Getting tired of hearing the words, “Mom, I’m hungry; will you make me a snack?” Yeah, us too. Oh sure, there’s nothing wrong with making your kid a snack, but day in and day out it gets old. Not to mention that if you’re solely in charge of the food, the control is all in your hands. Why not give your kids a little control and make them feel more empowered (and self-sufficient)?
The basic idea is you’ll need to set aside an area of the kitchen that’s a “free zone” for “anytime” food. For most families, it’ll be in the bottom drawer of your refrigerator and/or the bottom shelf of the cupboard. You tell your kids that whenever they want a snack they can have whatever they want from the bottom drawer, and from then on it’s in their hands.
In our well-stocked bottom refrigerator drawer (it’s not always like this, but we filled it up for photo purposes), the kids will find a container filled with watermelon and cantaloupe cubes; another container with carrot and celery sticks; and then string cheese, blueberries, grapes, cherry tomatoes, and clementines. The grapes and blueberries are not washed – we don’t want them to spoil – but the kids know that if they take some they’ll need to wash it, and that’s a job they love to do. The cheese is something they probably shouldn’t have in excess, but knowing our kids, they’re not likely to eat more than one at a time anyway.
In the bottom shelf of our pantry we keep a large Tupperware container filled with Cheerios – they double as an “anytime” snack and also as breakfast for those early-morning risers who don’t want to bother Mom or Dad. We tried putting the milk into a small container on the bottom shelf of the fridge but, a few messy accidents later, we decided to wait until the kids were a wee bit older before putting them in charge of pouring liquids. They can, however, get water whenever they want from the little dispenser in the door of the fridge.
That brings us to the last part: At least some of the cups, plates, and flatware need to be accessible to little hands. You don’t need to have everything out in the open, but if you can have just a few bowls and spoons available, your kids will be able (and proud) to serve themselves.
Once you’re set up, your little chefs should be able to fend for themselves when hunger strikes. Score one for kids learning to solve their own problems, and score one for the mom who now has just a little more time to spare.