionists say we ALL should eat.

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answers from Detroit on

1. Put all the snacks up in a high cabinet that they can't reach. Figure out a way to lock the pantry if you can.
2. Give each child a designated snack jar or box that contains 2 snacks for each kid each day. When the 2 snacks are gone, that's it until the next day.
3. Offer them real food at each meal. Give them healthy choices for breakfast and lunch; dinner is whatever you serve. They can choose not to eat certain items if they really don't like them, but I would try to get them to eat some of everything (1 bite for each year of age).
4. Sit them down and tell them this is how it's gonna be. Period. You are the parent. Be the parent.

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answers from Detroit on

oh my, that doesn't sound like fun.(although sounds like they are enjoying it, so it is time to make it not fun anymore). It is time to set up boundaries. Keep the food,just enforce the rules. What rules do you have set up about them getting food? Sit them down the night before and tell them the rules you have. If they take food and you see them eating it, take it away from them and throw it out(or put it away). Immediate time out, no question, no warning. that is it. Let them yell, scream whatever, it is simply not acceptable.

If you give them food and they scream, simply take it away put it on the counter, and breakfast is over. They can eat at the next snack or meal time. They will learn very quickly that if they are hungry they will eat what is served, it is not like you are giving them liver and brussel sprouts for breakfast.
Regarding eating their veggies, I could see if they accustomed to sneaking special treat it might not taste good to them. No treats after dinner if no veggies. Leave veggies out for snack during the day and dip, ranch dressing or nacho cheese sauce for them to get out of fridge. offer veggies first when they are first hungry for dinner. Let them pick between two veggies which one they want. Carrots or brocolli. Grean beans or corn. Whatever you choose.

So that is all I have. Good luck , hope you figure out something.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

There has to be a way to lock your pantry to keep them out. They make magnetic locks where you have a key kept in a separate location to open it. If it has two handles, you can link them together - use a padlock if you need to. If it's a regular door, buy a lock and key.

Beyond that, you need to talk to them. My son is in preschool and is old enough to have a real conversation. Find out WHY they are stealing the food.

Also, if you have to, don't buy that food anymore. Only keep healthy stuff in the house so there is nothing for them to steal, nothing to tempt them.

good luck

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answers from Dallas on

Hmmm,,,it sounds like you have your hands full. I don't have many suggestions for getting them to eat better. Many preschoolers assert their independence through food. Offer foods you are comfortable with and model healthy behaviors. There should also be punishment for disobeying and plundering through the pantry.

You should also be able to find a way to keep them out of the pantry. We put a lock on our pantry at the top of the door, the swing bar kind. I didn't want to fuss with keys or anything, besides, it doesn't take too long to figure out how to unlock those with a knife. Ours looks like this, except we got the same finish as the door knob so it matches the rest of the house...
My kids are not food thieves, but we store some medicine at the top of the pantry and I have some cake decorating supplies (leveling saw) that I was worried about them getting into. This lock works, because even on a chair it can't be reached, we installed it on the very top of the door. My friend stuck a toy in our pantry for time out once, and her son was trying desperately to "jimmy" it open, with no luck. We caught him trying to flip it open using a broom. This one is especially nice, because I can get it open easily and it doesn't get in my way when I need in the pantry while I am cooking.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Detroit on have got to get control of these little bandits!! You could stop buying those treats, you could put them in another part of the house. If bugs are coming, they usually come with the food or will find it, no matter where you have it stashed. If you don't buy it your bandits can't do this. If you put somewhere that they can't find it, they might cry and whine about it...let them complain. Don't give in, be fair and firm. You are the Mom and you are in charge of ALL treats and snacks!



answers from Dallas on

That's kind of funny in a way :-)

I actually allow my kids (4 1/2 and 2) free access to snacks. Thee bottom shelf of the pantry and bottom shelf of fridge is theirs. They are filled with raisins, goldfish, fruit cups, pistachios, and various fruits and veggies. The only time I stop them from digging in there is about 30 min to an hour from mealtime so they will eat what I make. It works pretty well. There are some days that they don't touch the shelves at all and there are other days where they can't stay out of it (mostly my 2 yr old son).

Maybe you could do the same and just stock it with things you wouldn't mind them eating or put the other stuff way up high.

Good luck!



answers from Detroit on

When I buy snacks that need to be saved for a special occasion I keep them out of sight and nobody even knows I have them. I keep them hidden inside a coffee can. That way if one of the kids is peeking around in the pantry, they will just think it's coffee and not even look in it. Just be sure to never ever mention it or open it when anyone is around. If they clue in to your secret you can never use it again.



answers from Kalamazoo on

When my youngest did this I stopped buying that sort of things, it stopped fast and I slowly started returning these things only when she started eating when she was supposed to. There were still a few snacks like fruit and veggies. It sounds harsh but the constant snacking instead of eating meals has stopped.



answers from Detroit on

I'd give them a time out. My kids won't eat the healthy food, if they've been snacking all day. If they're hungry an hour before dinner they get some fruit and milk, after that they can wait for dinner. I might pull out some of what's ready for them to eat if they're just soo hungry.

If they won't listen to their time outs, just stop buying the snacks. Let them know that when they can listen to their mom, you'll buy them before hand. If they don't learn to respect you and your rules, why will they respect anyone else in the future. This little thing can turn into a big problem. ..I mean this with great heart, we all face problems with our kids. :)



answers from Dallas on

Plan and simple stop buying it. Also that behavior shouldnt be acceptable and timeout should be inforced.



answers from Houston on

For the most part, I still allow my three year old to eat on demand...just like she did when she was still nursing. I do regulate what it is that she eats and have very little in my house that isn't acceptable. If we have something that is a treat, it might last for a couple of days and then its gone. For instance, she MIGHT have had tortilla chips with her yogurt for

However, she still has to ASK before she eats matter what it is. Of course, if we are close to a meal time (< hour), she is old enough now to wait. You need to attach a consequence. This is not okay. Restrict access and communicate your expectations...they are old enough to understand.



answers from Detroit on

It does not sound like this is any fun for you, or for your kids. They may like to get into the snacks, but I'm sure they don't enjoy you being upset with them afterwards and at meal times.

I would quit buying the snacks. If it's not in the house, they can't eat it. I would just buy just what you need the night before the special treat.

If they're hungry, they will eat the healthier food you give them... eventually. They may rebel by not eating at meals. You'll probably feel bad worrying that they're hungry (if they're not eating at meals or getting into snacks). But you shouldn't worry too much. If they are truly hungry, they will eat.



answers from Detroit on

I guess, don't buy it then. They can't eat what's not there. Good luck!



answers from Detroit on

If I let them, my 5 year old boys would eat everything in one day. I have ended up putting snacky things in a bin (like goldfish crackers, stuff like that) and keep it in the basement. They can help themselves to fruit and pretzels after school. I stopped buying things like cookies and little debbies. We usually make a homemade treat once a week, and we use that as dessert. We also have times where we announce the kitchen is closed. Hope that helps!



answers from Lansing on

First of all donuts are not "terrible". They are a snack. This is not so much about food as it is about control. I put snacks I approved of within reach of growing kids and let them eat. Watch what you buy and if you think donuts are terrible, don't have them available.

Then establish a meal time routine and if they don't eat...oh well they sit and enjoy the conversation. Eventually they will eat when the meal is served. Keep the routine and stick with it.

Wait till they are teenagers and they eat every two hours...and it's not just a snack pack of cheese and crackers either. Teach good habits now and have healthy food and some fun food available.



answers from Detroit on

seriously you need to put a child lock on the door
(like a magnetic one). My son did the same thing. I had to give him his food that only I would give him. He only got healthy stuff. You have to be the one who doesn't bring the food in your house, do not buy it. 2 things happen, your kids start eating healthy because they will be hungry and fruit will feel like candy to them, and 2 you will lose weight because you'll be eating healthy too.
Its a win for everyone.



answers from Detroit on

Quit buying the stuff until they stop their behavior. Or switch where healthy snacks are located with the junk food in the pantry. I'd just quit buying it tho. That sends a message loud and clear.

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