Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Help Yourself

Alternative Title: How to Make Your Life Easier

The general pace of our house tends to run 100 mph. That's the way it goes when you have four boys & two type A parents. We always seem to have about 8 different "irons in the fire" to quote my father. This is, in part, because neither Will or I seem to be able to say no to anything that pulls on our time. It's also partly because we both have a need to control things. Because of this hectic pace, I am constantly in search of a way to simplify & to be more efficient as household. This week, I'm going to share with you some things that we do at our house to simplify day to day living, but are also things that empower our kiddos to be more independent. 

The Problem: Hungry & Thirsty Kids

If your house is anything like mine, your kids are constantly hungry and/or thirsty. I've found that my boys are almost always in need of something to eat or drink. I would sit down to answer a couple of emails only to be almost immediately interrupted by someone needing something. Can I have a glass of water? I'm so hungry, I need a snack. I'd try to fold a load of laundry. But I'm sooo thirsty, I can't wait.  Or, heaven forbid, I try to make a phone call. Mooo-ooomm, my stomach hurts. I really, really need a snack. I know I just ate lunch but I'm still really hungry. Ultimately, this would lead to me snapping & someone would get in trouble. Generally, we'd both have to apologize. 

I decided that if I was going to retain any of the sanity I had left, something needed to be changed around here. So, I started thinking, looking around & eventually, reorganizing. I made the following changes to make this place self-serve instead of full-serve (fool-serve?). 

Plates, Bowls & Cups

Plates & cups were my 1st move. You can't be expected to serve yourself if you can't reach the plates. I cleaned out a drawer that was reachable for even the smallest of my inhabitants & stashed all the plastic kid plates, bowls & cups in there. Problem #1 solved.


The Refrigerator

Now that they are equipped to serve themselves, how do I get them to eat what I want them to eat? I started by setting some boundaries. The refrigerator is free game, meaning that you can pick a fridge snack whenever you want unless it is close to mealtime. I try to cut off snacks around an hour before meals. I've designated the bottom half of the refrigerator for kid snacks. Check it out & then, we'll break it down.

The bottom row, which you can't see, houses cheese: string cheese, Babybel, whatever we happen to have gets put in here. The next row up is for apples & grapes, already washed & ready to eat. Next row is yogurt & individually packaged fruit. When I come home from the grocery store, I try to wash & cut up fruit to put in these snap containers. They can grab one & go if it's already ready. A little bit of time initially saves me some work in the long run. Those tube yogurts are actually Chobani Greek Yogurts instead of Gogurt. Finally, the last reachable row is for water bottles. I wash the water bottles every night & fill them up before we go to bed. Then, they're ready for the next day. The boys can also refill their waters themselves throughout the day.

The Island

Again, another place the boys can access anytime during the day is the fruit bowl located on the island. This is where I put fruit that I shouldn't refrigerate. 

The Pantry

Now, this is a section I do regulate to some degree. This is the "ask Mom" section of our snack supply. I try to keep things in here that I don't want them to eat constantly, but things that I don't mind them eating once/twice during the day. In my book, natural things get eaten whenever; processed things get eaten sometimes.

Anything boxed, I like to try to the control portions so I will help them with these things. Things in the polka-dot box are self-serve, because they are already portioned.

I moved all of the junk food up to the highest pantry shelf to help curb all of the asking for chips & cookies. It also helps me not eat it because its not in my direct line of sight. I taught my boys that junk food is a "treat" and not a "snack".

So, Why Does This Make My Life Easier?

A couple of reasons: 1. The obvious, I don't have to serve anyone or refill things. 2. The arguing over what is an "appropriate" snack is no more. They know which snacks are always a choice & which snacks are sometimes a choice. If they want cookies, they have to specifically ask for cookies instead of just grabbing them off the shelf. It took a little while to break everyone in, but now that they know the rules, there is almost no arguing. Notice that I said almost :) 3. Everyone is eating healthier with only a little more work up front from me. It does take some time to prep after coming home from the store, but I truly think it's saved me time day to day. Also, during the school year it makes lunch packing quick & easy. Win-win.

What About the Veggies?

My boys are not big vegetable eaters. Our veggie eating tends to involve ranch so that requires another step from me. Most of the time, the boys won't voluntarily choose vegetables so I tend to stick with fruits during snack time & save veggies for meals when I can monitor & bribe appropriately. We pop a multi-vitamin every night & call it day. I do sometimes sneak veggies into things I know they like, but that's another post for another time. 

What do you do to make your snack time more efficient? 

Need tips on how to get your child is eat at mealtime? Check out my previous post: Toddler 101: Food Wars

follow me on twitter @preschoolmomma 

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