Thanks to Elizabeth on my facebook fan page for sending this link from Real Simple about setting up “snack” boxes in the fridge and pantry. “I needed to share this! Thought this might be an idea to be sort of a “bridge” in the DOR between childhood in adolescence as kids get older – i.e. bridge between caregiver choosing/making snacks and adolescent being completely autonomous in choosing her snacks – (i.e. in older elementary aged – help yourself to as much of/whatever you’d like that’s in the bin). Thoughts?”
I’ll tell you what I think, Elizabeth, I think you’re brilliant! Yes, things change from when a child is 4 and when she is 11. She starts to get a little more autonomy. So, as you say, the afternoon or before-bed snack is often a great place to practice. Your child can be responsible for what (from what your provide.) So, you might say, “Ben, get yourself some snack, just be sure you are done by 4:30, since dinner is at 7.” You can also help a little if you see that all he chooses are crackers. “Ben, can you find something from the fridge or fruit bowl to go with that?” Maybe keep him company while he gets the hang of it, and offer some choices. Helping kids start to think about rounding out choices via the food groups can help.
Or, perhaps he just grabs pretzels. “Ben, that will give you short energy, but can you chose some dip or have some milk so you get some long energy too?” (You might not want to butt in every time, but see how he takes your suggestions, and take “no” for an answer. Also let him see you meal-plan. I loved watching my friend and colleague Clio do this in front of her kids, and it helps us grown-ups too! I remember eating at her house one night, and she said, “Let’s see, we have noodles and bread, we have veggies and fruit with our pasta sauce, broccoli and peaches, we have some fat in our butter and salad dressing and milk, we have, oh, we have salad too, and we have some meatballs…” Again, pushing this kind of talk, or saying it too much can amount to pressure (ask yourself, am I doing this to try go get him to eat more/different?)But a little bit of talking your thinking process out loud can be helpful.
A diversion. Anyway, the snack boxes… I also like that they make everything convenient. Studies show that with adolescents, if it takes too much of an effort, they will chose what’s quick and easy. So, they might not chose an apple if they have to wash it (I know, really?!) So maybe even wash fruit, buy or cut-up fruit, maybe even put a stash of spoons with the little yogurts.
I think it sounds like it will work for lots of families, but I’d love to hear from you! Thanks again, Elizabeth!