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Mum explains why she gives her kids dinner at 3pm

Watch: 'I feed my kids dinner at 3pm every day – here is why'

A mum has shared her reasons for feeding her children their dinner at 3pm every day.

Aimee Connor, 38, says she opts to prepare food for her four kids so early to help prevent "over stimulation" and to "eliminate the chaos" associated with a later evening meal.

The part-time nurse describes how she found her little ones were always hungry by 3pm when her eldest daughter got home from school.

The family were already having an early dinner around 4.30pm so parents Aimee and Shay, 42, a building designer, could get the kids to sleep by 6pm or 7pm.

But until then she Aimee found her kids – Mahli, seven, Indi, five, Bili, three, Bodhi, one – would get irritable so she would give them unhealthy snacks while she was cooking.

Having filled up on snacks, however, Aimee found the children then weren’t eating their tea.

Aimee Connor says she feeds her children at 3pm so that they are less over stimulated. (Aimee Connor/SWNS)
Aimee Connor says she feeds her children at 3pm so that they are less over stimulated. (Aimee Connor/SWNS)

To combat the problem, the mum-of-four from Wollongong, Australia, decided to move dinner forward so her kids eat a full meal - such as pizza or spaghetti bolognaise at 3pm – and healthy snacks just before bed.

"When they got home they wanted to snack," Aimee explains. "I reached for easy and non nutritious snacks, but when I served dinner they weren’t hungry.

"I started to prepare dinner before I picked up the kids, so when they all came through the door it was all there ready."

While she appreciates such an early meal time might not work for other families she says moving dinner time has been beneficial for them.

"It’s not ideal for most people but it works for us," she explains.

Aimee found her kids were getting irritable and she would give them unhealthy snacks while she was cooking. (Aimee Connor/SWNS)
Aimee found her kids were getting irritable and she would give them unhealthy snacks while she was cooking. (Aimee Connor/SWNS)

Aimee says the family have always been early eaters in a bid to get the children asleep on time.

"Because they are little we are quite strict with bed time," she explains.

Aimee is also conscious of that her daughter, Mahli, who is autistic, finds dinner time stressful.

"She has a lot of anxiety when it comes to meal time," she explains.

"I’ve been through periods when she doesn’t eat at all."

To try to improve the problem Aimee makes four separate meals for her children – cooking easy food such as chicken schnitzel and chopped potatoes for her youngest and steak and rice for Mahli.

In order to fit in the meal preparation Aimee finds time to cook the meals earlier in the day before reheating it at 3pm.

"Sometimes I’m cooking as early as 10.30am," she explains.

"It’s just when I get a minute."

Aimee says an earlier dinner has made a huge difference to the children. The family pictured together. (Aimee Connor/SWNS)
Aimee says an earlier dinner has made a huge difference to the children. The family pictured together. (Aimee Connor/SWNS)

Having shared her unusual meal time on TikTok Aimee says other parents were confused by the family's decision.

"People asked whether the children were getting hungry before bed," she says.

"They have breakfast at 6.30am and lunch about 11am.

"Then they have bed time toast at around 6pm before they go to bed."

Aimee says she also gives her kids yoghurt and fruit in the evening.

She says the new routine has kickstarted a massive change in her children.

"They used to come home all over stimulated," she explains.

"It eliminates that extra chaos.

"I had mum guilt that they were just eating rubbish.

Aimee pictured with daughter Indi, five. (Aimee Connor/SWNS)
Aimee pictured with daughter Indi, five. (Aimee Connor/SWNS)

No one wanted to do anything after school. They just wanted to decompress.

"Now they are doing that while eating and have a better mental state."

And the mum has some advice for other parents who are thinking about switching up their own meal times.

"Do what works for you," she says.

"You don’t have to follow what everyone else is doing.

"As long as people are eating that is 50% of the stress."

Health benefits and challenges of an early dinner time

According to psychologist Barbara Santini considering the timing of children's meals requires a thoughtful approach.

"The delicate balance of deciding the optimal timing for children's meals is akin to orchestrating a symphony, where each element must be in perfect harmony," she explains.

"The conventional dinner time, often aligned with adults' schedules, may not always cater to the natural rhythms and needs of children. Moving dinner to an earlier hour can be a strategic move, aimed at aligning meal times more closely with children’s physiological hunger cues and energy levels, thereby fostering a healthier relationship with food and eating habits."

Santini says there are some potential benefits of moving dinner time earlier including mitigating unhealthy snacking.

"An earlier dinner can strategically undercut the predilection for unhealthy snacking in the late afternoon, a common battleground for many parents," she explains.

"By satisfying children’s hunger with a nutritious meal, the allure of high-sugar or processed snacks diminishes, promoting a more balanced dietary intake.

Cultivating a serene mealtime atmosphere is another potential plus point.

"Shifting dinner to an earlier time circumvents the peak times of hunger and fatigue, reducing mealtime tantrums and fostering a positive dining experience that encourages mindful eating and family bonding."

Eating earlier could also potentially enhance the quality of a child's sleep.

"The timing of meals plays a crucial role in the circadian rhythms that govern sleep," Santini explains. "An early dinner allows for adequate digestion before bedtime, reducing the risk of sleep disturbances and contributing to a more restful night's sleep."

While there are some positives to an early dinner time shift, there are also some challenges including addressing a nutritional gap.

"A longer interval between dinner and the next day's breakfast necessitates strategic planning to ensure nutritional needs are met," Santini advises.

"This may involve incorporating a healthy, light snack later in the evening to bridge the gap without undermining the benefits of an early dinner."

An early dinner could also involve the adjusting of family routines.

"This might involve reevaluating extracurricular activities, homework routines, and bedtime rituals to maintain a balanced and harmonious daily flow," Santini explains.

Santini recommends ensuring that an earlier dinner does not isolate children from important family or social engagements.

"In adopting an earlier dinner time for children, it is vital to approach this change with flexibility and attentiveness to the child's cues and needs," she explains. "The aim is to nurture not only a healthy body but also a healthy relationship with food, family, and social norms."

Just as eating earlier could have some benefits for sleep, it could also impact bedtime in a not so positive way.

"Feeding children early could lead to night wakings in the children as they may get hungry in the night," suggests Naomi Hilliard child sleep consultant from Catchinglittledreams.co.uk.

She recommends a good hearty meal at the usual time 5pm-6pm to promote healthy sleep patterns.

"However, if you’re inclined to feed your children at 3pm you might want to give them a healthy snack, such as a banana, before bed to help promote Melatonin which is the sleepy hormone."

Additional reporting SWNS.