On Becoming Pre-Toddlerwise has some great tips on snacks. Snacks are something I think are often very different from home to home, even among homes where parenting styles are similar. This is just fine; a snack is used when you need it, and the need for it varies from home to home.
Remember to start as you mean to go on. Before you start "snack time," be sure you think through what you want snack time to be. Pre-toddlerwise says "The best snacks will be low in sugar and salt" (page 59). I agree with that. Healthy snacks are the way to go.
"A snack is a snack" (page 60). A snack is not lunch nor is it dinner. It is not a meal. This means it is not large. You don't want the snack so large that the child will not eat the next meal. If your child isn't eating well for the meal following a snack, this does not mean that your child does not need a snack. It simply means your child needs a smaller snack.
This is really where "snack time" differs from household to household. For some, snacks happen in the morning between breakfast and lunch. For others, in the afternoon right after the afternoon nap. For still others, it happens at both times.
For us, snack time is in the morning. This is our longest stretch between meals. In the afternoon, the younger children wake up from nap and we eat dinner soon after.
If you have a late breakfast, you might not do a morning snack. You also most likely wouldn't do a morning snack if your child still takes a morning nap (mine didn't snack when taking a morning nap).
If you have dinner late, you will need to do an afternoon snack. We have dinner between 5-5:30, so it is easy to make it there for the children, especially since most of the afternoon is spent sleeping.
Do snack time when your child needs it. And keep in mind, this time will change over the years. It can be mornings at one age, afternoons at another, and after school at another.
Here are some rules to consider with snacks from Pre-toddlerwise (page 60).
1-Use in moderation (discussed above)
2-Do not use food to influence behavior. Though I must say, sometimes this is what we do. In church, for example, when we have a child with us for 3 hours straight, we let the child eat as desired. This is done in consideration of the context. In order to help the child be as pleasant as possible for the benefit of others (and of course ourselves!), we let the child eat snacks.
3-Do not use food to pacify sad emotions.
4-Keep snacking place consistent. A highchair/booster/table is wise.
5-Do not let your child wander the house eating food.
6-Offer snacks in the afternoon after nap (as a general suggestion)
Snacks are different from treats. Here are just some ideas to get your mind rolling on what to serve for snacks:
- Whole-grain cereals
- Graham crackers
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