Promoting Independence in my ASD Child: Snack Time

We have a super-easy system in our house for managing the between-meal food demands of our two ravenous boys: snack drawers!

Kids are hungry creatures. At least, our two boys are! At some time in the distant past, I came up with a snack-time solution that has proven invaluable over the years. It has seen our boys grow from dependent pre-schoolers into boys who can make the right food choices for themselves (most of the time).

Benefits of the Snack Drawer System

  • Special treats last longer. With a designated place of their own in the pantry, the boys can be confident that no-one else will eat their lollies or chocolates from birthday parties and grandparents. This system has seen chocolate eggs from Easter being rationed daily to last for months! Even our instant gratification-driven Mr 6 can stretch treats out to enjoy them over weeks, instead of gobbling them up the day he receives them.
  • Being in control of snack items is teaching the boys healthy eating behaviours. With coeliac disease and NCGS, it is important that the boys think about the food they are putting in their mouths. Both boys take their diets very seriously, and try to make promoting-independence-snack-timethoughtful choices about balancing “live foods” such as fruits, veges, nuts and yoghurt with packaged foods from their drawer. Of course, as we are in control of stocking their snack drawers, we still need to take care to provide healthy options!
  • Sometimes the boys still ask me if they can have something to eat when they are hungry. It is a time-saver for me to be able to tell them to grab something from their snack drawer! If I’m working then I don’t lose my train of thought trying to find something for them to eat. If I’m unwell then I might direct them to eat from their drawers for the day, and give them ideas on what to prepare for their own lunches. This helps me to get the rest I need to be able to prepare a good evening meal.
  • If I or my husband have yummy treats, then they are equally protected by the snack drawer system! So my Mother’s Day chocolates are intact when I go searching for something sweet in the evening :).
  • Back when my husband could still eat gluten, the snack drawer system saved the rest of us from accidental gluten ingestion.
  • It helps me keep track of how much each child is eating, what snacks are popular at any one time, and I can see at a glance if I need to restock items.
  • When the boys request specific items for their snack drawers, they help me make the grocery list, which gives me the opportunity to involve them in more of the process, nominating fruits and veges they would like that week, as well as choosing a meal each for dinner.
  • There are countless opportunities created in this system for discussing dietary issues: when they ask for specific items, when they are wolfing things down, or when they whinge about the options provided! Balanced eating is a big topic in our house (see my post Why I serve meals on divided plates for more about this) and every opportunity we have to promote healthy choices is welcome!

How We Made Our Snack Drawers

snack-drawersAs you can see from the photos, I’ve re-purposed an old 4-drawer stationary organiser that was gathering dust, and simply labelled each drawer with a name. Simple! These days, treats are added to the drawers around school holidays and occasions, while term time sees ordinary choices (things I send to school for recess) offered in addition to anything special that the boys have received from other sources.

What Goes Into the Snack Drawers?

“Ordinary” snack ideas in our house include:

  • popcorn
  • rice crackers
  • GF pretzels
  • apricot squares
  • cashews
  • corn chips
  • sultana boxes
  • rice puff bars (GF versions of muesli bars)
  • flavoured roasted favva beans
  • packets of mini bites, rice wheels or similar pre-packaged gluten free snacks

open-snack-drawersSpecial treats include:

  • single serve potato chips
  • mini individual chocolate bars (eg twirl or toblerone minis, a few mini Reeses)
  • a few lollies sealed in small snaplocks to discourage ants.

Only items that can be safely kept in the pantry go into the snack drawers to avoid spoiling. There are still items like biscuits and home made slices, muffins and banana bread kept in the pantry proper, but the boys know to ask permission before eating these.

Stream-lining the snack options has saved me time and effort, but most of all, has been instrumental in our efforts to raise independent young men who are taking responsibility for their own dietary choices.

How have you been promoting independence in your home? Leave me a comment as I would love to hear your ideas!

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