Let’s talk about SNACK.
Do you ever feel like your child wants a snack EVERY SINGLE SECOND? Are you constantly shopping for, prepping and then serving/ cleaning up snack? I have some tips to help out. While I can’t claim to solve all of the snacking woes, I can show you how we organize our snacks to make eating them a bit of a more independent endeavor.
Meet… our self-serve snack cabinet. If you’ve been following along with me for a while, you know our family has an open-ended art cabinet. But did you know we have a snack one too?! Snacks can be tricky. I know a lot of parents who struggle with them- the negotiating, the preparing, cleaning up, and then doing it all over again. One way we battle this is with this self-serve station.
In our snack cabinet, you will find a variety of shelf-stable foods that lean towards health (no candy) but aren’t strictly health food. Usually there are pretzels, popcorn, nuts, fruit pouches, snack bars, seaweed packs, olives, and dried or dehydrated fruits. I also keep mini water bottles, or a small pitcher of water and cups.
I also store scissors and a marker in there. Why? The scissors are so that they can open everything themselves. The marker is to write their initial on their disposable water bottle so that they can refill it all day without taking another one. Also helpful when playdates are happening.
Logistics of the snack cabinet:
We almost always have a variety of washed and cut fruit and vegetables in the fridge. My children are mostly healthy eaters, and they enjoy raw veggies and fruit. If that is available, they will almost always grab what’s in the fridge before heading into the snack cabinet.
The snack cabinet is most in demand during the afterschool hours. On most days, I prepare a tray of fresh snacks for when the kids get home ravenous from school. I’ll put cheese, crackers, fruit, veggies and some sort of dip out. They chomp on that and then grab a snack from the snack-cabinet.
A lot of people ask me how I keep the kids from eating everything at once, or how to limit it. The truth is, I don’t. I have always come at it from the place that if you are hungry, you should listen to your body and eat. If you are thirsty, you should drink (unless we are on a long car trip in which case I am CRAZY and don’t let them drink a thing! Another story for another post).
I buy healthy-ish snacks that I feel are appropriate an I trust my kids to eat what their body needs. I don’t buy candy and junk food that I would need to put limits on. If I do buy junk food, it doesn't go in the self-serve snack cabinet.
Of course, I do not want the children digging into the snack cabinet ten minutes prior to putting dinner on the table, or right before we are about to eat lunch. For the most part, they know that. If they forget, I will remind them. When I don’t want them snacking I will say, “The snack cabinet is CLOSED right now. It’s almost dinner!”. Sure, I get groans and annoyed responses, I’m okay with that.
My four-year-old is another story. She has to ask before going into the cabinet. I like to have a conversation with her about whether we are close to a meal-time and whether she has had enough fresh snacks that day. It is less of a negotiation and more of an honest conversation. Once we decide that the snack cabinet is “open” for her, she is free to choose whatever she would like.
Because we have a self-serve snack cabinet, I almost never hear, “Mom, I need a snack.”They already know where to go and what to do.
For reference, my oldest child is ten, followed by an eight-year-old and almost five-year-old. We have had the snack cabinet in use since my oldest was just three years old.