Self-Serve Snack Station for Kids

If you’re like most parents, hearing the words “Can I have a Snack?” is continual. On any given day I am asked this question three, four, or five times… sometimes more. Some days I cannot function enough to know if the kids have already had a snack, or if this is the first one.

Now that our kids are older, it’s less boredom eating, and more feeding two growing boys that play sports. If there’s one thing that friends and family were right about, it’s that boys WILL eat you out of house and home. After baseball practice the boys will tear through the cabinets looking for anything they can eat. Seriously, think ravenous bears that have been hibernating all winter and can speak English. It’s really a scary sight. Some days it’s every Normandin for themselves.

In order to keep the kids full while not losing my mind, telling them they can have a snack for the sixth time today, I started a snack system that allowed the kids to be self-service. I created two snack stations for the kids: one full of healthy foods, and one full of “fun” foods. I keep the healthy station in the fridge and the fun foods in the pantry.

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Healthy snack station with peanuts, hardboiled eggs, carrots, celery, and yogurt

Healthy Snack Station:
Individual portioned in snack-sized Ziploc bags to ensure portion control
Hard-boiled eggs
Carrot sticks
Apple slices
Low-fat String cheese
Yogurt
Celery sticks
Grapes
Natural applesauce
Sliced Peppers and Hummus
Mixed Fruit
Salt-free peanuts

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“Fun” Snack Station with treats

“Fun” Snack Station:
Rice Krispy Treats
Animal Crackers
Fruit Snacks
Granola Bars
Veggie Strays
Pretzels

The rule of thumb for snacks is the healthy snack station is fair game. You can have healthy snacks throughout the day, as many as you “need”. Keep in mind my kids are old enough to know if they are hungry and want something to eat. Also, I pre-portion all of the healthy snacks into Ziplocs to ensure sizes are appropriate for the kids. In general the kids eat one to two of these snacks during the summer, and one during the school year.

The “fun” snack station is less lenient. The kids are allowed to have only one fun snack each day. Whether they eat that fun snack in the morning, afternoon, or as a dessert is up to them. The bottom line is only one fun snack each day, period. A lot of times the kids will save these snacks and eat them as a desert, since in general we don’t serve desert each day.

The way to execute the self-serve snack is really in the planning. Each Sunday after I grocery shop I prep and fill the snack boxes. I make sure to count the portion amounts that I’ve prepared so I know how many are available. Also, I try to make the portion quantities even. For instance, if I am making apple slices this week I count out nine packs of apple slices. I know we have three kids, and each kid can have three packs throughout the week. The same goes for the fun snacks. If I make chocolate chip cookies and each kid can have one cookie a day, I need twenty-one cookies or a combination of cookies and other treats.

Having the snacks self-service and healthy have eliminated me being asked if it’s snack time. It’s been so nice knowing the kids are eating healthy and yummy snacks, and they feel great about choosing their own food.

Bonus! This system also works wonders for making school lunches. Part of our kids’ chores throughout the school year is making their own lunches. They will use the snack stations to build their packed lunches. You’ll need to add more portions and snack quantities if you’re using the snack stations for lunches. Also, I suggest putting a limit on snacks for school lunches. Last year Asher packed carrots, celery, grapes, and berries without a sandwich and no real source for protein. He was starving when he came home! I now have a limit of two or three healthy snacks (depending on what they’re packing and which kid it is), one fun snack, a sandwich and a drink for lunch each day!

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