The Ministry of Health has advised fasting parents not to neglect young children's health during Ramadan.
Ministry of Health spokesman Khaled Mirghalani told Arab News: “It has been noticed some parents who are fasting do not prepare adequate meals for children during Ramadan, neglecting them all day until it is time for them to break the fast."
He added that it is not advisable to force small children to fast because not being allowed to eat regular meals can be very damaging to their health.
He said: “Small children especially need vitamins and nutrients to allow them to grow properly and since it is not mandatory for them to fast until they are older, they should be kept healthy, even during Ramadan.”
Parents are being advised during Ramadan to allow young children to sleep in the morning and then to have their breakfast around noon, followed by a light lunch in the mid-afternoon.
Saudi mother-of-four Abeer Al-Madani said: “I usually feed my three-year-old son and six-year-old daughter a regular-sized breakfast and then pack them a sandwich and snack as a light lunch before all of us sit down to break our fast at sunset.”
She said her older children usually fast.
However, other mothers say their young children insist on following the example of their older siblings and fast anyway.
Samia Al-Otaibi said: “My eight-year-old son refuses to eat or drink anything I give him, saying that he is fasting.
“I have explained he can fast a few days but needs to eat other days to stay healthy.”
Parents admitted it is easy to neglect or simply forget about their smaller children, as they are tired doing extra chores during Ramadan.