Looking for ways to make snack time simpler, yet keep it interesting? What about ideas for organizing your kids’ snacks to foster their independence? Today I am chatting all things snacks in our home including what works to keep me sane and my toddler happy!
Through this post, my hope is to provide you with a framework for how to plan, prepare, store and offer snacks to your kid(s). Keep in mind, this is what works for OUR family. I would encourage you to tweak these ideas to meet your family’s unique needs and situation.
When planning snacks for the week, I keep the following three goals in mind:
- Aim for majority real, whole foods with some healthier processed foods in the mix.
- Whole food options may include: fruits, veggies, nuts & seeds, eggs, unsweetened yogurt, etc.
- Healthier processed food options may include: date & nut/seed bars (pictured Skout Organic/RX Bar), organic unsalted rice cakes, whole grain or seed crackers (Mary’s Gone Crackers are a favorite here), grass fed meat sticks, homemade muffins with real food ingredients, homemade/healthy fruit snacks, chia pudding etc.
- Aim to ensure that a protein is included with each snack option so my child stay’s full longer.
- Think of snacks like “mini meals”. I usually start with energy building, nutrient rich foods like fruits or veggies. Then, I seek to pair them with a protein.
- Some of our favorite pairings include: berries w/yogurt, banana w/nut butter, veggie sticks w/hummus, almonds w/dried fruit, tomatoes w/goat cheese, etc.
- Aim to provide my child with variety in his options.
- Doing this a) consistently exposes him to different tastes and textures and b) ensures the foods that he consumes provide a diverse array of nutrients to his body as well.
- Have a child who’s hesitant to try a variety of foods?
- Try pairing a “new” or “more hesitant” food with one they enjoy at first.
- Have them help you pick out a few “new” options to try at the grocery store. When kids have a say, they are often more likely to give it a whirl.
When preparing snacks, I do my best to work smarter, not harder. I essentially find myself preparing our snacks one of two ways:
- Grocery Day: This is the day I do most snack prep. As I am putting things away in the pantry/fridge, I will usually take some time to chop up a few of the fruits and veggies, snag a few nuts and seeds from the mix, and begin combining them with one another in a variety of containers.
- Throughout the Week: While I prepare the majority of my child’s snack options up front, I do find throughout the week that some others naturally come about. Here are some examples of times this may occur:
- Leftover homemade muffins or pancakes from breakfast? Pack one or two up with some seeds, berries, etc.
- Did your child leave a few apple slices on their lunch plate? Pack them up for snack later and pair them with some nut/seed butter.
- Extra salad greens or Kale chips from dinner? Pack them up with some whole grain/seed crackers or an egg.
Doing these two things consistently, usually gives us more than enough options ready-to-go for the week.
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When it comes to snack storage, my goal is to keep things organized and easily accessible to my child. I do this in a few ways:
- Small containers. I prefer using glass. Not only does this avoid the potential of harmful chemicals like BPA, phthalates, PVC, etc. from plastics leaching into our food, but these containers last longer as well. We use a combo of mini mason jars, pyrex, and our favorite Wean Green glass snack cubes. If you are worried about them breaking, stainless steel snack containers or silicone storage bags are also great options.
- Personalized Snack Bins. Now you certainly don’t have to go this far, but in adding my child’s photo with the tag “Mis Meriendas” (My Snacks) to a few bins, there is no question where he can find them. And all snack options for the week are housed within these bins. Specified drawers or shelves would work just as well, especially if you have more than one child. Just be sure your child(ren) know where to look, and it’s clear what’s what.
- Accessible Snacks. In order to foster more independence in their selection process, it helps to ensure snacks are placed at a level that kids can reach. We store ours on the first shelf of our fridge and in our lazy susan so that I no longer need to be the “gatekeeper” or “server” of snacks.
While I want to foster my child’s independence and value his choices, as a parent, I also believe it is important to have a few guidelines around “snack time” in our home. Keep in mind, these, in particular, may look different for each family. This is just what works in our home at the moment. They may shift as my child gets older. And one may even need to differentiate guidelines for different kids.
Our Snack Bin “Rules”
- The child is in charge of choosing their snack.
- Snacks must be chosen during “snacking hours”.
- For us, this is basically between 9-10am and 3-4pm each day. This gives enough of a window between snack and meal times throughout the day so that my child has time to build “hunger” before meals.
- Snacks can’t be repeated throughout the day. Ie. If my child selects a “bar” as his morning option, a different type of snack must be selected in the afternoon. This is namely to keep him from sticking to that same “favorite” snack over and over again. I’ll be honest, though, if he wants broccoli in the morning and the afternoon, then I’d say have at it kid! This one just kind of depends…
- An additional snack may be chosen if still hungry, but the first choice must be eaten (or at least the majority of it), prior to another selection being made. Because my child is the one making the choice, I feel more than comfortable saying, “You chose this snack option, so this is now what is available to eat”, particularly if he takes one bite and tells me he “wants something else”. At the same time, if he gobbles it down, and as we say in our house “his tummy is still desiring more”, then he is welcome to act on that.
- (Aside from a few pantry items) Snack bins must be “cleared” out weekly prior to new items being added. This is mainly just to cut back on any food waste, and teach my child the value of this practice as well. Oftentimes, if there are still little odds and ends leftover at the end of the week, I will create a “share plate” with all of the items together for him and I to enjoy together.
I’ll be honest all, before implementing many of the above ideas, I was a parent that was often not a fan of snack time. Many days I felt like it was a battle of the wills – me presenting options and my child not wanting them or him telling me what he wanted which often was the same thing day-in-day-out. Having a system like this in place has made snack time so much simpler, organized and pleasant for all of us. And I hope it’s helpful for you too.