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Self-serve snacks for kids — Good Parenting

Dear Dr. Debbie,

I would like to share some excellent advice from our pediatrician. I had toddler twins and was expecting our third baby. The doctor suggested that before sitting down to nurse, I should check to see that there was food and drink accessible for the almost 2-year-olds so they wouldn’t be jealous of the new baby. This turned out to be such a valuable suggestion, that I am still keeping on top of self-serve foods in my kitchen five years later. I’ve made it my habit to take stock as I’m cleaning up from dinner — even putting leftovers into portion-size containers for the kids to snack on whenever they want. Cold baked potatoes and sweet potatoes are usually gone before I make breakfast. Other foods they’ll gobble up on their own include their favorite dry cereals, cubed cheese and cut up fruit. This keeps me out of the kitchen most of the day, and keeps them from interrupting me because they’re hungry or thirsty.

Just wondering if you have ready-to-eat suggestions of your own.

Prep Cook Not Short Order

Don’t miss last week’s column Trouble making daycare pickup — Good Parenting

Dear Prep Cook,

Brilliant strategy. Your almost 7-year-olds are probably competent with butter knives and other simple cooking tools by now which can widen their options. Training children to be independent in the kitchen is an important function of good parenting. You can foster self-sufficient snackers by storing what they’ll need at their height level. A step-stool can help them to reach the counter if necessary. Along with getting to the food and drink by themselves, you can instruct them on hand washing before starting, and the clean-up that follows each snack. Toddlers and preschoolers should still have close supervision since they can choke on any food, but as long as you can see them, their need for a snack needn’t interrupt what you’re doing.

Good nutrition goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. As long as your snack options are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and water, there shouldn’t be any concern about how much snacking they’re allowed to do between meals. The final category in a healthy diet is carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are necessary for energy and growth, however, if a child eats more than the body can burn off, the extra calories get stored as body fat. Other ingredients to limit are salt, sugar (by its many names) and artificial anything – flavors, sweeteners, colorings, and preservatives. If you don’t know what it is, it probably shouldn’t be in your food.

Here are some snack ideas broken down by age group:


  • Water in a sippy cup
  • Apple sauce in a lidded cup
  • Sliced cucumber and red pepper
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Rice cakes
  • Peanut butter or almond butter on a spoon (barring allergies)


  • Fresh fruit and plain yogurt
  • Tuna and mayonnaise for spreading on a cracker
  • Hard boiled eggs (which they can crack and peel)
  • Fruit juice gelatin (recipe is on the unflavored gelatin box)
  • Fruit juice popsicles (freeze overnight in plastic molds)
  • Fruit juice slushies (freeze juice in cups about 2 hours or mix juice with crushed ice)

School age

  • Food processor ice cream (frozen slices of ripe banana – add other fresh or frozen fruit)
  • Smoothies in the food processor (frozen bananas plus other fruit and plain yogurt)
  • Pita pizzas in the toaster oven
  • Refried beans and (non-GMO) corn chips
  • Tuna and melted cheese on whole grain cracker
  • Salmon spread on celery “scoops,” wide carrot slices or whole grain crackers

Happy snacking,

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at [email protected]

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