Have you noticed that your toddler's behavior tends to deteriorate towards late morning and late afternoon, 3 to 4 hours after a meal? This may have less to do with the activities your child is engaged in or how long it's been since a nap and more to do with how long it's been since your child has eaten.
Small Tummies, Small Meals, Little Energy
The average toddler's stomach is about the size of their fist - small huh? This is what causes your toddler to have a small appetite when it comes to mealtime - especially since solid foods have been integrated by now and your child is probably at the end or in between growth spurts. Combined, this means your toddler needs less food and he or she can also not fit much food.
However, since your toddler spends his or her days actively exploring the world, he or she does need energy to explore with. Possibly more energy than can be doled out in separate small meals. That's why your toddler can be more moody 3-4 hours after a meal - the energy supply is running out.
Snacking Through The Day
This is where the idea or grazing comes in. Rather than letting your toddler rely on 3 separate meals a day, have him or her eat at frequent intervals between meals, whenever the need arises.
A health way to do this is by creating a "nibble tray." Fill a compartmentalized plate or ice cube tray with small healthy snacks your toddler can nibble on and come back to throughout his or her play. Try cereal, cut fruits and vegetables, nuts, and dried fruits. Remember to fill at least one of the compartments with a healthy dip too, like light peanut butter or mild guacamole. This way your child can keep up his or her energy levels in a healthy way. You will also have to worry less about < ahref="picky_eaters.html">picky eating during meals, since you know you are providing lots of healthy snacks too.