I teach a STEM enrichment class for children age 2.5 – 7, called Family Inventors’ Lab. We’re a cooperative program, which relies on parent volunteers in the classroom. Once each quarter, a parent is responsible for bringing and serving snacks for the whole class.
As a working parent of a small child, I understand that life is busy, so I always say it’s totally fine if they just bring in anything they happen to have handy in the cabinet.
But… if they WANT to tie into the theme of the week, they can. If they WANT to lead a “cooking” activity, they can. This post is my collection of ideas to match each of the themes this year. They’re only suggestions – almost anything the parent wants to do is OK. (Parents, see more tips at the bottom of this post.)
10-Sep CDL What is an Inventor?
Provide some kind of “invented food.” For example, instead of fresh blueberries, a natural whole food, provide freeze-dried blueberries – where a scientific process has changed and prolonged the edible life of the blueberries. We also had microwave popcorn – a natural whole grain has other ingredients added to it, and then a modern technology is used to cook it.
17-Sep RW Engineering: Towers
Build a tower of food, also known as a fruit kebab: bring long bamboo skewers, and fruit, cut into cubes or other small shapes… bananas, melon, blueberries (whole), strawberries, pineapple all work well. Kids build their tower on a skewer, then eat it.
24-Sep CDL Simple machines: pulley & inclined plane
Inclined planes snack: graham crackers and grapes (they can roll the grape down the cracker ramp).
1-Oct CDL Engineering: Tunnels and bridges
Build structures with food: provide toothpicks and cheese cubes and/or grapes and/or cubes of French bread, let children build their towers, then dismantle and eat. (You could use other foods, like cubes of apple or melon, or peas, or marshmallow, or gum drops. But, grapes, bread and cheese are easy and healthy. Tip for making cheese cubes… it’s easier when you start with cheese sticks than a big fat block of cheese. Just cut off slices and you have cubes.)
8-Oct CDL Simple machines: wedge & lever
Make your own fruit salad. The littlest kids can slice bananas or seedless watermelon with table knives or plastic knives. Middle-size kids could use scissors to snip marshmallows (or maybe grapes) into smaller pieces. Older kids could cut apples, or oranges with a sharper knife. You could also use a melon baller (a variant on a wedge) to cut the melon.
(Hint for why this snack applies to the theme: Knives and scissor blades are wedges.)
15-Oct RW If I Built a House
Simplified (and healthier) gingerbread houses: graham crackers for walls, cream cheese or sunflower seed butter to be the “cement” to stick walls together. and dried fruits for decorations.
22-Oct CDL Simple machines: axles & screw
Refrigerated make-your-own crescent rolls – you’re rolling an inclined plane up to make a screw shape. Plus apples to use with the Apple Peeler and Slicer that we have in the classroom. OR Rotini noodles and wagon wheel shaped noodles with red sauce. Cook them before class, so when kids want a serving, you can heat up just enough for that child.
29-Oct CDL Not Simple Machines: If I Built a Car
Cheese sticks and mini bagels for wheel and axle: http://karascreativeplace.blogspot.com/2010/04/wheel-and-axle-snack.html, or, since we’ll do a “drive-in movie” that day, could do popcorn.
5-Nov CDL Electricity
Something that you need electricity to prepare. 🙂 Something you mix with a hand mixer or a blender. (You’d need to bring one in, as I don’t think we have these in the classroom.) Or something you cook in a toaster oven or in a microwave. One option would be making fruit and yogurt smoothies in a blender… you could have them practice mashing up a little food by hand to see what hard work that is, and then putting food in the blender and whirring it quickly.
12-Nov CDL Engineering: Rube Goldbergs & Take Aparts
My only idea is wedges of cheese… we’ll be playing Mousetrap. If you have any other ideas, suggest them in comments!
19-Nov RW Wind and Flight
Some kind of “puffs” (Pirate booty, puffed Cheetos, puffed cereal) and straws. They can use a straw to blow around ONE puff while they eat the rest.
3-Dec CDL Chemistry – States of Matter
Make your own ice cream. You’d bring all the supplies… recipe here: https://inventorsoftomorrow.com/2016/1/05/states-of-matter/
Or, if that’s overwhelming, then bring pre-made ice cream and that ice cream topping that’s liquid when you pour it and then hardens when it hits the ice cream. (Note: ask us where the freezer is so we can store the ice cream for the first half hour of class)
Or make popcorn. (When you cook it, the liquid in the kernel turns into a gas, which expands, and causes the “explosion” which turns the kernel into popped corn.)
10-Dec CDL Chemistry – Mixtures, solutions, reactions
We’d love to do pancakes, to go with a book we’ll be reading. Coordinate with the teachers to find out what ingredients we would need you to bring.
Beverage: usually, we do only water at snack. But, this week only, we like to do Kool-Aid, or some powdered drink (solid) that they mix with water (liquid) and it dissolves/mixes.
17-Dec RW Chemistry – More reactions
Make your own ice cream. (If we didn’t make it two weeks ago.)
Or, if you’re up to it, we could do a yeast bread recipe… we’d need to work together to coordinate this, because we’d need to make the dough at the very beginning of class so it could get a (SHORT) rising time, then shape the rolls at the very end of tinkering time, to eat between outdoor times… timing would be a bit tricky.
7-Jan CDL Light and Shadow
Oreos? (And milk to dip them in.) Or something with distinctive silhouettes (like animal crackers) that they could shine a bright flashlight at and see its shadow on the table before eating it.
14-Jan CDL Weather and Rainbows
Colorful food: Could do rainbow goldfish, or graham crackers with rainbow chip frosting, or could do fruit skewers where they’d put colorful fruit on a bamboo skewer in rainbow order (red watermelon, orange orange, yellow pineapple, green kiwi or honeydew, blueberries, purple plum or blackberries.)
21-Jan RW Dinosaurs
PCC and Whole foods have a dinosaur shaped cheese puff snack. Or there’s Dinosaur Egg oatmeal. There’s probably other dinosaur shaped snack foods. Make jello eggs with a dinosaur shaped gummy or fruit snack inside.
28-Jan CDL Geology: Earth & Earthquakes
We’ll be talking about the layers of the earth, and making a layered terrarium, so snack could be either a yogurt parfait where kids layer together yogurt, fruit and granola, or a mud cup where they layer together chocolate pudding, bananas, crumbled graham crackers (or oreos), and a gummy worm.
4-Feb CDL Gravity & Magnets
Cereal with milk. Must be iron-fortified cereal if you also want to try this experiment… I haven’t tested it yet, so you’d need to test it first at home… but it sounds cool: http://www.dowlingmagnets.com/idea_center/activities_experiments/put_some_iron_in_your_food//
11-Feb CDL Planets & Astronauts
Trader Joe’s sells rocket shaped cheddar crackers. Horizon makes a graham cracker that’s cows jumping over moons. There’s astronaut ice cream. Or you could do some kind of food in a tube or a packet like the astronauts eat. (like an applesauce packet) You could also make something that looks like a planet.. like make Jupiter pizzas: English muffins spread with tomato sauce and cheese and heated in toaster oven.
25-Feb CDL Stars & Constellations
Trader Joe’s has star shaped yogurt covered cookies. Campbell’s makes chicken and stars soup. Or you could bring star shaped cookie cutters and slices of American cheese to cut.
11-Mar CDL 5 Senses / Observation skills
Several ideas in this post: https://inventorsoftomorrow.com/2016/1/05/taste-and-smell/
18-Mar RW Categorizing Animals / Describing
Animal crackers. Encourage them to sort them, count how many they have of each kind, describe them, etc.
25-Mar CDL Habitats
Make blue jello with Swedish fish floating in it? Bring animal crackers, give kids a paper plate labelled with place they might find the animals (desert for camel, jungle for monkey, etc.) When they get their crackers, they first sort them into where they belong, then eat them. Or get cheddar bunnies and goldfish to mix together, and kids have to sort into which lives in water, and which lives on land.
1-Apr CDL Adaptations to Environment
We’re doing an activity called Bird Beak Adaptations (described here). You could tie into that, by providing some snack with a utensil that makes it harder to eat… Can they eat spaghetti noodles with chopsticks? How about raisins? Or diced canned peaches? Or can they eat yogurt with a fork? Or drink yogurt with a straw? Or some similar challenge… Let them use tongs (like bird beaks) to serve the food.
15-Apr RW Eggs and Seeds
Seeds: Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, peas, edamame / soybeans. (No nuts please!) Or fruit with obvious seeds (cherries, seeded watermelon, peach, etc.) Or hard-boiled eggs. (Note, not all kids like eggs, so bring another item in addition to this.) Could do scrambled eggs, if desired… we have a stove at Robinswood.
22-Apr CDL Flowers and Plants
American cheese slices, and flower shaped cookie cutters. Or could bring something flavored with lavender or rosewater, but many kids don’t like these flavors. Or bring any fruit or vegetable!
29-Apr CDL Bugs, Skeletons & Exo-Skeletons
You could do a dirt cup (chocolate pudding, crushed oreos, and gummy worms) or bugs on a log (use pretzels or celery as the log, spread on cream cheese or sunflower butter, then sprinkle on chocolate chips or raisins or dried cranberries to be the bugs.) Or do the butterfly life cycle in pasta… orzo or acine di pepe for the egg, rotini or penne for the caterpillar, conchiglie (shell pasta) for the chrysalis, and bowtie for the butterfly. You could cook these all together in advance, then heat up portions as kids want them. (you’ll need to point out how they represent butterfly life cycle, otherwise kids won’t make the connection.)
6-May CDL Birds & Flight
There are recipes for “bird’s nests” made with chow mein noodles and butterscotch chips. Could make those, or use some other combination of items for bird’s nests: maybe pretzel sticks and sunflower seed butter? (no peanut butter, please). Or something egg shaped…
13-May CDL Fish / Sink & Float; Boats
Goldfish crackers! Or take bagel (or rice cake), spread on blue cream cheese (take whipped cream cheese and mix in a little blue gel food coloring), and put goldfish crackers in the “fish bowl.” Make your own goldfish crackers (I have a fish shaped cookie cutter. Here’s one recipe for the crackers… I haven’t tested it, so you’d want to test it in advance to see if it’s any good.)
20-May RW Robots & Machines
A bowl of snack mix… pretzel rods, cheerios, and Chex with a sign saying “nuts and bolts” and string cheese or licorice ropes with a sign saying “wires” and maybe some candy shapes for “buttons”.
(RW means the class happens at Robinswood Park, CDL means it happens in our Creative Development lab on campus.
Drinks: We always have water for drinks, so no need to bring juice or other beverages.
Could use for any theme:
For almost any theme, you could find cookie cutters that relate to the theme, and you could use them to make sugar cookies or biscuits or other recipes, or you could use them to cut American cheese slices, or bread, or many other things.
Also, if a parent doesn’t want to bring the theme related snack, then any of the following are always winning combinations: apples and cheese; graham crackers and bananas, pita and hummus, goldfish crackers and grapes, and so on.
We do have a nut free, peanut-free policy in our classrooms.
Tips for snack quantities: Snack is an optional activity in class, so not all kids will eat it. And of those who do, they often don’t eat much. So, when you’re planning quantities, if a box of something says it has “8 servings” in it, that’s plenty for 12 – 15 kids. Also, bring something you like to eat, because we’ll ask you to take home the leftovers. 🙂
Always bring two items (two kinds of food). If you only bring one item and a hungry child either doesn’t like that food or is not able to eat it due to allergies, then we have a hungry and unhappy child in class! Providing two types of food means that’s less likely to occur. So, for example, if you’re bringing cheese crackers, you could bring fruit to go with them. Or if you’re bringing cookies, maybe also provide yogurt tubes.
* Facilities and Supplies at Classrooms:
At CDL, we have for serving: disposable cups for water, and disposable plates (snack boats). We have spoons and forks. For preparing: we have mixing bowls, measuring cups, typical kitchen utensils, a microwave and a toaster oven. If you need something specific, ask if we have it, or just check yourself the week before.
At Robinswood, for serving, we have: re-useable cups, plates, and silverware. (Part of the snack parent’s job is to load these in the dishwasher at the end of class.) For preparing, we have mixing bowls, measuring cups, kitchen utensils, pots and pans, a microwave, stove, and oven. Again, if you need something specific, ask us.