When it comes to parenting hacks, I find that about 1 in 10 works with my kid. The snack shelf is one of our rare success stories.
Here it is in all its nutrient-rich glory: You’re looking at pretty, easy-to-open containers of carrot sticks, broccoli florets, orange slices, and washed raspberries. (I used to keep a small dish of ranch dressing in there, too, but I discovered that Frances will actually eat vegetables without—this was not always so—when we ran out. I think we’re just going to continue to be out of ranch dressing indefinitely.) There’s a jug of milk, and Greek yogurt hiding in the back. The precise contents of the snack shelf vary, but this snapshot is representative.
This is Frances’s shelf. She can eat anything she wants from it at any time and in any quantity. As long as I keep this shelf stocked and refrain from crowding it with random leftovers or gross grown-up food, snacktime remains a time of peace in our house. And I have discovered that, left to her own devices, Frances will choose vegetables. The fact that it’s her choice seems to make all the difference.
This shelf also helps make lunch prep easy in the morning—I’ve got fruit and veg ready to go—and it solves a dinner dilemma that vexed me for some time. Frances used to be a pretty adventurous eater, and I generally served her whatever I prepared for Ted and myself, or a slightly modified version of the same. But, lately, Frances wants one thing for dinner: buttered noodles. This drove me kind of nuts, and there were nights when I simply said, “No more buttered noodles!” Unpleasantness ensued. But then I realized that, if Frances has been grazing from the fridge between her return from school and dinner time, she’s already had an a la carte version of a pretty good meal: protein, calcium, a mix of vitamins and minerals, not to mention fiber, probiotics, antioxidants, and other goodies. Also, she’s not ravenous when she comes to the table, which means that I can satisfy her longing for noodles with a small portion. And—and!—now that the buttered-noodle battles have ended, Frances has started to take an interest in the other foods available at dinner time. (This dynamic might be familiar to anyone who’s read a certain book about a certain badger.) Just last night, she told me that she doesn’t like pancakes for dinner, but, after I made a few for myself and warmed up the maple syrup, Frances was at the stove on her stepstool, making blueberry smiley faces on her own pancakes.