Why You Should Make a Snack Drawer for Your Kid

Give them some snacking independence.

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May 21, 2020
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kid looking in snack drawer

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At this time last year, getting my then-two-and-a-half-year-old son to eat a full meal was impossible. He was too busy, didn’t have the attention span and preferred to snack. I joked that a passed hors d'oeuvre party would be his dream come true — chasing down small morsels of food whilst socializing. It got to the point where I was constantly feeding him: He would eat a few bites of breakfast, lunch and dinner, but most of his calories came from milk and grazing off plates of fresh-cut fruit and vegetables, cheese and nuts I put out for him — along with a fair share of carby snacks. It was a lot of effort and negotiation for minimal nutritional payoff.

Like many small children, he has long been insistent on doing things "all by myself!" And since letting him make 100% of his food decisions would otherwise mean only pretzels, popcorn and breath mints, we needed to find a compromise. How could I give him a sliver of autonomy over his diet while keeping it nutritious and balanced?

The answer came accidentally: When I was cleaning out the bottom drawer of a small side table in the living room, I discovered that he had stashed some snacks in there. I thought, why not go all in and convert this into a healthy snack drawer with round-the-clock access? It could become a place where he could make simple choices and feel more independent and in control of his meals.

To get started, it was important to pick the right snacks. Things to consider were:

Safety: Nothing that could be a choking hazard, which also meant removing all silica gel packets.

Health: I chose shelf-stable snacks filled with functional ingredients like fiber, minerals and vitamins. These include dried/freeze-dried fruits and veggies, nuts, seeds (sunflower and pumpkin), applesauce (his absolute favorite), cheese crisps, and bars low in sugar (like these tahini bars).

Access: Resealable bags for fruits and nuts are a must, as are twist off pouches that could be easily opened and closed.

Cleanliness: I just accepted that this was going to be a mess.

When I introduced him to his new snack drawer, he was overcome with excitement. The first two or three days were an all-you-can-eat buffet which entailed my cleaning up trails and piles of food. I was worried that this was a huge mistake. But then the novelty wore off; instead of attacking the drawer, he became more thoughtful in selecting his snacks and truly loved being able to make his own decision.

We've had our snack drawer for over a year now. I'm still cleaning up and he still prefers to snack, but some wonderful behaviors have developed. He's started to grab a bowl to eat his snacks over, he throws away wrappers without being asked, he cares about keeping it organized (well, organized for a preschooler), he adorably passes out snacks to visitors, he's graduated to a bowl of fresh fruit he can grab from there, too, and has started sitting down at meals for longer and eating more — which may just be that he's gotten older. Either way, he loves having his snacking independence at home, and I feel less stress to be on top of how much he’s nibbling over the course of a busy day. It’s been a fun lesson in responsibility for him, and perhaps it will be for the kid(s) in your life, too.

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