The Art of Char-KID-erie

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A honey/bee/yellow-themed lunch made up of bee icing decorations, flower sandwiches, honey grahams, dried pineapple, alphabet crackers, and yellow bell pepper with ranch in a silicone baking cup for easy clean-up and use! It took me less than 10 minutes to make this.

Around here, we love a good snack plate! I’m almost positive that my kids would be perfectly content to eat only snacks and no meals for the rest of their lives. What is it about calling something a “snack” that makes it more appealing to eat?! Over the years, I’ve worked on perfecting the art of The Snack Plate, otherwise called “char-KID-erie,” to be utilized for lunches. (Get it? Charkiderie instead of charcuterie? Yeahhh…My sense of humor got significantly more punny and cheesy once I had kids.) 

Shark sandwich, Goldfish, applesauce pouch, cheese cubes kept cool with fish reusable ice cubes, and a kiwi with dolphin & whale bento picks makes for a fun ocean-themed lunch!

Punny jokes aside, this has been really fun for me to do for my kids. Once I had a select few items on hand to assist me in jazzing up my kids’ snacks and lunches, it simplified the process and made it more enjoyable. Full transparency: I do it because it’s fun for both my kids and me, and I genuinely enjoy it. If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t force myself to do it. If it’s not your thing, that is perfectly okay! You can make your lunch box or snack plate as simple or as extra as you feel like. Sometimes, I prepare an entire themed bento box with fun additives, and other times, I just use a fun-shaped cookie cutter on their PB&J and call it done.

Crafting the Plate

My kids’ favorite lunch is just a simple snack ~charkiderie~ plate. Since they started “school” (MDO), they’ve been obsessed with using their little bento boxes for meals, even when we’re just eating at home. I got them just the bento trays instead of the full lunch box, and they’re only $10 instead of $30! They’ve worked out so well. They’re incredibly durable too, but don’t ask how I know this. (Answer: my husband left a bento box tray on the roof of the car and drove off. The only damage was a small hairline crack on the edge that we can hardly see! I highly recommend these trays.) We also love using the GoBe Snack Spinner, especially for busy days on the go or for traveling.

When I get stumped on lunch ideas, I just try to follow a simple structure. They’ll have one “focus food,” a protein, some “healthy” fats, a grain/nourishing carbs, and, as my four-year-old says, “something crunchy.” Focus food, protein, fats, carbs, crunchy. BAM. 

Summer-themed charkiderie plate, complete with goldfish, flower sandwich cutouts with a rainbow umbrella, a sunshine sky napkin, reusable ice cubes (to keep food items cool and also add fun colors), and cute eye bento picks!

The Breakdown

I’ll give you some ideas for each section based on what we oscillate between to help you get your wheels turning! 

Focus Food

This is the main event. For this, we rotate between chicken nuggets, PB&J, ham and cheese sandwiches, etc. To make this a bit easier, sometimes I’ll make a big batch of PB&J sandwiches and freeze them in little cutout shapes! When I pack them for lunch in the morning, they’re thawed perfectly by lunchtime.

Protein

A meat stick, something Greek yogurt-based, pepperoni, apple slices with peanut butter, “ants on a log” (celery with peanut butter and raisins), or a kid’s bar that is higher in protein.

Healthy Fats

Cheese cubes are our go-to favorite! Avocados and cashews/almonds are also popular around here. My children do not have any friends with nut allergies in their class so we can get away with nuts, but make sure to check on this for your particular situation! If there are any nut products they can’t have at school, you can just provide them for their at-home lunches or snack plates.

Grain/Nourishing Carbs

Fruit (both fresh fruit and dried fruit), a granola bar or granola bites (we love the MadeGood ones), sweet potato sticks/fries, and many more kid-friendly foods fit this category.

Something Crunchy

Crackers, veggie straws, and pretzels are my kids’ favorite crunchy snacks!

I love using alphabet crackers to spell words as my preschooler continues to further her knowledge of letters and their sounds. She gets so excited when she recognizes her name, especially in her lunch!

Quirks, Tips, and Tricks

Sometimes, I hit all these areas in one meal, and other times, like if I’m short on time or my kids are not very hungry, I only hit a couple. Every day is a little different. I usually add a little treat in there too, because I’m a fun mom! (If I tell myself that enough times, maybe it’ll become true?) Their favorite treats are a small cookie (like an Oreo or a couple of vanilla wafers) or some mini marshmallows. I’m not trying to wind them up, especially at school; I just want to give them a little sweet pick-me-up! We are a dye-conscious family, and the Aldi brand marshmallows are free of food dyes, so this has been a recent win for us.

Treats

I’ve found that, over time, offering the treat with the meal, instead of approaching it as an after-meal-exclusive, makes it less of a hot commodity. I am always making a concerted effort to avoid attributing morality to food; we keep food morally neutral in our house in order to promote a healthier relationship with food (more on that here.) It’s also interesting to observe that, nine times out of 10, they eat some of their other food before reaching for the treat.

Star-shaped PB&J sandwich bites, planet icing decorations, and a galaxy napkin make for an out-of-this-world space-themed lunch!

Organization and Tools

I keep all of my fun charkiderie supplies in a little organizer basket in my cupboard. It’s full of silicone baking cups, bento picks, cookie cutters, reusable ice cubes, icing decorations, themed napkins, and more! I highly recommend keeping it all in one spot. That helps when you feel the desire to jazz up their lunch, yet you’re short on time or creativity. 

I promise this doesn’t have to be complicated! Even little tweaks here and there will add so much extra excitement for your child. Remember to work smarter, not harder. It’s important to make it your own; that’s what makes it more meaningful and fun anyways. Now, let’s go make this school year The Year of Char-kid-erie!

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Audra Smith did not spend her childhood in Alabama, but got down here as fast as she could! Originally from Ohio, Audra met and married her husband (of nearly 6 years now), Brian, while in college, and they decided to move to Alabama on a whim a year after graduation, resulting in the best decision ever made. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Family Studies/Child Development. Audra spent the first few years after the move working for The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa within Early Childhood Education. After years of working in close proximity to Big Al, it’s safe to say now that she is a faithful Tide fan. Audra is an Army National Guard wife due to Brian’s military service and dedication to the great state of Alabama and our country. After enduring years of infertility, Audra and Brian were miraculously blessed with their daughter Nora Jo, who was born in March 2018 in the heart of Birmingham. Audra now resides in the Chelsea area (Sterrett) with her husband Brian, daughter Nora Jo, and living security system (lab/hound mix) Hamilton. When she’s not wrangling and chasing after a spunky toddler, Audra enjoys a good book, just about a million cups of coffee a day, embracing/celebrating the wild ride of postpartum, any DIY crafty project, and being on the water. She initially went to college for Vocal Music, and still enjoys music and singing very much as an outlet (even if she’s mostly singing “Baby Shark” these days.) Audra is passionate about raising awareness for Type 1 Diabetes, as she lives with this disease every day. Audra is currently a stay at home mom who makes it a priority to cultivate side projects related to her passions. She enjoys connecting with other mamas, women, and anyone who needs someone to talk to. Instagram has become a virtual tribe for her, and if you’d like to participate, head on over to @audrashoupesmith whenever you need a dose of “real life.”

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