Creating A Visual Snack Menu

Creating A Visual Snack Menu

I want my son to be fully prepared for school every morning.

My three year old boy recently started public preschool. He goes there every morning from 7:30-11:00am and they have a snack time in the middle. I’ve been so anxious about sending my son off to school. I’m excited, yes, but also a bit nervous too.

You might think that creating a visual menu for packing snack is overkill but if it makes getting ready for school easier, I’m all in.

Before I was a stay-at-home-mother, I was an elementary school teacher. Everyday I saw a ridiculous amount of food get throw away by little kids. If they didn’t want to eat all of their snack or lunch, I would try to tell them to put it back in their lunchbox so that their parents could keep track of what they liked to eat and what didn’t get consumed. But not all teachers did this and sometimes the kids threw things away before we could tell them not to do it.

I really don’t want my son to eat a few bites and toss out the majority of his snack because 1.) he needs to eat to keep up his energy for learning and good behavior and 2.) those snacks aren’t cheap!

If my child has a role in deciding what gets packed into his lunchbox, he will feel ownership and control over his snack.

If is part of the process of packing his snack, then hopefully he will be excited about whatever ends up being in there and he will eat it. Fingers crossed.

My original idea was to make the menu like a big piece of paper with a list and pictures next to each item. I was going to laminate the piece of paper and give my son a dry erase marker. This way he could circle or check off the items he wanted to bring to school the next morning. But then I realized that this big piece of laminated paper idea was too static and if I know anything about preschoolers, it’s that their tastes are constantly changing. I needed some kind of system that allowed me to  add new items and to get rid of foods that are no longer favorites.

The visual menu I ended up creating is made up of a collection of index cards.

I laminated the cards and used a hole punch to put a hole through one of the corners. The cards hang on a ring and it’s easy to add or remove cards from the collection. Each card has one food on it. I write the word and also include a picture. I try to use full color cut outs from magazines for things like fruits and vegetables. For snacks like string cheese and portable yogurt, I cut out an image from the box. I think these photos create a better visual than my own crappy drawings. The visual element of the menu is important for really young kids who are pre-literate or just starting to read.  Every night before bed, my son selects any two of the index cards and this is his snack. All of the choices on the cards are healthy enough that I feel good about any choice he makes.

This menu could also be easily adapted for a child bringing a full lunch.

If I was going to be packing a full day’s worth of food, I would make the index card choices for snack time a one color and the choices for the main entrée a different color.
What tricks do you use when packing snacks and lunches for your little kids?

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