Did Someone Say Snack Time? Tips for Getting Kids to Look Forward to Snack Time Again
Most adults think that we should eat 3 meals and 2-3 snacks per day, but kids focus only on what they want right now. Many adults fall into food ruts, and become discouraged offering the same 3-4 snack foods. Kids can become more demanding to get their favorite foods, less brave trying new foods, and more resistant to snack time. Healthy eating includes being responsive to hunger cues, having a variety of foods for good nutrition, and helping kids predict what is going to happen. Here are a few ways to encourage kids to be excited about snack time.
Let them help with food prep! Don’t correct them when something isn’t done neatly or exactly right. Find a way to let them help wash produce, stir, pour, and serve foods. Help them get up to countertop height, use various utensils, containers, or cups to keep things fun.
It’s ok if they only try a bite or two. Don’t rush them to commit to taking a bite. Most kids know how to bite off and chew, and simply need extra time to smell it, watch other’s reactions to the taste, and safely make their decision. Don’t overdo the drama trying to convince them into taking a taste, as kids quickly assume you’re worried they’ll refuse it.
Never force kids to eat, or punish them if they don’t finish the portion. It is surprising to many parents that a tablespoon or an ounce is a child’s portion for many foods! Teachers know that kids are offered food every few hours, so they will not starve if they refuse a snack option.
Teach kids about their food allergies! Make sure they know to ask if there is a new food offered at school, play group or any social outing. Encourage them there may be substitutions vs the main menu. Help them to feel confident trying new foods, and safe when they ask an adult first. Make sure that they have an Epi pen in their backpack if prescribed, and that it is not an option when needed.
Prepare snack size portions in baggies for ease of grab & go; this increases their sense of portability. Kids feel happy having their own container, and they tend to finish their portions in a baggy vs having to sit at a table. This also discourages becoming attached to a specific brand, and reduces the opportunity for them to demand more when the box is in view. This also supports parent-determined portions vs kids’ expectations to finish the container.
Establish a Pre-snack routine: a sequence of washing hands, passing out napkins, choosing a favorite plate, getting a drink, etc. This helps them to predict they’re coming to the table for food; and increases their acceptance of snack vs refusing simply because they wanted the purple plate….
Offer them a variety of food textures, colors and food groups to avoid getting stuck in food ruts. Kids respond well to theme oriented snacks, such as choosing orange foods (fruit, veggies, dips, juices, dried foods), or same shaped foods (long cheese sticks, carrot sticks and pretzels, or turkey pepperoni slices, banana slices and Townhouse crackers).
Related: Trying New Foods
Keep any dips in a separate container from the food. This may be a dixie cup, small shot glass, or in a cupcake paper. Many adults do not like the watery residue from condiments, sauces, wet yogurt, applesauce, etc. touching their food either.
Some of the best memories happen when we get messy! It’s ok for kids to touch their food, smell it, or use both hands to check it out. It’s also ok for kids to spit a bite out! It’s an opportunity to praise them for taking a bite. It is an accomplishment to bite off a larger food, or chew a bite, even if they change their mind and want to spit it out.
Always end on a good note: even if they didn’t like the food, or finish what you gave them, have them end on a positive note by putting dishes in the sink, returning items to the refrigerator, or throwing away their trash. This discourages leaving the table frustrated, and teaches them to end the snack feeling accomplished vs discouraged by a food refusal.
Jami Growney is an Occupational Therapist, a Pediatric Feeding Specialist, and a single Mom of two. She is also a provider of Continuing Education for Feeding Therapy. She can be contacted at 913.961.3663 or email@example.com. She is available at Dr. Deb’s Center for Child & Family Development at Town Center Plaza in Leawood, KS.
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