SELF-SERVE SNACK CABINET
SNACKS. ALL THE SNACKS.
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 and cleaning up from a snack that your child neeeeeeded? I have some tips to help out. While I can’t claim to solve all of the snacking woes (because then I would be a genius), I can show you how we organize our snacks to make eating them a bit of a more independent endeavor. I will also share some suggestions on how to maneuver those snack time meltdowns.
Snacks can be tricky. I know that most parents struggle with them at some point or another. There is so much negotiating, preparing, cleaning up, and then doing it all over again. I think we can all recall a time when our child wanted a certain snack, let’s just say a banana. We get the banana, peel it and procure it to our hungry child. Then we are met with the wails.. “NOOOOOO! I want a CUT banana.” Well, okay. You take the banana back, peel and slice, hand it to your child on a pink plate. “NOOOOOO! I wanted it whole and on a blue plate!.” Just for giggles, let’s say you actually switch to the blue plate. What do you think would happen next? “NOOOOO! I want it cut!” And so on and on and on….
All children will exercise their independence at some point and we will all go through this kind of exchange with our children. It happens. They are learning and growing and this is part of the deal.
When my children were small, I reacted to this kind of scenario like this:
Mom: You seem hungry. Would you like a banana or a clementine?
Mom: That sounds good. I might have some banana too. I am going to slice this one in half. Some for me, some for you.
Cut the banana in half, leaving the peel on. Put out two identical plates, one half on each, and invite my child to come sit with me.
Mom: Which one would you like? I am going to peel my banana. Would you like me to help you get started with yours or would you like to do it yourself? I’ll put his butter knife here in case you want to cut yours. I am going to eat mine whole.
Do you see how the above scenario avoids the crazy? Now, trust me, I KNOW that you cannot always peacefully sit with your child and quietly eat a banana. But the identical plates, the calm nature, and the sitting with your child to eat changes the vibe. Giving them the chance to peel or cut it themselves takes the fight out of it.
Let’s try another scenario:
You pick up your three year old from morning preschool. You are feeling pretty good because you actually remembered to grab a snack for your child to eat in the stroller on the way home. Hurray! Winning! You arrive and collect your child with the other parents and begin buckling her in and handing out the snack. The mama next you you gives her child goldfish. You hand your child pretzels. Uh oh.
Child: I WANT goldfish!! I HATE pretzels.
You can see that your child is overtired from school and past the point of hungry. WHY is it never easy?!
Here’s what I would do…..
Mom: Aw, man! You really wished you had goldfish like Emma, and I brought pretzels instead. Maybe next time I can bring goldfish.
Mom hands child pretzels and child tries to throw them in anger. Mom takes the pretzels.
Mom(calm and matter of fact): I see how disappointed and hungry you are but I will not allow you to throw food. Ill keep the pretzels in my bag while we walk home, but let me know if you change your mind and want to eat them.
Strolls home and does not engage in the snack fight… Later that afternoon, when child is fed and rested, revisit the scenario.
Mom: When I picked you up from school today you were so disappointed about the snack that I brought for you. I brought pretzels, but you wished you had goldfish like Emma. Remember that? I’m wondering if you would you like to pick a snack now and put it in my bag for tomorrow when I pick you up? That way YOU can be in charge of which snack you get after school.
THREE TIPS TO AVOID THE SNACK BATTLE WITH KIDS:
Only buy food you are okay with your child eating. If you don’t want them snacking on potato chips and cookies, don’t buy them. If you want those items for yourself, keep them up high and out of sight.
Be consistent about snacks and meals. When exactly is snack time? After school? Post nap-time? In the stroller or only at the table? Define that and then keep it as consistent as possible.
Have water available for your child all the time. Thirst is often masked as hunger making your child think he wants a snack when he’s actually thirsty. Additionally, it is great to get your child in the habit of drinking lots of water.
HOW OUR SNACK CABINET WORKS:
Like most things in our home, we use limits and expectations to manage the snack cabinet.
We talk about the snack cabinet as OPEN or CLOSED. When it is our set snack time, I will say the snack cabinet is OPEN and you may choose a snack you want to eat. If you are still hungry after you finish, you may choose a second snack.
I buy healthy-ish snacks that I feel are appropriate and 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 don’t 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.
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 store scissors in there so that they can open everything themselves.
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. Sometimes, I will say, “choose a fresh snack from the fridge and then you may choose a dry snack from the snack cabinet.”
The snack cabinet is most in demand during the after school 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. Having the snack cabinet is so useful when I have a house full of kids!
HOW TO MANAGE LITTLE ONES AND THE SNACK CABINET:
My youngest is six, but, until last year, she had to ask before going into the cabinet. We would have a conversation about whether we are close to a meal-time and whether she had consumed enough fresh snacks that day. Think… less of a negotiation and more of an honest conversation. Once we decided that the snack cabinet was “open” for her, she was free to choose whatever she wanted.
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.