A snack station is great to have in your house – it teaches kids independence and to have a great relationship with food, which can translate to the dinner table! Snack stations also mean less work for you!
What is a snack station for kids?
A snack station is an area in your kitchen or dining room (we use a snack cart) and/or refrigerator where your kids can help themselves to snacks when they’re hungry. It should be easily accessible so you don’t have to worry about repeatedly helping them to grab or get a snack.
What are the rules for the snack station?
We definitely have rules for our snack cart! If we didn’t, they would be snacking all day. However I will say this – before we had this snack station for our kids, they were constantly asking for snacks (at least it seemed that way). Once we gave them “free range,” they started asking/grabbing on their own, I think it lost its novelty a little bit. There’s something about giving a kid responsibility and freedom.
Our main rule is they have to ask before grabbing. We rarely say no (because we don’t like putting restrictions on food). The few times we’ll say no: if they’ve already brushed their teeth for the night, if it’s within 30 minutes before a meal or if it’s during a meal. When we tell them no because it’s too close to a meal, we explain that meal time is so soon and they don’t need a snack right now. They know these are our stipulations, mostly because kids are more likely to follow rules if they know the reasons for them. It’s science (not really. Just something I’ve learned!) But even though they know these are the reasons to say no, they still ask because, well they can’t tell time yet!
After asking if they can have snacks, they ask how many. Depending on the time of day, I will usually tell them they can have 2-3.
Where do you keep your snack cart?
We keep ours in the kitchen right under the breakfast bar. For a while we had to hide it because our toddler twins were grabbing for the bars all day long and it drove us crazy. You can also dedicate one drawer or shelf in your refrigerator for cold snacks.
What are some snack ideas for the snack station?
For your snack cart:
- Fig bars
- Granola bars
- Nutri-Grain bars
- Goldfish (portion into small bags if you buy the big one)
- Dried fruit
- Fruit bars
For the fridge:
- Cut up fruit
- Cottage cheese
- Cheese sticks
- Lunch meat
- Fresh fruit (apples, strawberries, blueberries, etc)
- Sliced cheese
Benefits to a snack station
- Independence! Your kids can start grabbing their own snacks, teaching them more independence and giving them more confidence in daily tasks.
- They leave you alone – ha! If you’re busy of having time to yourself, they ask for a snack and you just send them to the snack station.
- Food positivity. We really like to make sure our kids have a good relationship with food. Not restricting food definitely helps that. The only time we really restrict food is 30 minutes before a meal because we want them to be willing to try dinner. When they ask for a snack before dinner and our answer is no, we tell them why. Explaining your reasoning to a child (although it may feel unnecessary) really helps them process the rules better.
Tips for a snack station
- Grab some reusable snack bags to make small snack portions out of bigger bags (IE, Goldfish).
- You can also make snack boxes out of some meal prep containers and keep them in the fridge or on the snack station.
- Pick snacks that don’t have empty calories – these will keep them fuller longer!
- Pick snacks you don’t necessarily like so you’re not picking at them all day – ha!
- Choose snacks that don’t require a ton of your help. That way they can be independent.
- A snack station is a great way to teach kids to have a good relationship with food. They will learn to control their own eating and you get to teach them that food is always available to them! Withholding food can negatively impact a kids’ relationship with food.