Number of Daily Snacks Parents Offer Children
Canadian parents are giving their children 2.3 snacks per day on average. While there has not been specific data collected regarding what influences parents' decisions as to how many snacks they give, it can be inferred that they are influenced by official public information (e.g. government recommendations) and possibly by the wants of their children.
In order to answer your question I first searched for pre-compiled data on how many snacks parents/caregivers in Canada typically serve their children (ages 2-12) each day, as well as data on what goes into the decision about how many snacks to have. First, I looked through academic papers that have focused specifically on these areas. However, I can confirm that this area has yet to be focused on, either for Canada or for the US. Next I looked through recently published online articles and news stories, and finally I looked for information from national institutions such as the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (US). However, again I found no data available. I believe that this is because research on the number of snacks given and reasons for this is quite niche, and data hasn't been collected yet. Most research in this area focuses on types of snacks given, and calorific intake from snacks.
Below I have used the available data to triangulate estimations to these questions. I have used data that relates to Canadian children and snacking, but have had to use statistics that refer to slightly different age groups of children. I have also made inferences about how parents make decisions, seeing as there is no quantitative or qualitative data on this. Finally, I have also provided extra, related information that may be of interest.
Research has found that during school hours, Canadian children consume on average 175 calories from "other" foods that are typically minimally nutritious snacks such as sugar-sweetened beverages, candy bars, and salty packaged snacks. This is 23.5% of the 746 calories that are consumed on average per child during the school-day.
The study looked at Canadian children aged 6–17 years. While this research is not specifically about how many daily snacks parents offer, we can infer that to some extent, that the parents have sway over what snacks their children are eating at school. Therefore, we know that parents may be happy to offer enough snacks to make up a significant portion of their child's daily food intake.
In younger Canadian children, 18 months to 5 years, snacking is estimated to account for a third of the child's calorific intake. A recent study found that packaged cookies, fish crackers and granola bars are most popular snack types that Canadian parents are putting in their children's lunch boxes.
A 2017 study on 52 children with an average age of 3.4 years found that 96% of children snacked daily, and they consumed an average of 2.3 snacks per day. As this study was on young children we can conclude that it was the parents who were in charge of making these snacks accessible to them. Therefore, for children with an average age of 3.4 years, Canadian parents are serving them 2.3 snacks per day.
In fact Ottawa Public Health advises that children are given 2-3 snacks daily. Given that this is what research has found parents are giving their children (2.3) this may mean that parents are influenced by official information in deciding how many snacks to give their children.
Research shows that Canadian parents' perceptions of their children's diet is likely to be skewed. Parents have been found to commonly report that their child's diet is excellent, despite the fact that "only a fraction of children were meeting the recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption, and many parents reported high sugar sweetened beverage consumption". While this study did not specifically look into what goes into the parents' decision about how many snacks to give their children, it can be assumed that their skewed perception that their children's diet is perfect regardless of the truth, may lead to them being lenient with the amount of snacks they allow their children to consume, regardless of whether this is healthy or not.
Parents may also be influenced by their children when it comes to deciding how many snacks they offer them. A recent study has found that over 90% of adverts facing Canadian kids are for processed food and drinks. The most common advertisements are for Pop Tarts, Froot Loops and Frosted Flakes, McDonald’s Happy Meals, Lunchables and Red Bull. Kids are being exposed to a “very, very high amount” of food and drink marketing, according to Potvin Kent, assistant professor at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Medicine. This may mean that due to this bombardment of advertising persuading children to want to consume these processed foods, the children may be demanding their parents often for these sorts of treats. This may influence parents' decisions to give them more snacks.
POSSIBLE CONTINUED RESEARCH
As the exact data that you required is not publicly available, and inferences have been made from the above data, I have provided ideas of other avenues of research that you may want to explore. For instance, I have found that there is much data available on the kinds of snacks Canadian parents are giving their children, and also in the attitudes that parents have to their children's diets. For example, I found that Canadian parents are being criticized for not focusing on providing their kids with healthy snacks in their packed lunches for school. You may wish to understand more about this side of snacking in Canadian children.
To sum up, I have found that Canadian parents are giving their children about 2.3 snacks per day. Their decision to do this is likely influenced by official public information (e.g. government recommendations) and possibly by the wants of their children. I have also found that it is likely that Canadian parents have an unrealistically optimistic outlook on how they perceive their children's diets, this may prevent them from making healthy choices when it comes to the number of snacks they allow.