Thursday, January 20, 2011

Our Snack Break - Food & Set-up

Several of you have asked me about the snacks James eats during our daily snack breaks (we have one at 10am and one at 3pm), so I thought I'd write up a post about it. I hope you find it helpful!

First, let me show you a picture of our snack set up:
This is just a drawer in the kitchen next to the pantry. We call it "James' drawer" and this is where we store his dry snacks, bowls, glasses and utensils.

These are drawers inside of the door of the refrigerator. There's always two beverage choices - a jug half full of water (for easy pouring) and usually a can of V8. I don't purchase juice boxes (I find them wasteful and costly). Of course James is welcome to any other beverage in the fridge, but these are the only ones that are at his level. I rotate the other contents somewhat often.

Now, when it comes time for a snack, I tell James he may choose a beverage and ONE of anything in either his refrigerator drawer OR in his pantry drawer. This helps to eliminate the grazing-at-the-buffet effect that's catapulting so many of our children (and us adults!) into obesity. It also provides James with an opportunity to have control over this aspect of his life and for him to know that I trust and respect his choice. All very important things.

We practice Montessori not just in our classroom, but throughout our home. My husband and I are BIG believers in cultivating independence within our children. With regard to food, James is very accustomed to making his own snacks. And I must add here that James prefers to make his own snacks - if ever I attempt to do it for him he'll say, "Mama, I can do it!".

The following is a list of things James can and does prepare on his own. In the past I've shown him how to do these things and I'm always present when he uses any kitchen tools.
::Peel and slice a banana
::Peel and slice a carrot
::Peel an orange
::Peel a hard boiled egg
::Core an apple
::Spread cream cheese or peanut butter onto bread or crackers
::Pour liquid from a pitcher to a glass

When it comes to preparing these foods, I put together any materials he'll need and he takes it from there. Some day we'll get to the point where he'll go around the kitchen to collect whatever he needs (e.g. the corer, peeler or blunt knife) himself, but I'm not comfortable with that just now.

The following is a list of some of our favorite snack items:
::Goldfish, graham, and other kinds of crackers
::Dried fruit/raisins
::Granola bars
::Nuts (we have no allergies)
::Cheese (sliced or string)
::Pretzel sticks
::Mini muffins (or whatever we've baked that Monday)
::Vegetables - James loves raw vegetables: broccoli spears, carrots, celery sticks, spinach leaves, avocado, pea pods etc.
::Fruits: strawberries, grapes, apples, oranges, slices of mango, pineapple or melons, berries
::Pirouette sticks
::Canned fruits

I should note that not all of these food items are available all the time. Depending on where we're at with our groceries, I typically only have about 1/3 of these options available. I do, however, rotate which things I buy to keep his choices interesting.

I should also note that I've prepared some of these items so that they are portion controlled. For example, if James wants to have some Goldfish crackers he will need to use his measuring cup to scoop just ONE scoop out of the container and into his bowl. But, since ONE is not enough of all food items I've also created a little cheat sheet for him to indicate how much of a certain item he's allowed to have.

So there you go - I know to some of you this probably sounds "strict" or whatever, but believe me, it is really just a casual thing since we're all so used to it. And it's not as though we're counting out every single Goldfish cracker - it's really just about giving James some control and parameters to work within. Anyway, I hoped it answered your questions. If you have any other snack time ideas or if you've arranged a food space for your children, please let me know in the comments!

And be sure to take a look at these lovely blog posts at About A Girl and at Sew Liberated to see the self-sufficient food environment they've created for their children. Both were an inspiration to me when I created this space for James.

~Thank you for your comments!~


Dawn said...

I this is great! What wonderful ideas you have to share.

City Sister said...

I love it...i'm now thinking of rearranging things for snack...great ideas!

Anonymous said...

Great snacks. I love the ability to choose and prepare. I need to do this with our dry snacks. The stuff in the fridge Sammy can reach and makes great choices with those. However, I need to get our dry snacks in a place he can get to. They are way to high right now (we don't have a pantry) but maybe a basket he could pull down off of the counter.. hmm definitely going to have to work on that and a way to get the correct portion! Thanks for the great ideas!!

Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

I am so impressed with both what James can do and how healthy his food choices are. This inspires me to rethink our kitchen organization and give Anna more control over her snacks. Thanks for good ideas!

Debbie said...

I love that idea. I started putting the kids' snacks in containers and letting them choose which to eat first, but I kind of got away from it. I like your idea better--particularly having a drawer for his snacks and letting him getting his own. Thanks for the inspiration!

Alison said...

Strict? Not at all! James has so many options here and he's free in his choice, how is that strict?
I do wonder whether he's involved with the buying though? Does he get to come along to the shop and pick out things. I've been seriously slacking where my kids' snack cupboard and drinks are concerned, blame it on December celebrations and a newborn. But your post has motivated me to get this part of their daily lives working again.

Zonnah said...

I do something similar with my little guy. I think he likes knowing he can get his own snacks :-)

Elle Belles Bows said...

I love how you used the mason style jars for the goldfish and such. Yeah for James on the veggies! We have done a slide backwards on that in our home. Hopefully, it will turn back around soon. Kerri

Faith said...

Thank you for your snack info! At our home, my children have a "snack shop" that is open 3 x per day. They are given "money" each morning, and then they must purchase their snacks. The less than healthy snacks are alot of money, and things like fruit or veggies are a steal! So, this way they have some control over their snacks too and they are encouraged to eat the healthier items so they don't run out of money before the day is over!

The Hardin Family said...

I swear you are superwoman! Awesome idea! Thanks for all of the inspiration!

Eva said...

I love this, I've been slowly incorporting ways to get A to make her own snacks, I love how James has his own drawer in the kitchen and fridge. :)

Chrysti said...

I gained some new ideas from this post. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Very neat. Thanks for sharing. What a great idea. My toddler would love this.

Kate @ An Everyday Story said...

What a wonderful way to foster independence. We have just started a snack routine with our 22month old son. He's just learning to slice his own banana and pour a drink. Thanks again for affirming my belief in Montessori.


Counting Coconuts said...

Thank you for your comments!

@Alison: I agree, I don't think it's strict, but I know some believe in not restricting their children's choices at all. :) And yes, James is involved in our weekly shopping trip - he comes with me each time and I always let him select which snacks he'd like for that week.

@Faith: I really like your idea of "buying" snacks - what a fun way to incorporate some math, as well as real-life experience.

Caleb and Leah Schroeder said...

I really like the organization and how that helps keep things neat and tidy. The "one scoop" rule is very clever. The only problem for me is adapting this sort of idea for 4 little ones. I'm not sure I could handle having that many options open for all of my kids.

Theresa Mezo said...

Thank you so much for posting this, Aidan is always helping with his snacks anyways, so I definitely need to incorporate a self serve area for him like you have made for James.
Love all of your nutritious snacks, we were blessed with a veggie lover as well! :)

Teaque said...

Love it! I had not ever really thought much about this (or the water station idea) and now I think I'm going to have to try it! My 2 year old (almost 3) will be in heaven.

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing, Mari-Ann!!! Love this!

Alycia in Va. said...

We have a snack shelf too, but yours is much more organized. We basically have a bunch of healthy foods on the last bin of the pantry cabinet. They have take from it anytime they choose.

Jen said...

OMG this is amazing! So many wonderful ideas, Mari-Ann!! I really need to do something like this for my boys... I know they'd love it. I'm really impressed that James is so good about following his snack "rules". I don't think you're being strict at all, actually the opposite, you're giving him so many choice. Great job, mommy!!!

Unknown said...

I love how you have given some control and choices over to him.

PrettyGirlInAPlaceLikeThis said...

I love this, this is like what i do with my kids, but a little more advanced. I might modify a little! We have been trying to teach our kids portion control for awhile now so that they will grow up healthy!

Ewa said...

I love the way you organized things for James' convinience. It's so cute to observe a child on his way to independence. I must confess I didn't know that broccoli can be eaten raw

Kristín Ósk said...

My son has ADHD - your ideas are brilliant for him - thank you :o)

Julie@teachinggoodeaters said...

I came over from "Keitha's Chaos." My intent was to check out all of the blogs that she awarded the "Most Versitile Blogger," but I have gotten completely stuck on your blog and can't seem to break away- I just keep finding more posts that I want to read. I love this idea, and it's something I have been mulling over lately. I'm hoping that this post was the "push," I needed to finally do it. In reading your post, and many of your other posts, as well, I'm realizing that I need to instill greater independence in my children- particularly when it come to food and their snacks. Thanks so much for this post and for your wonderful blog!

Brandi's Thoughts said...

Absolutely excellent! I have 4 kids ages 5, 4, 2 1/2 & 7 months so this idea is great for encouraging independence, but balanced within limitations. THANK YOU!! This idea might seem crazy to some, but it is a Godsend to me! :)


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