The following is a guest post from Maggie Jones Patton and Alexandra Buckley Voris, co-founders of Bitsy’s Brainfood
Last year, my daughter started preschool and that was when it began: the crossfire of junk food, the inpouring of sugar, the onslaught of cookies and cupcakes and lollipops at every occasion, every celebration… seemingly at every turn.
To be fair, it’s not as though I haven’t been part of the problem because let’s face it… who wants to be the mom that kills the bake sale? (Not me.)
Then again, I’ve realized that being snack mom is about the bigger picture; it’s about making a statement and having an impact on the foods served in our children’s schools. And more than anything, it’s about demonstrating to kids the idea that healthy foods are every bit as much “fun” as sugary junk – and that cookies and cake do not a celebration make.
So in an effort to eliminate the guesswork (since let’s face it, cupcakes are nothing if not a cinch), here are a few ideas for pulling off smart, healthy, playful and nut-free eats for the whole class. Snack time is an opportunity for learning, and this is our chance to teach kids good habits that last for a lifetime.
Yogurt Bar with Toppings
Like so many adults (ahem), kids LOVE toppings. So set up a yogurt bar! Bring Dixie cups and spoons for scoops of Greek yogurt (high in protein, low in sugar), and fill bowls with blueberries, strawberries, or other fruit. Then… let it rip!
Here’s another chance to put kids in the driver’s seat– and teach them about eating their colors! Cut up apples, bananas, and seedless grapes, plus any other fruits your kids love. Consider using plastic straws instead of skewers, and have kids design their own kabobs! For a summer-time variation, freeze bananas on sticks – YUM.
Veggie Spring Rolls
Use rice paper wrappers to roll up cucumber, carrot, and other veggies “egg roll” style. The best.
Good things come in FUN packages! Keep it simple with fruits and veggies, but get creative with the packaging: use clothes pins on sandwich baggies to cinch the bag in the middle and make “wings”– a butterfly!
Seed and Fruit Mix
Mix sunflower seeds and dried fruit for a nut-free trail mix! And go beyond snack mom by organizing a “nature walk” for the class. Each child should find several leaves; then use contact paper to make placemats for kids’ healthy snacks.
For little ones, string puffs or Cheerios on yarn and make a healthy alternative to the classic “candy” necklace!
Rice Cake Face
Spread some cream cheese on a rice cake and bring your favorite dried fruits, seeds and veggies. Let the kids decorate their cake and eat it, too!
Quick for Parents, Crafty for Kids
Let’s be honest: Pinterest is both addictive and terrifying. While the fruit and veggie versions of Ernie and Bert are rad, the chances of whipping up 20 of these for a pack of three year-olds is not, shall we say, on the menu. So let the KIDS get creative instead!
Cut up fruits and vegetables, and print out images from Pinterest for inspiration. Give every child a white paper plate for a canvas, and let them use a handful of colorful snacks to make their own shapes and characters! Take a picture of each children’s creation to hang on the wall.
Snack Time Patterns
Begin with a few different combos – like strawberries, blueberries and grapes. Start a pattern on each child’s plate and provide extra room for them to continue.
Bake Sale Refresh
Make it a “snack sale!” Round up your spare change, give a few coins to each child, and “charge” them for their healthy snacks. (We love carrots, blueberries, string cheese, and bowls with little price tags attached.) They’ll learn to count money, and you’ll be one step closer to coming up with a fresh take on that tired sugary staple of school. So smart!
Maggie Jones Patton: Maggie was born and raised in Atlanta GA and is a mother of two. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Virginia and is widely considered an expert in the field of youth service and positive development. She consults for Hasbro Children’s Fund, has served on the New York State Youth Development Team, the Community Advisory Board of METRO New York newspaper, the Executive Committee for both the New York City and the Governor’s New York State Summits on Dropout Prevention, and was the Founding Chair of both the Junior Board for Teach for America in New York City and the Hudson River Park Peers.
Alexandra Buckley Voris: Alex holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master’s degree in Education from New York University. With a background in teaching, curriculum development, experiential education and service learning, Voris currently serves as Chair of the Advisory and Outreach Board for The Carolina Center for Public Service at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as a member of the Board of Directors of Expeditionary Learning Schools Outward Bound and is a trustee of The Lawrenceville School. Combined with Maggie, Alex has nearly two decades of experience working with young people.