In the midst of summer days, whether yours are full or free, there comes a time when it’s too hot and muggy to move. My kids forget that stopping is an option, and they just get cranky instead. I try to help them shift the pace and quiet down by serving ‘slow snacks,’ or snacks that require a little extra effort on their part. Some assembly required, as it were.
One of our favorite summer snacks is radish slices with butter and a sprinkle of salt. I put out radish slices, a small knife, a pat of butter, and salt (my younger kid can’t be trusted with salt, so I might just put a pinch or two on the plate). They spread butter on a radish, sprinkle salt and put a second radish on top to make a tiny sandwich. I have won over radish haters when it comes in the form of a doll sandwich.
Other favorites are apples and nut butter (can be done as sandwiches as well), cucumbers, dill sprig and soft cheese (goat cheese or even cream cheese works). I know it sounds crazy to serve kids as if it were high tea, but if they can assemble the sandwiches themselves – and you have to trust them a bit to do it – it brings their focus to the food and the process. No need to get out a mandolin to prepare these snacks, just cut the fruit or veggies about a quarter inch thick, put them on a tray with a small bowl of the filling, and a knife for spreading.
Even putting out a bowl of peanuts in the shell can keep the kids busy for a few minutes. We gave my five-year-old a heavy-duty nutcracker for Channukah this past year, and the winter was filled with cracking walnuts, some of which he harvested from our black walnut tree. Yes, there was a lot to sweep up afterwards, but the process makes every nut, released from its shell, a treasure. And since we have some nuts left, my little squirrel children can move it outside for summer.
Originally published in Dirt Magazine, June/July 2017