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I Hate Preschool Snack Time

We feed our kids all day long in this country.

And then we wonder why child obesity is becoming a problem, why picky eaters are increasingly common, and why behavior issues are ramping up in our schools and homes.

As I mentioned in this kid-friendly soup recipe, in France, children get one snack a day, after school, at home. They wouldn’t dream of eating on the go or of adding a snack at a different time.

The French are by and large healthier than Americans. We don’t know why, but let’s assume that a one-snack-a-day policy isn’t doing anything all too harmful to their long-term health.

In our house, I work very hard to make sure my kids have a healthy relationship with food.

Let's Ban Preschool Snack Time and Stick to Learning

We serve tons of healthy options. We don’t have a clean plate policy at meals, but we do insist on tastes and on not having seconds of something while other items sit untouched.

We have sensible snacks (including these 10 snack recipes your preschooler can help make), never too close to a meal, and we don’t have a blanket “no dessert” policy – by allowing some junk food in our lives, we hope to demystify it and teach balance.

And then school begins.

Other people start feeding my children, and frankly, it drives me nuts.

I’m more than happy to have help teaching my children academic skills, but please – don’t force food on my children.

And I’m not talking about birthday treats here, which are egregious enough.

This is about mandatory community snacks at preschool.

I have a problem with the snacks policy, which is that parents bring in “healthy snacks” for everyone to eat once a day.

Here’s my beef:

  • Preschool is only 2 1/2 hours!
  • At 12:30-3 p.m., that’s right after lunch for most families, definitely ours.
  • We often eat our afternoon snack at 4 p.m. when the big kids get home from school. John will still wish to join in.
  • If snack takes 15 minutes, that’s a full 10% of the class time (which means I’m spending $160 this year for trained educators to proctor my child eating).
  • Community snack means that invariably, even if there are occasional grapes, raisins or apple slices brought in, my child will be eating snacks that we do NOT eat at home, and that I count as junk food.

It all drives me nuts, and I’m determined to do my best to convince the teachers that the children will survive without snack and that it should just be cancelled all together.

EDITED TO ADD: Really, truly, folks, I’d be more than happy with plenty of other options, like a fruit/veggie/water snack policy or a “bring-your-own” system. I started big on this issue to get a conversation going here (that worked!) and also in a sense to bargain – when you’re trying to make something happen, sometimes you start with more than you want so that the other person pitches less and it’s actually what you want. You know? I’m hoping the teacher will be open to me coming in to lead some food-related activities, and I got some wonderful ideas from readers via Facebook that I can do short of asking for snack to be cancelled. Got any other “middle ground” thoughts for me? I’d love to hear them as I keep the conversation going with the teacher…

Proactive Parenting at School

I’ve traveled this road before when our second child was in preschool, and we had some adaptations for her (raisins in her backpack for days with undesirable snacks) but I also stain-treated my fair share of shirts with Gogurt stains on them, proof of consumption of the monstrous substitute for healthy homemade yogurt spiked with sugar and food coloring and crammed into a highly spillable tube.

Sigh.

Rabble-rouser that I am, I decided to cause trouble strive for systemic change before school got underway this fall.

John will start preschool soon

This is the email I sent to my son’s new preschool teacher:

My son Jonathan will have his first preschool experience in your class this fall, and he’s very excited. He has already made a number of cards for you that are hanging around awaiting the day!

I’m writing about a subject that an article I just read brought to mind: snacks.

I know this won’t be a popular opinion, but I’d really love to explore the idea of omitting snacks for the short 2.5 hours the kids are at the preschool building.

John loves to eat and will eat whatever is in front of him whether he’s hungry or not most of the time, but I can’t imagine him actually needing nourishment during the afternoon since he will come right from lunch at home. His return time to our house will still be long before our normal afternoon snack time, which has always been when the big kids get home from Elementary School at 4ish.

Would it be possible for me to discuss this with you? I’d much rather see the time spent at school (and thus my tuition money, in a sense) going toward learning, exploration, and imaginative play, or even playground time, rather than eating. I do know that eating together is an opportunity for social learning and hospitality skills, but I still feel that a daily snack is too large a percentage of the children’s time.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

Her response was gracious and leaves me with more questions than answers:

I’m so excited to meet Jonathan and can’t wait to see all the cards that he has made! I’m very excited for the new school year.

Thank you for voicing your concerns with me about snack time. Snack time is part of our preschool program and is part of all the preschool classrooms and not something I can change for one classroom and take away from the other students. We do keep snack time to right around 15 minutes and snack options are set up by me and we try to keep them healthy for the students.

However, if you would like, we can discuss other options that I can have John work on during snack time if you would prefer that he does not partake in eating a snack at school. Some of those options could be practicing name writing, working with letter sounds, working with math manipulatives or doing a gross motor activity. I will definitely discuss your concerns with the other preschool teachers at our next meeting. Thank you again for coming to me with your concerns and we will work together to come up with a plan for John’s first preschool experience to be an exciting and educational learning experience for him!!

Now I’m in a pickle.

If I really want John to have learning time instead of snack, I have that option – but at great cost.

It would mean making him stand out, marking him as different from the crowd, and also forcing him to watch others eat while he is sequestered elsewhere. The social implications are massive, and I’m not sure it’s worth the trade-off.

I’ve dealt with this issue before, but at an older age, and every year makes a difference when they’re so young.

Life is hard when you are 4 years old

I mentioned that we allow some junk food in our lives to teach balance – but if junky snacks are part of John’s day four times a week, at what point does compromise become routine? I think four is far too many in one week, but I’m not sure what our solution will be yet.

  • Do we send our own snacks for John?
  • Do we let him choose whether the preschool snack counts as his one-a-day “dessert?”
  • Do we ask that he skips snack to do learning work?
  • Or perhaps, might I work with the teacher in advance to help compile a list of allergy-free, healthy snacks to recommend to parents?

That last one is my favorite, so now I need to work up a plan and a reply email to the teacher and see how badly I set my reputation as “the weird one,” “the pushy one,” or “the troublemaker” before we even meet!

If we could stick to fruits and vegetables, there would be little room for error. But there would also be less room for parents to just pick up a snack at the grocery and send it in without an iota of work – produce, unlike Gogurts and pretzels, usually needs to be washed, cut, or both.

Do you have to deal with community snacks and other people feeding your kids? What would you do in this situation?

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Disclosure: I am an affiliate to 100 Days of Real Food and receive commission on any purchases.

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

64 thoughts on “I Hate Preschool Snack Time”

  1. Charity Creech

    What a great thread. I agree that snacking is not a good idea as the stomach needs 4-5 hours to digest food but I also know from working in a preschool room that many children do not eat a proper breakfast. Sometimes just because they are picky eaters. My own nephew is offered a healthy breakfast every morning but eats very little so by 10 or 11 am he is very hungry. I do agree that if snacks are served it should only be fruits or veggies. We do not do hybridized wheat or refined sugars. We also do not eat pork and that is found in a lot of jelly candies and marshmallows. It is almost impossible to have a snack that everyone can eat with all the allergies, gluten-free, keto, kosher, etc. Fruits and veggies are the safest choice if snacks have to be offered.

    1. It’s a tough balance between treating all the kids the way they *should* be treated and helping out the kids who don’t or can’t eat a good breakfast. 🙁 I do believe that if picky eaters were offered fewer snacks and less ‘snacky’ food at snacks, they would figure out how to eat more at meals… Thanks for joining the conversation! 🙂 Katie

    2. I have to agree with Katie. There is a fine line between serving snack to those that don’t get food at home/will not eat meals at school and those that don’t need snack. I am a Preschool Aide and as part of our full day program we have to serve everyone snack.

      I admit that there are picky eaters, but I feel that that comes down to what they are exposed to at home. If parents serve what I like to call Junk at home then more than likely what we serve at school will not be something the child will want to eat.

      At my school Preschool has just completed our 2nd week of school. We have some students that will not eat. We encourage them to try what is on the plate at breakfast, lunch, and snack. Often if they see their friends eat it they do too.

      Then you have the issue with parents telling us what we can serve their child. Recently we ran into a parent who refused to let us serve her child milk. The child gets no milk at home so she should not be served it at school. In short we explained that our regulations require it be served, but that she does not have to drink it. Funny thing is that the child drank milk last week after seeing another student do it.

      Then I have one that thinks we are Burger King and can give her what she wants at meals. She screamed at me the other day to take her lunch back and bring her french fries and pizza. After a talk with her dad it was clear that she only gets Junk to eat at home.

      I have found that kids that don’t eat at school will often eat after repeated exposure to it. They see their friends doing it so they feel it is ok.

      This year at my school we are serving more fruits and vegetable snacks provided by Headstart than Junk snacks. It has surprisingly went over well. I hope this continues to go well for us.

  2. I work as a Preschool Aide and I feel your frustration. We have kids in our room 4 days a week from 7:45am to 3:10pm. We have a snack time at about 2:30pm. Our snacks are provided to us by our partner Headstart. Often times what they send for snack bothers me.

    I mean we have pretzels, tortilla chips and salsa, animal crackers, vanilla wafers, gram crackers and peanut butter, fruit cup, and yogurt. I find these snacks to not be healthy and would rather have fresh fruits and vegetables for the children.

    The fresh fruit and vegetable snack is great from when there is a food allergy in the classroom so that all the students are eating the same thing at snack time.

    I had a child 2 years ago with celiac disease. Headstart tried to work with the parents to get snacks that were appropriate for the child’s diet. It did not work. The parents ended up packing the child’s breakfast, lunch, and snack. It upset the other students that they could not eat the same things for snack that this child ate. I had to explain everyday why. Plus a lot of the snacks being sent for this child in my opinion were not friendly for his diet.

    We have a policy for when we have Parties in our room that the parents have to provide healthy snacks. We send home a list of state school approved items for the parties. This makes sure that all kids get to participate.

    In the last school I work in they gave every kid in the school a fruit or a vegetable for a snack at a certain time of the day. High School students who were in the Home Ec Classes prepared the fruit or vegetable for the day and came around and served it. Everyone was asked to take one to try. This worked great.

    I am in agreement about cutting out the snack for a 1/2 day preschool. I think it is a waste of time. I think there are better uses of their time. If they were a full time preschool class like mine I could see a snack.

    In this situation as a parent you are going to have to pick your battles. I am afraid that your child will get upset if you take away snack time at school. They are going to see all their friends eating and then wonder why they can’t. It is a win loose situation here. My advice is to see if you can send in snack with your child that are something that you approve of for them to eat. That would be a win win for both of you.

    1. Hi Anne,
      It’s so good to hear from someone in a preschool classroom that no snack for a half day is viable!! Thank you! What a blessing that high school home ec setup was – if only that could be in all schools, wow! And seeing cookies on the list of Headstart provided snacks makes me sad. 🙁 Thank you so much for your response as we all work to raise the health of our entire community together!
      🙂 Katie

      1. Katie,

        It is just frustrating when you have to serve things to children that you know are not good for them. It seems anymore that that is what the children want to eat. This is due to not being exposed to healthy options. We do try to encourage healthy eating at lunch time when the children have a choice option of getting vegetables and fruit off the salad bar. Often times children will take that because they see a friend take it, but then end up wasting it by not eating it.

        We do serve carrot sticks once in awhile for snack. I have some that will clean their plates and then some that will turn up their noses at it. I know it is what they are exposed to at home.

        Again I am in agreement with you that a 1/2 day preschool should not have snack. I feel that there is better use of that time to teach the children skills that they will need in order to move on to Kindergarten.

        I just hope you can work something out that is best for your child in all of this.

  3. I feel your anxiety over this matter. While I have more then once been grateful for snack time when a child has not eaten breakfast before school I also know that they are not going to die if they don’t have it.

    I am blessed my kids attend a Montessori school as while snack is provided daily it is used as a means of teaching skills (preparing, following serving directions, pouring, table setting, turn taking etc) it is also still optional as the snack center is open for a set amount of time and children can choose to have a snack during their open work cycle . Whill every famity is responsible for proving thw food serred at snack tI’m the teachers determine what is served. Each famity is assigned a week to provide snack. The teacher makes a shopping list and the family brings in the food Monday morning. The kids prepare the food during the week.

      1. Some schools may not have the choice to not offer snack. I am a preschool teacher. Our state licence requires that we serve a snack each half day. It must include 2 food groups and nothing can be prepared or even cut at home. I teach in a Montessori setting and have been able to incorporate many “lessons” into our snack times. We do not have large group snack. Rather, the children can choose to come to the snack area once during the 3 hour class time. I always include fruits and vegetables as one of my food groups, and introduce the children to many new tastes and textures. The children serve their own snack, pour their own water (always just water), wash their dishes, sweep the floor… Nothing can be prepared at home, so the children have plenty of opportunities to peel, chop, measure, mix, spread… Each month, parents are given a few specific items to bring in for us to use in snack preparation. Fruits or vegetables are always on each family’s list as a model to parents of their importance. My cupboards include a wide variety of grains, spices, and flours. Any baked items are prepared with the children. We also have a school garden that is giving us lots of tomatoes and ground cherries right now. There are usually a few children each day who choose not to have snack that day and that is acceptable with the licencing rules as long as they have the choice.

  4. My way of dealing with the preschool snack time, when it didn’t align with our regular snack time, was to consider it part of lunch. So I would give a half a sandwich and fruit for lunch to my kids on those days instead of a full sandwich. The preschool snacks were always some sort of carb, usually unhealthy, so I figured I would just edit out a carb serving those days. When it was my turn to contribute snack, I would bring in washed grapes or pretzels, because most picky kids will eat those. Accepting the preschool snack time is really difficult when you strive to feed your kids well, but when it’s over, my kids accepted the fact that I don’t buy goldfish or fruit snacks.

    I think doing food-related activities in the classroom and sharing a list of healthy snack ideas with the other parents are excellent ideas!

  5. Pre school snacks is not about eating, it’s about table manners, learning how to pass around food to others, passing out napkins, being courteous, learning to pour water into cups and being able to sit and share with friends. I do not see this as a waste of time or money or a precursor to obesity. You must go to the wrong school!

    1. Linda,
      I am anticipating seeing if the children are asked to pour water in to cups (unlikely outside a Montessori setting) and pass out napkins. I agree (and already noted in the post) that there are many social lessons to be learned at the table…but I’d also rather see fruits and veggies than Gogurts and Goldfish. We could have important learning AND obesity; they’re not mutually exclusive. 🙂 Katie

      1. I am the mother of four and a preschool teacher. Every day I give serious consideration on how best to teach healthy life choices. After reading your post, I thought a lot about how I would handle the email you sent. (It should be noted that your child seems to have a very caring, professional teacher!)

        The thing I most want parents to understand is that every minute their children spend with us is carefully planned to provide as many teachable moments as possible. I’m not just “watching your child eat”. I am encouraging your child to “use trying fingers” to open their napkin and pour their own water so they build self-sufficiency and more importantly, self-esteem. I am fostering discussion about food choices and healthy life style options. I am modeling good table manners by sitting at the table and snacking with them. I am listening to their peer interactions and formulating how we can build a project around their interest in how the red apples taste different than the green apples. I am agonizing over whether this might be the one safe and healthy “meal” some of my students get today.

        One other thing I would like to share is that although many of us may be blessed with the ability to help our children learn about healthy foods there are families who don’t have that luxury. For those students it is a statistical fact that up to one third of their daily calories come from the food received during school snack time. I agree that it is important for us to serve healthy options however, please be careful when you are so quick to judge the validity of snack at school.

  6. Ugh–school snacks. I think your message to teacher and her response are off to a good start though. This reminds me of when my daughter was in kindergarten and the teacher lined the whole class up every day after recess and gave each kid some gummy bears. I had never given those to my kids and certainly didn’t want them to eat them every day! My daughter knew about what was in gummy bears and why we opted for other treats in our house, so she was confused about why the teacher would be giving them to kids every day. And I wanted to be consistent in what I believe teach about what we eat. So I asked the teacher if I could send her with her own snack and that she not be given the daily ration of gummy bears. I felt ridiculous! It’s just gummy bears. But I felt like giving kids gummy bears every day is also ridiculous. I think it was kind of awkward for my daughter to get skipped over in line every day as the candy was passed out. But she said it was no big deal. And do you know what? The next year my younger daughter was in this same teacher’s class. On the first day she said, “Oh, don’t worry about the snack this year. I read the ingredients on the gummy bears and you’re right–there really isn’t anything good in them!” Sometimes raising the issue will result in a change much later, so don’t be discouraged if things don’t change right away 🙂

  7. I was a preschool director for a few years. While in that position I changed our school policy. We were a 9 to noon school. Many of our kids came to school hungry so eliminating snacks wasn’t a good option. We had a student with severe peanut allergies. In the past we had just that classroom peanut free. I took it school wide. Went a step farther and sent a list of approved snacks. Fresh fruits and vegetables. Cheese No fruit snacks. No gogurt.

  8. Becca @ The Earthlings Handbook

    It’s great that you got such a positive response from the teacher! I’ll be interested to see how this works out. You might be interested in these several approaches to Girl Scout snack.

    I attended afternoon preschool that typically had no snack (I do remember popcorn once, but that was a special occasion) so I can understand your feeling that it’s an interval of time when most kids will not need to eat.

    However, I’ve also coordinated a children’s gathering only 90 minutes long that included a snack (as explained in my link), brought a snack for myself every day in high school, and arranged an extra snack for my son when he was in full-day preschool. It’s all about timing and how the school routine and family routine match up with the child’s metabolism.

    My son’s preschool, for example, was open 5:30am-6:30pm and served two meals and two snacks during that time, but no individual child was there longer than 9 hours. He was there 10:00-6:30. Lunch was at 11:15 and afternoon snack at 2:30. By 6:30 he and the other kids and teachers who stayed that late were very hungry! I had been bringing a snack for him to eat while we waited for our bus, but I was pleased when the teachers introduced “5:00 snack” on a BYO basis. It’s much easier and more sanitary to eat in the school lunchroom than while sitting on a windowsill at the bus stop!

    Although I agree that our culture is leaning too far toward constant eating, I also feel it’s important for kids to learn to eat when hungry and not have to stuff themselves at meals in hopes of enduring until the next one; I think frequent small meals are healthier.

  9. Here (Norway) it’s unthinkable to serve snack or candy at kindergarden. In most families (unhealthy) snack it is preserved for Saturdays only… No one sends snack along with school children either. We would get in trouble with the teacher if we did that.. 😉
    (Fruit and vegetables is seen as food, not snack..) 🙂

  10. Snack is about learning, learning to sit with a group and eat and share, may be your child gets that at home, but others don’t and need it. At my school, and the schools where my friends teach the food is great, really good food. Food I would eat. The children learn to sit, be together, eat new foods, and be in that social mix. The best learning is in life, play, daily chores, the things that make up life. Put in a school garden, have real garden to table food, for all the children. Your children may be well fed, but others may not be. Look at the big picture. Snack can be great.

  11. I agree that meals/snacks need to be spaced reasonably far/close apart. It doesn’t help kids to eat more often than every 2 hours (and for some that’s too close). Our preschool serves snack at 10:30 and sometimes it starts later. We have lunch at noon at home. At first I worried about spoiling their appetite, but it didn’t seem to influence their lunch eating so I just let it go.

    I also prefer for kids to be offered nutritious snacks to ones without any nutritional value. But I’m also a dietitian who has seen the gamut of food issues in kids and adults and don’t like food bans when there is not an allergy involved…and I prefer freedom to restrictions that make it harder on other parents whose kids might not be big produce lovers but benefit from an eating opportunity at that time.

    While I tend to prefer to send my kids with snacks that are nutritious, there is a special blessing to sharing food as a group (family, classroom of kids, etc). There is all sorts of learning and community going on when people ‘break bread together.’ And I admit it is a LOT easier to send a group snack once a month than to pack a snack every day. Some may call it lazy, I call it efficient 😉

    What’s the worst case scenario you imagine if nothing changes in this preschool?

  12. Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama

    My kids don’t go to school, but we do meet at least once a week with our homeschool coop group.

    We’ve evolved from having “snack time” to getting together for lunch once our activities are done. We meet from 10 – 12:30 and then we eat together, clean up, and go home. We still get the fellowship, but we don’t interrupt our learning time. Now, obviously you can’t do that at preschool…but maybe it could work for others out there in situations more like ours.

    As far as what we eat — almost always, parents are expected to bring food for their own kids. Most members eat real food, but not all, and several have different allergies. So it’s simpler to just bring what we can have. You could suggest that people pack snacks for their kids instead of communal snacks.

    When we DO have communal snacks/pot lucks (which we do for holidays/special occasions), we ask that everyone bring a notecard with all the ingredients on it. That way, each person knows what is okay for them to eat. If we did have an issue with people not eating real food and not sure what to bring, we would suggest healthy ideas — which we do, if people ask. We don’t want it to ever be a burden to anyone but we like and appreciate that our kids get to eat real food when they are together!

  13. I am still trying to understand why you think that you have the right to make the decision for the entire class just because you don’t want your child to have them. You may have a very regimented routine for exactly what time your child will eat and exactly what he’s allowed to eat, but can you guarantee that’s the case with every single other child? Do you know that they ate lunch or do you assume that they ate lunch because your child just ate a very filling and nutritious lunch? My child has ADHD and the meds he’s on totally screw with his appetite so many times he won’t eat breakfast. At lunch, he’s often distracted and busy talking with his friends so he would come home with most of his lunch uneaten. I am grateful that he gets snacks one (which I send) because during one of those times I can be assured that he’s eating something. Ours lasts maybe 10 minutes and during the times when I’ve volunteered, they were learning. The teacher was definitely not being lazy.

    1. Hi Robin,
      It’s really more a situation of asking for more when I want less, like bargaining with a street vendor. I started by asking if snack can just be cancelled (it’s only 2.5 hours after all) but I’d love to just have parents send their own snacks…we’ll see how the back and forth with the teacher goes. Thanks! Katie

  14. having kind of the same problem at home! I take care of a friend’s son and the snacks that she sends for him are way too much of a “treat” in my opinion. I want her son to eat healthy, but even more important, I want my son to eat healthy and the boys always want to have what the other has. I’m ready to tell her not to worry about sending ANY food, but that means negotiating something in return for my cooking. And possibly explaining why I don’t want the snacks without hurting my friend’s feelings. Our children need to learn how to eat healthy at a young age, and high sugar snacks all day are not the answer. Thank you for this post

  15. Why not just fruit and vegetables? That’s what we have here in australia for snack time. The kids all bring a piece of fruit or a vegetable and it is washed and cut up and served on platters. The kids all chow down! My daughter is a bit older now but they still have to bring a special lunchbox with fruit and or veg for crunch and sip. The sip bit is water. 🙂 this is sometime in the morning. I like this as it is pretty much mandatory for the children to eat a fresh, raw food every day.

    They are also not allowed now to bring pre packaged food for lunch nor anything sweet apart from something like an energy ball, dried fruit or a home baked muffin with little amounts of sugar. I’m very happy with this.

  16. Can I just say, “Amen, Sister!” We homeschool, and my children have never been to preschool, but every Sunday school, children’s church, and Wednesday night kids’ class HAS to have a snack, plus candy that indiscriminately is handed out as treats and prizes. I would love to give my children a treat now and then, but they are full of junk that other people give them! Uncle! Please stop! I promise neither my kids nor anyone else’s will starve to death in a 2 hour period! We live in the most over-fed, under-nourished nation on earth. Let’s regroup and rethink. Nourishing children belongs to the child’s family. Let’s give it back to the rightful owners.

  17. I am french 😉 here the “no snack” policy is sometimes à bit extreme, for exemple my daughter didn’t eat a proper breakfast before she turned 5, so I had to send an empty stomach 2 yrs old to daycare, who was awake at 6 am and wouldn’t have lunch until 12. Well, she lived through it but I would have prefered her to get a fruit at 10.
    In her first year of school ( 3yrs old) parents were to take turns to provide the 10 am snack and only fruits were allowed ( fresh, cooked, juice…). Afterwards no more snack allowed until… Elementary school where snacks are allowed during the morning or afternoon recess times, but up to the parents to provide it or not. Needless to say my daughter will wait for school to finish to have her snack at hope. In the school where I teach only fruits are allowed during recess, so it can vary depending on the school, but generally speaking educators are concerned with junk food and it is rarely allowed in school

  18. I’m not sure that providing a list of snack suggestions is such a bad idea. Many times I get in a rut with snacks, and having a list of ideas might make it easier. It IS hard to prepare fresh produce in the morning. Maybe as a group, the parents can brainstorm a list of healthy, or at least acceptable, snacks that don’t require prep. Things like raisin boxes, bagged baby carrots, fruit cups, cheese sticks, etc. For myself, a list of outlawed foods would give me anxiety. But conversely, a list of acceptable foods would give me something to work with. You never know; some moms might be just so maxed out they can’t think of snack options. They’re far from “lazy.”

  19. My children did not attend preschool, but in my first daughter’s JK class only fruits or vegetables were allowed for snack because of the allergies in that particular class. Many parents complained, and more foods were allowed. A friend and I asked if we could at least have “no candy” policy and were shocked at how many parents were up in arms over their kids “right” to have candy or pop during the 2.5 hours of kindergarten!! Now, my own daughter would not touch a fruit (or even jam or fruit flavoured candy) or vegetable, except for a grape fruit leather (all fruit not candy) or a potato until she was 13. She happily survived 2.5 hours with just a fruit leather or nothing! She now eats a wide variety of fruits and vegetables at 18, but that did not start until 13. I have noticed that one of our local schools bans chocolate (even in a healthy homemade muffin), any kind of chips and juice (milk or water only). Having supervised children eating lunches at a camp this summer, overall, I am impressed by the healthy lunches I have seen!

    1. Megan,
      Oh seriously, the parents-loving-their-kids-eating-candy drives me batty! Parents at our school go up in arms at the mere whiff of a “no cupcakes” concept for birthdays. Ugh. It’s no wonder we’re such a sick country, but your camp-lunch experience gives me hope that the pendulum is beginning to swing back!! 🙂 Katie

  20. Kelly the Kitchen Kop

    It reeeeeally grinds me that WE are considered the weird trouble-maker moms for wanting our kids to eat healthy!! Shouldn’t it be the other way around?! And if I were a teacher I’d WELCOME such REAL food that didn’t make my class hyper & prone to misbehave!!

    Okay, I have to remind myself to take. a. breath…

  21. My daughter has allergies so group snack would be out. I would not eliminate snack because of the reasons for already mentioned but maybe make it shorter like 10 – 15 minutes tops. I would not be for group snack even if my daughter did not allergies because others may have allergies and I always like to know what is in food my daughter is eating. One BIG headache problem for parents of kids with allergies or parents who want to cut down on junk food and sweets is that the teachers would always want to teach with food or do activity with food. They would also want to have parties with even more junk food or holiday celebrations with things that we just don’t eat. One preschool she went to, the teacher gave out a big bag of candy every Friday. Of course my daughter could not have anything in that bag and felt left out or singled out. I wish those things would be eliminated in favor of other ways to celebrate and learn.There are plenty of other non food ways to celebrate. It is a special nightmare if your child has allergies and around food with potential allergens without your supervision. Now that she can talk and read, I can feel less anxious but she will always face this and be singled out in this way. Also, she is never starved of treats and dessert and gets plenty of food. When others try to feed her or give her sweets at school,places we visit or people we are visiting, it undermines my menu. Its truly a pet peeve of mine as they are determined that she have the soda or candy they want to give her and I have had to say no many times per encounter. I hate it. Good post.

  22. As a mom and a teacher, I definitely agree that snacks are out of control in schools. What you may not realize is that if your preschool is licensed by the state that you live in, snack may be a legally required part of the day. I work in a preschool and we are required to serve 2 snacks and lunch during the day. We are also required to have breakfast available for kids who come to school without having eaten. Snacks are definitely overdone (and not always the healthiest), but please consider the legal constraints that the teachers may be under and also the importance of the snack for kids who may be food insecure.

    1. Good perspective, Allison – and it may be a legal issue, but I expected the teacher to say as much. If the preschool isn’t providing it (the parents are) I wonder if it is required. I’m hoping to help make healthier snack options, or even if parents could all send their own snack, at least then they’re in control of what their child eats, whether they prefer fire Cheetos or cherry tomatoes. 🙂 Katie

    2. I can totally relate to this comment. I have a 2 year old that goes to a daycare that has a mandatory policy for two snacks and lunch with optional breakfast (if the child gets there early enough). All of the food on the menu seems to be processed, packaged and not at all what I would consider healthy foods to be giving growing bodies and minds. It was especially frustrating when we started at this school to be told that the food was not optional and that I would need a doctor’s note stating that our daughter had dietary restrictions to not eat the food served there. My daughter is very fortunate not to have any allergies (so far) but I still went to our pediatrician with a letter written by me stating that she had dietary restrictions based on “personal concerns regarding ingredients included in the daily foods given to the children”. The doctor signed off on the letter and I now proudly send my daughter with a breakfast, lunch and two snacks made by me with the ingredients I know she is thriving on.

  23. Maybe your neighborhood is more affluent than the one I grew up in. If that’s the case, then I think polling parents is a good idea. I’m sure they all want their kids to eat healthy food free of (artificial) chemicals.

    However, if you’re in a mixed income area – maybe your particular preschool takes kids on a sliding scale – I would urge you to consider that maybe some these “unhealthy” snacks are the healthiest snacks some of these kids are going to get and your decision to want to remove snack for ALL the children for the sake of yours may be doing more harm than good. There are a number of sociological issues other than plain “laziness” that are behind why they may not be getting healthy food at home, though I won’t go into that here.

    It would be very kind and generous of you if you became the snack supplier. I’m sure that would be much appreciated because everything would be up to your standards. Besides that route, from my perspective, I feel that you’re just going to have to deal and your child could just eat different snacks from home.

    1. Nathaly,
      I’m sure you’re right on many accounts, and I wish I felt I had the time and money to be all-time snack supplier. I’d totally embrace that, but I’m not sure it would be good for my whole family at this stage of the game (9mo still at home). Thanks! Katie

  24. My children went to a Parent Co-op preschool (parents took turns working in the classroom), and snacks were always an issue. For some parents, the kids weren’t getting enough and for others it was too much. One parent wanted to ban all rice-containing products because of the arsenic. In this day and age, I don’t think you’re going to get around that.

    One thing no one argued in our school, however, was that community snack should be eliminated. At our school the kids practiced setting the table and passing the snacks around and asking politely when they wanted a second serving. We had special water containers that were easy for children to pour, so they poured their own water. It was a time when the parent volunteers and kids could sit and chat in a small group (we had 3-4 tables with about 5 kids each). The children cleared their place, depositing their trash, dumping their water in the sink, and loading their plates into the dishwasher or sink.

    Snack time can offer an opportunity for learning as well as nourishment for kids who may not have had time to eat breakfast (a common issue for morning pre-school). So perhaps instead of advocating elimination of the snack, the best course would be to work toward making it an opportunity for learning. You could start by asking the teachers how snack fits into the curriculum (our teachers could clearly communicate the role snack played). If it doesn’t seem to, then, as a teacher of a kids cooking course, you could offer some suggestions of simple ways to make it a learning experience.

    1. Love that idea, Cathy – I went to a Montessori preschool myself and still remember my pride in cutting carrots and serving them. I hope I get to talk to the teacher about all this and make a plan to make eating part of the curriculum! 🙂 Katie

  25. For morning preschool, which is the most popular time in our area, kids usually eat breakfast early (7-8am), then can’t have lunch until 12 or later, since preschool runs 9-11:30. Metabolisms at that age are often fast, and low blood sugar kids are at a learning and behavioral disadvantage. I am glad there is a preschool snack option, but I always provided my own (my kids have a dairy allergy, so it’s easy to advocate), so as to avoid the junky snack. I see no problem whatsoever with feeding kids every few hours, many experts believe that is optimal for most humans. Whether it is or not, an extra snack a day isn’t going to contribute to obesity if it is a healthy part of the day’s calories. Just one less thing eaten for lunch. For my older kids (8 & 10), I help them pack a good solid lunch, and they just pull something out for snack time at school. Spreading things out has been essential for my kids, who are definitely sensitive to blood sugar swings. So while I do hate the communal snack thing, and am appalled by what society defines a “healthy” snack, I am a strong advocate for optional snack times in schools.

    1. Dawn,
      I’m a big fan of a morning snack too – this afternoon snack time is just interesting to me, because it will likely be so close to lunch. I’ve gotten some great feedback on other ways to help tweak the system without canceling it, so I’m hoping I can work with the teacher on them! 🙂 Katie

  26. Snack time is more than just eating.I previously taught a state funded preschool program for 10 years. Snack time was always a part of our day…but it was much more than just providing food for the children to eat. I have to say our snack time was the best oral language activity we ever did! We fostered skills that…I believe…are fading fast from today’s society. We sat down as a group….we passed the items around the table to share (napkins…cups…spoons…etc) we took turns….we helped others…we said please and thank you…we spilled things and figured out a way to clean them up (almost always fostering teamwork)…we sat next to people we liked and people we didn’t like so much…we learned to pour…stir…pinch…pull…tear…LOTS of fine motor activities….we often made or assembled our snacks…which included following directions…sequencing…memory recall…and building vocabulary…we tasted new things…yummy things and yucky things…we discussed our likes and dislikes…we discussed healthy and non healthy…we learned the difference between a snack and a meal…and we most definitely worked on our manners!!! not to mention all the math…social studies…and science we learned as well!!! I have to say it was the best time of the day and I would have drugged my heels in to have kept it in my preschool room. I do believe that if snack is mandatory…then it should be provided by the program and the program should be responsible for making it be healthy for everyone in the classroom. Of course not everyone approaches snack time in this manner…but I would suggest you ask before you attempt to eliminate it from the program and most definitely talk to the teachers and staff and see if they are open to modifying and improving snack time.

  27. I don’t have a lot of experience on this to share, yet, as my oldest is going to start preschool for the first time in a couple of weeks. That said, at her school each kid brings their own snack. The morning classes bring a lunch, and the afternoon classes bring a snack. This seems like a good set up to me, as each parent can choose what type of snacks they want their child to have. It requires parents to remember it every time, but if it just becomes routine, I don’t see that it’s parricularly a burden.

  28. We deal with this at my daughter’s preschool. They have a mandatory community snack, so I happily provide one, however I pack my daughter’s snacks and she’s never encountered a problem. In fact the kids are fascinated by her snacks (she brought your crispy green beans the other day and her classmates were all so curious). Now my older kids don’t have the same experience. They often get told their lunches are weird or smell funny. They have thick skins and feel confident in their choices but it takes time to build that foundation. I disagree with asking that parents purchase snacks from your provided list. While I wish all parents made wish choices for their child I don’t think it’s my place to tell them what they have to bring. Some parents can’t afford fresh produce and others have children whose taste buds aren’t accustomed. It’s such a fine line between encouraging wise choices and giving the impression that your way is the right way. Given the rise of allergies and intolerances these days it seems wise to just eliminate the community snack all together and ask that parents provide children with their own snack. I wonder if that might be a better choice than providing a list that you deem appropriate when other parents might not agree? I realize that might be be a popular choice but I think food can often make people defensive so big changes are easily achieved with small subtle steps.

    1. Thanks Stephanie – my bigger kids deal with the lunch comments too. 🙁 I am curious to see what the teacher thinks – I’d be all about sending my own and not doing community snack, but I’m guessing they ran into problems with that (parents constantly forgetting and then teachers having to feed kids with their own money and others asking for that snack even though they had their own…). We’ll see how it goes! 🙂 Katie

  29. I struggle with this too! I love the ideas here about getting parents involved and possibly exposing kids to healthy foods they might otherwise not have. My daughter just started preschool today and, as I’ve done with her 3 older siblings, I sent her with her own snack. We at least have celiac disease and dairy allergy so saying no to all the other packaged snacks is easy…but she still stands out for being different. I’ve had to teach all my kids that it builds character and that their bodies are growing strong and healthy because of the food choices they have to make. Good luck to you and John’s preschool year! Keep up the good fight 🙂

  30. For the life of me, I will never understand what is so hard about washing and cutting produce! So many of my friends even buy pre-sliced apples! Why? It’s just an apple! It’s really too hard to slice it for your child?

    I homeschool so I thankfully have never dealt with this issue. We have breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner. That’s it. I hope you will find a suitable resolution to the problem that will be good for you and your son.

  31. I love your post! I hope the word keeps spreading.

    This is my frustration point with sending my kids to school. I know all parents have a different philosophy for how they feed their kids. And, I respect it. But, it frustrate me to think my kids are getting treats almost every day. Then I have to limit the treats at home so we can’t enjoy a treat together because they already got one at school. Plus, I’m not a fan of a treat every day. It’s special food that should be enjoyed occasionally. Snack time in my home is not synonymous with treat time. I view snacks as another way to get my child to eat something nutritious- so they get more brain food 😉

    1. Yes, Renee, this:

      “Then I have to limit the treats at home so we can’t enjoy a treat together because they already got one at school.” That’s how I feel too! I would rather just feed my own kid, whether it happens at school or home. 🙂 Katie

  32. Jackie @ Crest Cottage

    Oh my. This is the story of my preschool prep. I had the hardest time settling on a school for my 3.5 year old simply because of the ubiquitous snacktime. There was very little getting around it without setting her apart, in a negative way. I am not looking for her to be shunned for eating healthy food! The school I settled on has a list of set snacks that are served. One has artificial food coloring, one has HFCS, and one has partially hydrogenated oils! They are chosen because they are “safe” for nut allergic kids. I understand the importance of keeping them safe, but what about everyone else? They make the blanket rule before even checking if there is a nut allergic child in the class. What about the kids, like by daughter, that have reactions to food coloring? What about the fact that trans fats are awful for all kids?

    Anyway, our compromise if providing our own snack. We have to provide it in advance in the original box (so… prepackaged it is… ugh) so that they can serve my daughter simultaneously. I appreciate that she won’t be singled out. While it is still food I’d rather her not have whenever she is at school, at least it won’t have what I consider poison in it. I am happy that many companies are starting to make “cleaner” junk food.

  33. It’s possible that other parents feel the same way! A suggestions list with a refresher list later in the year is a great place to start! I don’t think you need to prejudge yourself as pushy or weird. Some people might appreciate that you’ve done the idea work for them with a list. I’m glad you wrote to the teacher! Make sure you follow up. I’d write another email right away or ask to present to the staff a short case. Poll the parents even. Make it anonymous with SurveyMonkey. It could also be the case that some kids need this type of food routine. Maybe they don’t see a carrot EVER at home. Being presented with new things in public could be a push they need. I don’t like snacking but my at least half my clan prefers grazing. Every Body is different I suppose. I hope your turn some heads! What else is possible?!

    1. Tanja,
      I love your idea of getting the parents involved via anonymous survey! And also maybe I can pitch to the teachers like snack could be part of the curriculum, like you said, introducing kids to foods they might be unfamiliar with. That is AWESOME! Thank you!! 🙂 Katie

      1. Katie,

        I agree with you that taking time out of a 2.5 hr. preschool day for a snack seems unnecessary. Your follow-up to Tanja’s wonderful ideas of suggesting the teachers make snack part of the curriculum is very reasonable. I am a former Head Start teacher and all our meal times were teachable moments. We had a set of picture recipes so one of our “learning stations” would often be snack preparation. Food preparation teaches so many skills, such as pre-reading, number, sequencing, measuring, fine and gross motor skills, and science. There are so many fun ways to present fruits and veggies (ants on a log, cabobs, tomato slice faces, etc.) Head Start also uses the idea of introducing unfamiliar foods to the children. I, as the teacher, was introduced to new foods, such as jicima and the variety of bell peppers. Also, if the snack were part of the curriculum, the teachers would know what foods they would need and parents could sign up to bring particualr food items.
        I’ve also worked in a prescool where one or two children had severe food allergies, so after one group, all the teachers had to make sure everything was sanitized before the children with the allergies arrived. With all the food allergies/sensitivities today, it seems simplest just to offer fruits and veggies for a snack.
        Good luck to you in your battle of the pre-school snack.

  34. The last idea is the best but I’d bet the farm that it just won’t work, sadly. Probably your best course of action would be to offer to be the snack supplier. The ONLY snack supplier. Maybe it won’t fly but some parents wanna be lazy, no matter how many “helpful suggestions” are offered up to them.

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