Snack Ideas for Child Care Settings

children eating snacks at a table in daycare

Written by: Raschelle Sabourin, Registered Dietitian

Reviewed by: Nüton’s Registered Dietitians


Developing a snack menu at your child care facility is a great opportunity to get everyone involved. Variety is key when creating a snack menu to ensure that children get a variety of nutrients to learn, grow, and play.

Do you feel you have run out of snack ideas at your facility? Perhaps you have a snack menu that you rotate through but are looking for fresh ideas. We understand that it can be challenging to create a nutritious snack menu that children enjoy.

We want to provide some helpful strategies for creating an easy and nutritious snack menu.

So, where to start?

Variety is Key

It is helpful to provide a variety of foods, including vegetables & fruits, whole grains, and protein rich foods. Children’s tummies will stay full for longer, and they will have more lasting energy if snacks have a source of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Having an assortment of snacks on your menu will help ensure that kids get a variety of nutrients needed to learn, grow, and play. Keep it fun with colours, textures, and taste. Incorporating different themes for holidays can be a fun way to change up the menu. Adding seasonal fruits and vegetables can also be a wonderful way to change up the menu and have kids explore different foods.

Below is a list of different food items that you can mix and match to help increase the variety of snacks at your facility. Select foods from two out of the three categories below.

Vegetables & Fruit Whole Grains Protein
  • Grated or chopped carrots, celery
  • Snap peas
  • Bell pepper slices
  • Chopped cherry tomatoes
  • Cucumber slices
  • Mushrooms
  • Cauliflower, broccoli
  • Lettuce, spinach, kale
  • Salsa
  • Vegetable soup
  • Canned fruit
  • Applesauce
  • Cut grapes (quartered)
  • Cut melon
  • Apple, orange, pear, banana
  • Peach, nectarine, plum
  • Berries
  • Pineapple, kiwi, mango
  • Avocado
  • Bread, bun, bagel, wrap, flatbread, pita
  • Bannock
  • Oats/oatmeal
  • Cooked quinoa, barley, buckwheat, bulgur, amaranth, farro, freekeh
  • Cooked rice, wild rice
  • Cooked pasta, couscous
  • Granola
  • Cereal
  • Muffin
  • Granola/cereal bars
  • Crackers
  • Rice cakes/crackers
  • Pancakes, waffles
  • Milk
  • Cheese stick/string
  • Thinly sliced cheese
  • Cottage cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Fortified soy beverage
  • Chicken, turkey
  • Beef, pork, wild meat
  • Tuna, salmon, other fish
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Roasted deli meat
  • Chickpeas, beans, lentils
  • Tofu
  • Egg salad
  • Hamburger patty
  • Veggie patty (made with legumes/vegetable protein)
  • Hummus
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Thinly spread creamy nut/seed butter

Adapted from Including Variety in Lunches handout.

*A note on preventing choking:

Children under four years old should avoid raisins and other dried fruit, whole nuts and seeds, gum, marshmallows, hard candy, and cough drops. It is recommended  to avoid offering children small, sticky, or hard foods that are hard to chew and swallow to prevent choking.  Some ways to make foods safer are by:

  • Cooking raw vegetables to a softer texture
  • Grating raw fruits and vegetables (e.g., carrots and hard fruits such as apples)
  • Removing seeds and pits from fruits
  • Chopping or cutting foods into short strips rather than round pieces (no larger than 1 cm)
  • Thinly spreading nut butters on crackers or toast
  • Finely chopping foods that are fibrous or stringy such as celery or pineapple

What About Treats and Sweets?

You may be wondering about foods that do not fit into these categories? It is ok to incorporate foods that do not fit into these categories, such as cookies, chips, and cupcakes. All foods can fit and can provide a fantastic opportunity to strengthen children’s relationship with food. Give our post on how to approach “treats” a read to learn more.

Make it Together

For many children, snacks are one of the highlights of their day. Enjoying snacks is a whole experience that they look forward to sitting and enjoying with their friends.

Children love to be involved in decisions and helping in the kitchen. Making snacks together is a fantastic opportunity to get children in the kitchen exploring food and learning about preparing foods. Remember, however, that your job as an adult is to determine what food is served to children.

What’s the Bottom Line?

Snacks do not need to be perfect or fancy. Incorporating a variety on the menu will ensure that children get a variety of nutrients to learn, grow, and play.

Children love to feel included in the decision-making process and exploring foods in the kitchen. We hope this information sparks some ideas for your snack menu.

Additional  Resources:

Nüton has developed a resource called Including Variety in Lunches. Check this out for some useful tips on packing snacks and lunches.

Manitoba’s Nutrition for Early Learning and Child Care developed a helpful resource called the Menu and Mealtime Environment Checklist. Check this out for an easy-to-use checklist when planning your menu.

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