In two experiments, 2-5-year-old children's responsiveness to caloric density cues was examined. In a preloading protocol, consumption of fixed volumes of drinks (205 ml in Experiment 1; 150 ml in Experiment 2), sweetened with sucrose, aspartame, aspartame plus low glucose maltodextrin, or a water control, was followed by ad lib consumption from among a variety of foods. Caloric drinks had about 90 kcal in Experiment 1, 65 kcal in Experiment 2. The delay interval between the preload and the ad lib consumption was 0, 30 or 60 minutes. In Experiment 1, 24 4- and 5-year-old children participated in only one delay interval, while in Experiment 2, all 20 2- and 3-year-old children were seen in all conditions. Results revealed evidence of caloric compensation, but no evidence of preload x time delay interaction. In both experiments, aspartame also produced a significant suppression of intake relative to water, primarily due to the pattern at 30 min following the preload. Across conditions, the suppression following aspartame was usually significantly less than that produced by the caloric sweet drinks, providing evidence for postingestive effects. In Experiment 1, suppression of intake was related to the children's preferences for the foods, not to macronutrient content; consumption of nonpreferred foods was most suppressed. Consumption of sweetened drinks as long as 1 hour prior to eating suppressed food intake, and this common feeding practice may also reduce dietary variety.