Many kindergarten programs include snack time in the daily routine. This is a great chance for young children to enjoy eating and to chat with their friends. However, it can be a frustrating time for children who have difficulty opening their lunch boxes or food containers. Let’s take a look at some suggestions on packing a snack that is healthy and easy for your child to eat.
At home, you probably serve food to your child on a plate, in a cup, or bowl. To help your child be prepared for snack time at school, serve snacks at home with the containers you will send to school. Show him how to open the container and reach for the food inside. Practise unpacking the snack with a picnic in the backyard, at the park, or even at home.
Lunch Box or Bag
To keep food from moving around, use an insulated lunch bag or box. Although a lunch bag is less sturdy, it is much easier to open and close for a child who has difficulty with zippers. If you have a lunch box with zippers, attach a key chain or piece of yarn to the zipper handle. This will make it easier to grasp and open.
Finger foods and sandwiches can be packed in plastic containers with lids. A clear container will let your child know what is inside. Lids with tabs that extend beyond the container are easiest for children to grab and pull off.
Young children may have difficulty with drinking boxes because the straw is small and the juice will spill if the box is squeezed. Instead, you could buy your child a plastic ‘drinking box’ with an attached straw that folds. You can fill it with juice or water.
For school, it is best to pack finger foods. If your child needs a child-size spoon for his snack, but has trouble gripping it, cover it with a small piece of foam from a hair curler or insulation tubing, or build up the handle by wrapping masking tape around it several times.
If your child is a fussy eater, try to include at least one food item you know your child likes in his snack. This will give him something to look forward to and help him focus on eating the snack.
Some schools do not allow children to bring food containing peanuts or other nuts. You may want to check with your child’s school regarding its policy. If your child has any food allergies, let the school know as soon as possible.
Here are some healthy, bite-sized foods that fit in small containers:
- mini crackers, pita, or cookies
- orange segments
- apple slices (squeeze a bit of lemon juice to prevent browning)
- carrot or pepper slices
- cheese cubes
Packing a sandwich in a container with a lid will prevent it from getting squished. Cutting the sandwich into four pieces will make it easier for your child to handle. Here are some fillings that keep well and do not fall out of sandwiches:
- jam and butter
- sliced cheese and deli meat
- tuna fish salad
Yogurts, Pudding and Jell-O
Yogurt, pudding and Jell-O are sold in child-size servings. These are great snacks if your child is able to peel the seal off and eat with a spoon. Choose a thick yogurt or pudding so that it does not slide off the spoon while your child is trying to eat. Put a sticker on the seal or mark it with the pen to help your child remember where to peel.
Involve Your Child in Preparing Snack
Involving your child in preparing the snack can encourage him to eat with enjoyment. This is a good way to teach your child about healthy eating and give him a chance to practise making choices.
You can create menu cards to give your child some choices when choosing a snack. Paste pictures of two or three available snack items on each card. Each card represents a category of food, such as drinks, fruits and treats. Your child can choose an item from each category.
You can also include your child in packing the snack. He can help you count the items and put them into containers.