Food: the way to the heart or to the mind?

There is something about food, isn’t there?  We all eat, so it is a perfect social experience.  Everyone is going to eat sometime today, so why not do it together?  We go out to eat with friends, we host dinner parties, celebrate moms-to-be with brunch baby showers, and the list goes on!  There is nothing quite like the prospect of food to get our attention either.  Boring meeting?  Add donuts and coffee, and voila! everyone is a little happier to be there.  Want to get new people involved in a committee or organization?  Promise there will be food and you’ll get people to show up!  Need help moving, painting, or building something?  Pay them with pizza!  Everywhere we look people are gathering around food.  Then there’s the popular saying, “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”  I know my hubby seems to enjoy when I choose to say “I love you” by cooking up a special meal or treat.  I’d like to take some creative license with that old adage though, and suggest that food may not only be the way to the heart but also to the mind.

There is plenty of research around showing the correlation between healthy eating and focus, learning outcomes, productivity, etc.  And if you’ve ever tried to really concentrate on a project while your tummy was grumbling away, you’ve experienced first hand the importance of food to your mind.  So we can all agree that healthy eating is of the utmost importance.  As a homeschool mom of two littles I am also aware of the endless barage of requests for snacks!  There are days when I wonder if I accomplish much more than making, eating, and cleaning up snacks!  It’s hard work coming up with easy, no-mess, and healthy snacks all the time, and without breaking the bank, am I right?!  I have found that prepping some of those snacks ahead of time really cuts down on my workload during the day.  I buy the full size boxes of baked cheese crackers in the shapes of various water-dwelling creatures, bags of dried cranberries, apple and veggie straws, and other little tasties the kids love.  When I get home, I measure out a serving-ish into snack size zippy bags and dump all the bags into a couple of buckets I keep where the kids can reach them.  Now when it’s snack time, they can grab the bucket and pick out their own snack.  It’s a little tedious, but at least it’s only that way once a week instead of a million four times a day.  And it’s soooo much cheaper to buy the full-size packages than the individual ones.  My two also like cheese so I’ll buy it by the block and cut it up into little squares and put those in snack baggies as well.  You could do the same with grapes, strawberries, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, or any other little treats your heart (or their tummy) desires.  [A few of you may be wondering about all those plastic bags, and to be honest I considered it too.  I just decided that it wasn’t any worse than all of those little packages I could be buying from the store and that my sanity was worth it.  There are plenty of more eco-friendly options though if you choose to use them such as the reusable zipper bags.  Heck, who says you can’t reuse the regular zippie bags as long as you rinse them out…. and your child doesn’t destroy them.  I might even try to use small resealable containers one day.  Anyway, please don’t judge me for not being 100% eco-friendly with this idea. Us mamas got to do what we got to do!]

Another idea I had was to just combine snack into their playful learning.  If we need food in our bellies to learn, then it makes sense to learn while putting the food in our belly!  The activity I want to share isn’t the most healthy in the world, but it helped Bay start counting and working on his one-to-one correspondence as well as helping Punky start recognizing the numerals for some quantities.  And there’s nothing like marshmallows to get a kid’s attention, even a kid like mine!

All I did to set this one up is write some numbers on index cards.  I also spelled out the word for each number so Punky could work on some spelling while we were at it.  Then to assist Bay, I added little circles for each marshmallow to go in.  You could use a ten-frame instead if you wanted but this worked for us.  Then I let the kids choose a few cards, fill the bubbles with marshmallows, and enjoy a tasty snack after they had finished all their cards.  That was it.  Using something edible as the manipulative made clean up really easy too – there was very little left to put away when they were done.


So, do you think it might work to mix snack time and learning time in your house?  What foods would you use and how?  I’d love to hear your ideas – drop them in the comments below!  Happy snacking 🙂

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