Saturday, June 9, 2012

Making Preschool Snack Fun! Dye-Free Birthday Week

I made sure at the beginning of the year that I signed up for snack the week of her birthday, since this would be the first year she would still have school in June. This drop-off preschool is Tuesdays/Thursdays, so I had to plan two fun snacks. The teachers had told me the week before that they were looking forward to seeing what I came up with for snack this time. Uh-oh! I guess making gingerbread-person-themed snacks during their gingerbread-man unit in December and the fun teacher appreciation lunches and fruit bouquets was just setting the bar a little high for myself. And now I couldn't NOT end the school year with a bang! But I couldn't top gingerbread-man cheese and melon flowers... or could I...?

Tuesday's Snack
For the first snack day, Z and I decided on strawberries and raspberries, cheese, and something crunchy. I had several new bags of snacks from Trader Joe's to try, but while we were there, I grabbed another bag of Yogurt Stars, even though I had an almost-full bag at home still.

She was very excited to introduce picks to her school chums. I figured the fork-style picks would be less likely to injure, so I got out the plastic cheapie ones from Dollar Tree, since at 100/$1, I didn't mind never seeing them again. But I needed to make something to use them on. So I made a strawberry-raspberry medley from the berries we bought at Trader Joe's. Then my husband surprised me with a large flat of blueberries when he came home from the store with the frozen juice cans, which I had forgotten to get (the teachers prefer frozen juice cans over jugs of juice. Less weight for them to carry from the car, healthier than Kool-Aid-type drink mixes, and they can easily add a little extra water to dilute the sugar even more.) So I tossed some of those in too, even though Z hasn't been wanting blueberries lately.
Just berries - no added sugar
I put some picks in for the picture, but I sent them to school in a baggie in the snack tote. And I had a feeling they would "forget" to give the kids potential weapons, so I told Z to be sure and remind them. And I asked her how she would show the other kids how to be safe with them. "Stab food ONLY. Not your friends!" Good enough for me!

I dithered over what shapes to make the cheese into, since they're at the last two weeks of school and are doing review, so no fixed theme. But then my husband suggested trains, since that's the school's logo. Genius!
I made two cheese trains per kid, plus 6 extras (for the teachers, or kids who wanted more, or whatever. Last time Z jammed the whole stack of leftover cheese in her gob at the end of snack time.)

Even though there was plenty of sweets in the juice and berries, I decided to include the yogurt-covered cookies instead of the bag of lightly-salted popcorn or the sweet potato chips. Because these kids are all superstars!

Thursday's Birthday Snack
As it turns out, either the teachers "forgot" or else didn't know what the mini forks were for. And Z forgot to remind them. On the way home she was crushed that she had forgotten. She cried and cried and wanted the exact same snack again, as a do-over.  But when we got home, my box from Oriental Trading Company with her party favors had arrived. And when I opened it up to check the contents, she saw the Halloween "fireworks" skewers I had tacked onto my order on a whim and started getting all excited about using those for her birthday snack instead. I tried to talk her into the silver and blue ones I had also gotten, since they were more festive for this time of year, but she was in love with the "gold and black ones."

I tried talking her into letting me make ham and cheese sandwiches, then using my Fun Bites Cube It! cutter to make them into little squares to string onto the skewers, since I had bought a bag of organic apple slices as the fruit portion of her second snack. (Since I wanted to have to do as little work as possible after making  and decorating cupcakes.) No dice. She wanted strawberries again. But we were all out after Tuesday's snack. So Wednesday we made another trip out to Trader Joe's to get strawberries. They also had a grape medley carton, with red, purple and green grapes. I had an inkling of an idea in mind, so I talked her into the grapes too.
With one of each color grape, a slice of strawberry, and a bit of apple slice, I was able to make each skewer look like a rainbow. Wheee!
I learned from my fruit bouquets that strawberries cannot be trusted, so I used the red grape on top to keep the strawberry slice from sliding off, but that actually worked out okay, since then the strawberry looks good in the "orange" spot, even though it isn't orange. Not a ton of fruit per kid, but I didn't want to be making two per child. Gah!

I had also bought Trader Joe's Squishers (like Go-Gurts, but organic and dye-free!) Rather than have them fight over cherry versus berry flavor, I got three boxes of all-strawberry flavor. I only needed two boxes for 16 kids, but I've learned from observing snack time at the co-op preschool that sometimes some kids want two. And sometimes there's premature a-squirt-ulation and someone's yogurt misses their mouth by a mile. So I sent the third box as back-up. I sent them in an insulated bag with an ice pack, so they'd stay fresh during class and on the way home. They ended up eating two extras. Good thinking, Mama!

Even though I was sending fruit skewers, yogurts, and cupcakes, I was worried that there was no grains option. (The cupcakes don't count. They're dessert.) I waffled over sending the bag of Trader Joe's popcorn, since I was thought it might be too much food. In the end, I sent it, figuring I'd get the leftovers back at the end. Ha! Joke's on me. They ate it all!
Movie Theater Popcorn

And finally - my cupcakes! My sloppy, weird-looking dye-free cupcakes

Well, my snacks were a hit. Nothing but dirty dishes [I send home-prepped stuff in re-usable containers rather than zip-baggies] and unused fork picks came back from the first day, and only 6 of the 8 extra yogurt tubes from the second day. Although Z said she threw her fruit skewer away uneaten (but then was upset because she had wanted to eat the apple? But then why throw it out? This kid makes no sense sometimes.) And only one slurp of her yogurt. But she ate her entire cupcake, and was proud of it!
I wasn't too worried, since she had eaten her entire lunch on the way to gym class that morning, then we went out for buffet lunch after gym class, and she ate a bunch there. Then straight to school. And she ate two bowls of spinach after school (picked fresh from our little garden pot on the back porch,) and a bowl of mac-n-cheese and a muffin tin snack for dinner. I think that was more than *I* ate all day!

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