Summertime is almost here!
For many (myself included) this means relaxed routines, lots of backyard time, and fun outdoor adventures. Gone is the rigid and predictable structure of school and daycare, which helped to frame the meal and snack routine for my children.
Depending on who you are, this may be a much-needed reprieve, or perhaps it’s causing some anxiety leading up to the summer holidays, as you figure out how you’re going to navigate the change in pace and schedule.
When it comes to feeding and hydrating your kiddos, my suggestion is to – as much as humanly possible – keep meal and snack schedules consistent (with a bit of flexibility of course). Children, as we know, thrive on routine and consistency, and although it may require some planning and preparation on your end, it’s well worth it.
Here are my top tips for feeding kids during the summer months:
1 | Make a Rough Meal Plan
Take some time on the weekend (even 10 minutes!) to do a rough meal plan for the week, based on what your schedule is. I suggest starting with suppers, and then lunches. Breakfasts and snacks tend to be easier, and I find that they don’t require detailed planning as long as you have a few options ready to go.
For snacks, make sure that you have the following on hand:
- Fresh raw (or frozen) fruits and veggies ready-to-serve
- Protein choices such as cheese strings, Greek yogurt, nuts, seeds, Nut butters, edamame beans, hardboiled eggs etc.
- Energy foods such as homemade muffins, granola bars, energy balls, whole grain crackers etc.
Remember that your little ones have small tummies and high nutrient and energy needs (especially when they’re playing outside all day), so plan for 2-3 snacks a day in between meals. Each snack should be a “mini meal” consisting of a protein food + an energy food + fruits and veggies.
Here’s a handy downloadable snack list if you need ideas: Snack list for kids
2 | Keep a Meal and Snack Schedule
In summer, the hours can all blend together. It’s easy to wake up in the morning only to blink and it turn into lunch time. With kids at home this can be a recipe for a hangry disaster (or an all-day snack fest with little hands in the pantry and fridge every time your turn around). And THIS is why a rough schedule (and eating boundaries) are key. Try to schedule eating times to align with recess and school lunch if you can – this will help keep your kids fueled throughout the day and will be a nice way to break it up.
3 | Always Have Snacks When On-the-Go
Although I’m a firm believer in structuring snack times so that it’s not a free-for-all, it’s also important to enjoy your summer and go with the flow. Because your kiddos hunger doesn’t always “go with the flow”, it’s important to always have snacks, ready to go, in your bag/fanny pack/car at all times. You never know when you’ll need one, right? Our favourites are dried fruit and veggie bars, energy bites, homemade trail mix, granola bars, and unsweetened fruit and veggie pouches. Make sure that you keep foods at a safe temperature too.
4 | Get the Kids Involved
You have just inherited little sous chefs for the summer – put them to work! Toddlers, preschoolers and school-aged kids are vocal about what they like, and don’t like (they don’t hold back, do they?) AND they’re 100% capable of helping in the kitchen.
Get your kids involved, from planning and prepping to serving and cleaning up. Kids crave control and will thrive when given a task. Having them choose a side dish and help in the cooking will not only teach them important life skills, but is also a great strategy in helping kids accept and try new foods! Here are some great age-by-age ways to get kids involved in the kitchen!
5 | Manage Treats
Treat foods (even though I don’t like calling them “treats”—I just call them by their name to keep things neutral) tend to be abundant during the summer holidays.
Ice cream shop visits, popsicles, slushies … all summer classics.
When it comes to the number of treats a kid should have per day, there is really no set rule. Each family will be different in how they manage treat frequency, but as the parent, it your job to choose when and how often they’re served.
In my home, treat foods are offered once or twice a day, at random times, and aren’t associated with behaviour or consumption of other foods. Even though it might be tempting to use treat foods to keep the peace or dodge a sibling fight, or to get your child to pick up their toys, it’s not worth it. Although this may work in the short term, the long-term consequences may come back to haunt you (and your child). Instead, keep it calm and neutral. Offer them randomly, without notice; sometimes alongside a meal or nutritious snack and sometimes as a surprise when you’re on a bike ride.
5 | Don’t Forget About Hydration
This is the big one – hydration!
Kids don’t often recognize thirst, especially when they’re busy having fun, which makes them particularly vulnerable to dehydration, especially during times that can drive up their body fluid losses, like on a hot summer day.
Proper fluid intake is essential for kids, not only to stay hydrated, but also to:
- Help with digestion
- Move nutrients and waste through their bodies
- Maintain healthy blood volume
- Help lubricate joints and body tissues (like the mouth, eyes and nose)
- Protect and cushion their joints and organs
- Control their body temperature.
Toddlers, and kids should be getting anywhere from 3.5-7 cups of fluid per day depending on age, gender and activity level, and even more if it’s hot outside!
Base fluid guidelines for kids are:
- 1-3 year-olds: 3.5 cups per day
- 4-8 year-olds: 5 cups per day
- 9-13 year-old girls: 6.5 cups per day
- 9-13 year-old boys: 7 cups per day
It’s important to keep tabs on thirst, urine output and mood to ensure that your child is meeting his or her fluid needs. If your child is thirsty, and/or has dark, concentrated and strong smelling urine it’s likely that he isn’t meeting his requirements and needs to drink more.
Enjoy the summer! I wish you much snacking success. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to Kepler Academy or to me directly.
Sarah Remmer, RD
Here are a few tips to keep your kiddos hydrated throughout the summer:
- By a new, fun water bottle for your child for summer and make sure that it’s clean and topped up all day.
- Use fresh fruits/veggies or a bit of unsweetened fruit juice to naturally flavour their water.
- Make smoothies! Smoothies are a yummy and nutritious option for breakfast, lunch or snacks, and keep kids hydrated too!
- Make homemade popsicles! Here are 3 kids popsicle recipes to try.
- Serve lots of fresh or frozen fruits and veggies – these foods are naturally high in water content and will help to keep your kids hydrated!