My daughter attends a cooperative preschool where one of the co-oping parent’s jobs is to provide the class’s daily snack. At our two-year-old classroom orientation, the teacher mentioned a time when a family brought sardines (maybe anchovies? some kind of gross fish) when the class was doing their penguin unit. She was using it to illustrate how even the teachers follow the try-a-bite-to-be-polite request, but all I heard was that snacks should be tied to the theme during your co-op time. I was a little worried, but there’s Pinterest, so I figured I’d be fine. It didn’t take me long to realize that between allergies, religious restrictions, and picky eaters, it was pretty rare to have something that wasn’t fruit (apples, applesauce, or strawberries), dairy (string cheese or yogurt tubes), and sometimes grains (muffins), with maybe the occasional grape or veggie/hummus combo thrown in. And while I love my fellow preschool families, it was insanely frustrating to have to avoid “easy” snacks like cheese, applesauce, and grapes at home because the kid was ODing on them at school. I should say, though, that things have gotten better as the kids have gotten older. Maybe they’re more adventurous eaters now?
Anyway, while my daughter loved those foods both at home and at school, she also ate a much wider variety of food. I vowed to provide more unique snacks on my husband’s days as the classroom co-oper, while also promising not to send food my own kid wouldn’t eat. We’ve done so many fun things! For Mardi Gras, I made (mild, meat-free) red beans and rice with maque choux. I’ve made gingerbread with cinnamon-and-honey-baked pears, which I Instagrammed the night before, making all the parents jealous. When my daughter wanted hotdogs for her birthday snack, I made hotdog “kebabs” using a slice of hotdog with a chunk of bun on a toothpick, with veggies on the side—for balance.
And while the week’s theme doesn’t always lend itself to creative snacks, sometimes it inspires great ones. This year, parents have treated the class to rocket-ship shaped snacks during space week, a make-your-own-groundhog snack on Groundhog Day, handmade graham cracker houses for the kids to decorate, kid-made heart-shaped pretzels for the class Feelings Party—it’s amazing how creative some of my fellow parents are! One of my personal favorites that I’ve put together was during the pond-themed week in my daughter’s first year of preschool. We served the kids pond scum, plants, and dirt. Oh yeah!
Let me share the recipes I used, so the next time you’re looking for a creative (and pretty healthy!) snack for kids, you’ll have inspiration and instruction at the ready.
The pond scum? A healthy Green Goddess dressing based on a recipe from 100 Days of Real Food. I did make some modifications to the recipe. I don’t keep fresh herbs and spices around, so I used dried minced garlic (reconstituted in the milk before blending), and four teaspoons of dried parsley in place of the fresh. I splurged on the fresh basil, but found that not using the dried parsley resulted in a dressing that wasn’t green enough, so I tossed in half an avocado. And I used plain Greek yogurt instead of plain yogurt because I wanted a thicker dip; the avocado helped a lot with that, too. I like this recipe because if you’re just looking for something green to dip in and not a green goddess dressing per se, you can toss in whatever green herb mix tastes good to you. Go Italian with some oregano. A lot of the recipes I looked up called for tarragon. I’m thinking I might play with dill the next time I make this. Yum…Aaaaanyway, serve with veggies (AKA “plants”). I picked a bunch my daughter liked, and one that I know at least one of her friends ate at home. You can also add pretzel sticks or break pretzel rods in half to make “sticks” or “logs.”
And the dirt? Do you remember dirt pudding from your childhood? Love that stuff. The catch is that snacks at the school have to be healthy. We do treats on special occasions (birthdays, class parties, etc.), but not as a regular thing. So I had to figure out how to make dirt healthy. Except for the gummy worms. Organic or not, they’re still candy—but you can’t have dirt without them! I found a recipe for healthy dirt at Literary Sweet’s website. That recipe uses The Gluten-Free Hippie’s choco-banana pudding as a base, and adds cookies and gummy worms (plus optional whipped cream, although I’ve never used it). When I made the pudding, I doubled the vanilla and added extra cocoa powder and agave to taste. To keep the dirt healthy(ish), I subbed out the sandwich cookies for chocolate cookies. While no one is ever going to believe that the choco-banana pudding is a big ol’ batch of Jell-O instant chocolate pudding processed food deliciousness, it’s one of those healthy foods that’s tasty in its own right.
Both preschool snack ideas were a big hit with my little ones! Psst…want to hear my pond-scummy secret? I also just served it to my in-laws for lunch. It’s a big hit with grown-ups, too.