Monday, January 27, 2014

Solving the Snack Problem! {with a free printable}

Sometimes, simple is best, right?

That's what today's free printable is all about:  a simple solution to a common problem that we had in our house, and, that I suspect, that some of you might have in yours. 

Being Montessori-inspired, we believe in allowing each of our children the freedom to "do it myself".  However, some time ago,  "do it myself" somehow turned into a near-constant  habit of "help myself" to anything in the fridge, which drove me crazy!

Worse yet, before my children helped themselves to self-selected snacks, they often spent long, lingering moments peering into the fridge, thereby doing damage to energy efficiency and household bills.

Most certainly, my children needed some limits to their freedom and I needed those limits to be clear cut and easy.

What was the "Problem"?
Click the image for a free printable.

What was our solution?

You know that saying, "inside every problem exists opportunity"?  I decided that was the case with this "problem".  In fact, I decided that our "problem" was really five opportunities in disguise:

  • An opportunity to chat about why we eat:  The children and I talked about the fact that our bodies need healthy foods in order to grow (and heal when we are sick.)  So, I have no problem with them choosing healthy snacks whenever they are hungry.  However, sometimes we eat for other reasons.  For example, sometimes we eat when we are bored or thirsty.  Before we eat between meals, then, we should think about if we are really hungry or if there is another reason we might want to east.

  • An opportunity to encourage better habits of tidiness:  Tied to our "why we eat" chat, we discussed the idea busy hands often negate falsely hungry bellies.  Together, we decided that when we think we want a snack, we should first make sure we aren't just bored.  We should busy our hands with something else.  Then, I suggested that if we still want a snack, we should tidy up what we were doing before we go to the fridge.  

  • An opportunity to remind ourselves to drink water:  In our home, we drink water with all of our meals, but, for some odd reason, we do not always drink water in between.  That's not good, I know.  So, I used our "why we eat" chat as a way to encourage drinking more water.  

  • An opportunity to discuss conservation and bills:  Yes, despite my children's young age, I decided to discuss with them the fact that the refrigerator does its job best when its door is only opened for short periods at a time and that every time we let the door "endlessly" hang open, we let cold air out.  To get back to the right temperature, the fridge then has to use more energy.  Energy costs money and, so, perhaps the best thing to do is to decide what we want before we open the fridge.

  • An opportunity to practice courtesy:  We talked about the fact that Mommy plans our main meals and sometimes Mommy has foods in the fridge that are set aside for specific meals.  Thus, it is only courteous to ask before helping ourselves to some of the things in the fridge.  To help us with this habit, perhaps we should just ask each time we want to enter the fridge.

And with these ideas in mind, together, the kids and I came up with four super simple steps to remember for snack times:

  • Do a Tidy Time.
  • Drink water.
  • Ask
  • Enjoy.

Since we are visual, chart-types, the kids also helped me choose clip art to help our non-readers remember these steps.  We made a chart, hung it on the fridge, practiced with it and built new habits! 

Please feel free to try out our Want a Snack chart in your home, too.

A few things we learned...

  • Our oldest needs things to be very concrete.  So, over time "Do a Tidy Time" came to equate not simply putting back whatever we were doing or finding some other things around the house to tidy up, it became "Tidy five things."

  • Asking does not mean Mommy or Daddy will always say "yes".  If we have not eaten well at our last meal or if it is just about time for the next meal, Mommy or Daddy may say "no" and we should respect that!

  • It's hard to ask for a specific snack when you don't remember what is in the fridge.  Yep.  That inspired  us to make another chart:  a snack menu, which we use in conjunction with the "Want a Snack" reminder on our fridge.

  • Habits must be built over time.  The first few days we used the "Want a Snack" chart, we all did fabulously with it.  Over time, the neglected to follow it consistently and I forgot to ensure they did.  So, periodically, we have had to "retrain" ourselves.  For the most part, it works.  The children can "do it myself" and I can stay peaceful without them constantly hanging out  with an open-fridge door!

What strategies do you use to solve snack problems by creating freedom within limits?

This post is being shared at Living Montessori Now's Montessori Monday where you can find many other helpful games and activities.


Deb Chitwood said...

I love the way you solved your snack problem ... and included so many helpful lessons, Martianne. Thanks so much for sharing your printable! I featured your post as the Free Printable of the Day at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page and on Pinterest. :)

Martianne said...

Thank you for sharing, Deb. I pray many get good use out of my sharing.

Dani said...

Brilliant Idea!!! I can't wait to apply this in our home.


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