5 Snacktime Hacks for Your Summer at Home

Author: one tough job

If you give your child a snack and it seems like 20 minutes later, she’s asking for another, you may feel like you’re stuck in Groundhog Day—but you’re not alone. Being at home, especially during times of stress and uncertainty, can upset schedules that seemed relatively easy to maintain under normal circumstances. Unchecked snacking can also make it more difficult to plan your trips to the grocery store during a time when minimizing outings is recommended.

Before implementing a snacktime-control strategy, there are two important things to consider. First, verify that your child is eating at an appropriate frequency for their age group. Physical activity can change your child’s caloric needs as well. If you have additional concerns, it’s best to seek the advice of your pediatrician. Second, it’s important to recognize whether your child is actually hungry, or if his eating habits are an expression of anxiety or boredom. Children look to their parents as an example for behavior, so make sure that you’re modeling good habits for your little ones.

That said, sometimes all you need to get the daytime grazing under control is a little structure. Here are some ways to manage snacktime when you’re at home.

1.) Make an organized, easy-to-read snack schedule.

For school-age kids comfortable with reading and telling time, post a schedule of meals and snack time in an accessible location. Be clear that the kitchen is "closed" outside of those times, cutting down on the number of requests for food.

2.) Put the day’s snacks in a basket.

In this idea, each child’s basket contains all the snacks they’re allowed to eat for that day. Sure, there’s little to stop them from eating everything before 9am – but then they won’t have any snacks for the rest of the day. They’ll quickly learn the difference between hunger and boredom.

3.) Build a “snack station” in your fridge.

You might be busy all morning juggling Zoom calls, and meanwhile, your kids have been making who-knows-how-many trips to the kitchen. It happens! To steer more independent children away from mindless snacking, you can set up a “snack station” full of healthy options front-and-center in your fridge. With nutritious choices more readily available, your kids are more likely to reach for them first!

4.) Give your child a deck of redeemable “snack cards”.

Make “snack cards” and let your kid redeem some of them during the day. Once a card has been redeemed it can't be used again. Most likely, not all will be used in one day, but it gives your child a few choices. You can write out the words or use images for kids who don't read yet.

Color-code the paper by child and return to an envelope to be used the next day. This helps to control snack portions and promote decision-making, such as: “Do I want carrots now? Or a cookie? Am I really that hungry?” This also helps you plan for snacks you know are on hand or can be kept on hand.

Sample card deck with quantity of cards for each option:

  • (3) six baby carrots
  • (2) fruit
  • (2) veggies
  • (2) nuts
  • (1) cookie
  • (1) candy
  • (1) goldfish
  • (1) chips/pretzels

Sometimes, they will try and redeem the whole deck in a day until they figure out that they aren't really that hungry.

5.) Remember hydration.

Children get dehydrated much faster than adults do, and active kids especially need increased fluid intake in addition to calories. When your child gets hungry, make sure you’re providing moderate-temperature (not ice-cold) water or a healthy drink with their snack. A thirsty feeling often means your child is already behind on fluid intake and it can be mistaken as hunger, so make sure that beverages are readily available throughout the day.

See these general recommendations for water intake according to age.

Bonus Tip:

Every once in a while, have an “anything goes” day! Life is about moderation, and during stressful times, it’s important to remember to have fun. Have mac ‘n’ cheese for breakfast, breakfast for dinner, or any wacky snack you can think of in between.

Have a snacktime hack to include? Email us at onetoughjob@childrenstrustma.org.

other articles and videos we love

Summer Safety Tips

We would like all families to have fun and celebrate safely this Summer. Read these tips to help everyone enjoy the season safely.