In earlier articles, I’ve explained that Americans are, on average, snacking more and that as Americans snack more, their snacks are taking on the nutritional characteristics of meals. It matters not where you eat your food – in the car, at your desk, or in front of the TV – manners, nay, snack manners, are important. And they are important for kids as they eat kid snack foods, too.
In my house, the family sits down to dinner together every evening. This is important family time, a time when the kids share their news of the day and lessons are reinforced. It is a time to focus on each other, and share the social experience of a meal. The social component of this small ritual, this daily event, has innumerable benefits, including improved academic performance, eating more nutritious foods, and boosting vocabulary. And manners. Don’t forget manners! Here are a few rules of the road for snack manners.
Rule #1: If You Drop Something, Pick it Up
Kids drop things. I know, hard to believe, right? Kids drop things all the time. Even the most perfectly portioned, ideally packaged, one-handed snack-meal will get dropped by your child. And by you. Picking up after your child is a feature of any caregiver’s life but the littles also need to understand why picking up dropped snacks is important. Tidiness is part of the equation but perhaps the bigger part is what you are teaching a child if the dropped item is left behind. It’s careless and with every dropped snack, beverage container, or wrapper, your neighborhood park or soccer pitch or community center pool is left a little bit messier. I still pack wet wipes, mostly for wiping off faces and hands but they are ideal rags for cleaning up these spills and drops. And if no garbage can is immediately accessible, pack out what you pack in.
Rule #2: Don’t Eat and Run
I mean, literally, don’t give your kids food while they are on the move. The spill multiplier shoots through the roof and it is an instant choking hazard, no matter how old you are. Sit down; preferably at a table and in a chair. Pause. Open your snack-meal. Pause. Look at your snack-meal. Pause. Inhale. Pause. Engage with your snack-meal. It’s always ok to eat alone but meals are designed to be social events that connect us. They are times of relaxation. And food of any kind, convenient or otherwise, should be treated with the respect it deserves. Honor it for what it gives you and your body. And be thankful you have enough of it to eat each and every day. If you give kids one social grace, let it be respect for their daily bread.
Rule #3: Chew with your Mouth Closed
It’s an oldie but a goodie – no one wants to see food while it is being digested. No one really needs to eat and talk at the same time but in our maniacal, multi-tasking society, we must be slackers if we are only doing one thing at a time. No! Scratch that idea. The only way to truly enjoy your snack-meal is to savor it. Close your mouth, then close your eyes. Chew. Listen while those around you talk. All that chewing not only aids digestion and helps prevent upset tummies but the food stays inside. A closed mouth means no leaks, spills, or flying objects. And it reinforces Rule #2.
Snack Manners are Forever
The locations where we eat has expanded beyond the table but the rules of the road are basically the same. The table manners you likely learned growing up still apply in today’s on-the-go snack-meal culture. Pause. Slow down. Savor. And explain the value of manners to a child. Your family and your community thank you.