Feb 14, 2024

Five Strategies for Mastering Snack Time During Your Homeschooling Day

For Homeschool Moms & Dads · Homeschool Activities · Homeschool Encouragement · Homeschool Tips
Five Strategies for Mastering Snack Time During Your Homeschooling Day

I've been teaching kids to cook online since 2016, which means I hear from a lot of parents about all sorts of food challenges and complaints. In the homeschool crowd, one of the most common is this: 

Katie, snacking is out of control!! Because we're home all day, it feels like the kitchen is a revolving door of snack food. What do I do?

We know that food can fuel or sabotage our learning, our energy, and our kids' behavior. (Let's throw our own behavior in there as well, parents, since we need to have good fuel to keep our tempers all day long as well!)

That may sound as though I'm about to give you five nutrition tips so that you can dial in on high-quality snacking. In reality, none of these tips are specifically focused on the content of your snacks, although perhaps I'll throw in a bonus at the end because I can't help it.
The first is presented as a budget-saving tip, but you'll see that its positive consequences are more far-reaching than just finances.

1. Your New Packaged Snacks Rule

Because I live with a food budget and have a frugal sense about me and always have, this rule came naturally to me as a parent. I know it doesn't for everyone, however, but I think it could be exceptionally helpful. The rule in our house is that all single-serve packaged snacks are only to be eaten outside of the home. 

Here's how you can present it to the family. Explain to your kids that you pay more to have these snacks packaged up in a factory. One of the benefits of homeschooling is that you are home all day; you don't actually need that additional surcharge for the convenience of a single-serving snack. Explain to the kids that packaged snacks have that purpose. They are convenient and easy to grab when you need to go somewhere quickly out of the house. 

Therefore, from now on, anything that comes in a single serving from the store is reserved for those times when we get to leave the house. You might remind your kids of all the fun you have outside of the house at things like a homeschool co-op, a trip to the zoo or the beach, or when you need a snack in between extracurricular activities, etc.

The sneaky side of this rule is that it will take 30 to 60 seconds longer for a child to grab a snack, which reduces the "grab" part of the all day snacking conundrum. You are laying the groundwork for the other four strategies.

2. Put Time Boundaries on Snacking 

This is actually a rule that I teach to my parents of picky eaters, because we know that we need to teach our kids that there are times for eating and times for allowing our digestive system to rest and to do its job: digest.

All of us humans need time to build an appetite to approach dinner with our best selves. For my picky eating families, I call it the MS 90-1-and-done rule. That means meals and snacks need to be at least 90 minutes apart from the last bite of one to the first bite of the next. If your kids are above four or five years old, you'll really want to stretch that to two or three hours. 

One-and-done has a few parts, the first of which is that a body should only need one snack between each set of meals. As you look at your homeschool day, you should be able to identify that there are some pockets of time between breakfast and lunch and between lunch and dinner. Can you choose a range of time in there that would be perfect for snacking?

In my house the morning snack window is between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m., and the afternoon snack window is typically between 3 and 4 p.m. You can adjust that as necessary. And I do recommend that you make it a window so that you don't feel tied to something strict like, "Snack is at exactly 3:15 p.m. no matter what you're doing!"  

If your house has the revolving door of snacking, this will be a tough shift at first. You'll need to explain the new time boundaries, tell kids that it is best for their bodies and for the whole family to keep their focus during the homeschool day, and then stay tight on that decision. You can make a sign that says the kitchen is closed for all times outside your snacking window. 

Trust me when I say that it should only take three to seven days for the kids to get used to this rule and begin to forget about that revolving door. 

3. Figure Out What a Serving of Snack Is

The second facet of the "one-and-done" part of my MS 90-1-and-done rule is that a child only gets one serving of snack during each snack window. It's far too easy for the children to enjoy their snack so much that they go back for seconds or thirds, thus becoming too full for dinner. The purpose of a snack should be to satisfy one's hunger and have enough fuel to get to the next meal, not necessarily to fill up the tummies. 

This is very related to tip number one. Because if you are avoiding single-serve, packaged snacks at home, that may mean that a whole bag of chips comes out. That may also mean a whole bag of chips gets eaten, even if that's too big of a serving for the child's body. 

What this looks like in my home is that we choose our serving before we get started. That might be one banana. That might also be cheese and crackers, a handful of almonds, and a glass of milk. It depends how hungry your child is, if they are in a growth spurt, what they had for breakfast, etc. If you're opening a multi-serving bag of chips or popcorn for your snack, the rule then becomes that you don't eat out of the bag. (By the way, this is a really great rule for adults as well when it comes to portion control and fighting against the addictive nature of processed food.)

You can explain this rule to the kids in many different ways. It's fine to just tell them they get one serving of snack, or to say something like, "You always need your snack on a little plate." You may want to introduce these rules one at a time with some days in between, by the way. It may feel to your kids like you're doing too much at once, and you also want to make sure that you can follow through on your new routines. 

The bottom line for this one is that snacks have both time and portion boundaries so that they are realistic. This also ensures that your kids will be able to get back to their learning or playing without snacking taking over their day. 

4. Consider Rotating a Snack Time Leader

I would say this is the most optional hack I'm sharing, but it can also be the glue that ties the first three together. If you have multiple kids in the house, you can further systematize snack by creating a rotating snack leader list. This means that one person gets to go into the kitchen and prepare the snack for everyone else. That might mean slicing some cheese for cheese and crackers, cutting up veggies and making a dip, or something as simple as putting those potato chips on little plates for everyone.

The snack leader has slightly less time for learning or play on their day, but on all other days that person has slightly more time.

Again, this formalizes the system of snack a little more so that the time and portion rules are actually easier to follow. This also, of course, provides opportunities for our kids to both have family responsibilities and serve the others in your home, which is a great way to make them feel loved, valuable, and useful as human beings. I encourage you to create a culture of gratitude in your home where everyone thanks the snack leader each day. 

A bonus part B on this strategy is to encourage mindful eating. We know how easy it is to eat while we work. However that habit going into adulthood often causes us to eat mindlessly, which can end up creating a boredom eating habit or result in us eating far more than our bodies would appreciate. When the snack leader serves the snack, encourage your kids to take a break from work. Our brains and bodies need that oscillation anyway, so if you can move to a different space to eat the snack, have some community conversation and a brain break. Even if this means reading a fiction book while eating a snack, that's okay too, because some of our personalities need that sort of break instead of community. 

5. Attempt to Have Homemade Snacks from Time to Time

All of these strategies used together generate a beautiful space that lends itself to making homemade snacks. As part of your homeschool day, you can incorporate the snack leader making a recipe here and there. This allows your kids to build their skill of cooking, practice things like fractions and measuring, learn to plan ahead, and potentially even have some other fun curricular connections to geography, history, science, etc. 

The kitchen is a fantastic laboratory to teach many of your subjects through food. The Kids Cook Real Food eCourse is beloved by many homeschool families as part of their home ec curriculum, a fun Friday activity, and a life skill they know their kids very much need in this world. 
The classes break down cooking into just over 30 basic cooking skills. The goal is to give your kids a toolbox of skills so that they can make any recipe they come across. It's not about just building up a collection of recipes, because we want you to be able to use any food that your family prefers or can tolerate. 

To get you started, here's a simple, nutrient-dense, four-ingredient homemade snack that even a four-year-old could achieve merely on their own once they learned some measuring and stirring skills. This stack is packed with healthy fats to support brain growth and learning during your homeschool day. Add a punch of sweetness so the kids love it. 

Another benefit of this recipe is that it's incredibly variable. Your kids can experiment with all sorts of substitutions, from different nut butters to something else in place of the coconut that would give the balls their structure to other kinds of sweeteners, add-ins that aren't chocolate chips, and more. 

Peanut Butter Kisses

This is a real-food adaptation of a recipe my mom always had on hand for a treat when we were young! I haven’t tried it, but I think you could sub any nut butter or sunflower butter for the peanut butter if you have allergies. You may need to adjust the proportions to make them “rollable.”

Peanut Butter Kisses 

•    1 part natural peanut butter 
•    1 part honey 
•    2 parts shredded, unsweetened coconut 
•    Mini or regular chocolate chips 


•    Stir together peanut butter, honey, and coconut in a mixing bowl. If it’s too stiff, add more honey or peanut butter. It if seems too runny, add more coconut. 
•    Stir in chocolate chips to taste. 
•    Roll into 1-inch balls in the palm of your hand. 
•    Store at room temperature or in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

As homeschool parents, I know you value critical thinking and creativity, and I believe there's no better place than the kitchen to allow your children to exercise those muscles. In conclusion, may your feeling of snacking chaos be brought into order with these five structural tips, and may snack time begin to be fuel for the homeschool day instead of something dragging you down.

We want to thank Katie Kimball from Kids Cook Real Food for sharing these awesome tips with us this week.

Katie_Kimball headshotKatie Kimball is known as the national voice of healthy kids cooking. She’s a former teacher, two-time TEDx speaker, writer, and mom of 4 kids. She created the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse, which was recommended by The Wall Street Journal as the best online cooking class for kids. Her blog, Kitchen Stewardship, helps families stay healthy without going crazy, and she’s on a mission to connect families around healthy food, teach every child to cook, and help families instill those all-important life skills!


Equip your children with the tools they need to cook their own healthy meals so that they are prepared for adulthood with Kids Cook Read Food. Plus, you can get big savings until 2/18/2024 on your lifetime All-Levels + VIP Membership to Kids Cook Read Food at the Club.


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