The Manning Mama: Surviving Summer with Four Snack-Hungry Kids


Ah, summer! That glorious time of year when the kids are free from the shackles of homework and school routines, and we parents dream of long, lazy days by the pool. But let’s be real: three days into summer break, and the constant chorus of “I’m hungry” from my four ravenous children obliterates my visions of sunshine and relaxation.

My brood, Emily (18), Connor (15), Findlay (9), and Ellis (7) each has their own unique way of eating me out of house and home. They seem to think “summer break” means “eat everything in sight.” At my wits end, I asked my most trusted advisor, Google, to give me some solutions for this universal parenting problem.

Listen. I know some of these solutions are laughable and some are helpful, depending on how we run our own homes. However, I’m hoping each of you can use at least one to get through the summer munchies.

Tip #1: Set Up and Stick to a Schedule

Once the school bell rings for the last time, the first thing to go out the window is any semblance of a schedule. During the school year, they eat at precise intervals, but come summer, they raid the pantry like it’s Black Friday and everything is free.

To combat this, I’ve set up a strict eating schedule:

8:30am: Breakfast

11:00am: Snack

1:00pm: Lunch

3:00pm: Snack

6:00pm: Dinner

8:00pm: Evening Snack (if needed)

Admittedly, it’s a bit like trying to herd cats, but kids thrive on routine. When they know when the next meal is coming, they’re less likely to eat everything that isn’t nailed down. And I can breathe a tiny sigh of relief knowing the kitchen won’t look like a tornado hit it every morning.

Tip #2: Teach Portion Control

This is a big one. Left to their own devices, my kids will turn a family-size bag of Doritos into a single-serving snack. To prevent this, I give them small bowls to fill with their chosen snack and portion out larger bags into smaller containers.

Emily and Connor have mastered the art of portion control, though I suspect it’s because they don’t want to look greedy in front of their friends. Findlay and Ellis, on the other hand, need constant reminders that “a snack” does not mean “all the snacks.”

Tip #3: Set Up a Snack Station

Ah, the snack station—a game-changer for any parent with multiple kids or a revolving door of neighborhood friends. Every morning, I set out a variety of snacks (fruit, crackers, pretzels, hummus) along with small plates and bowls. I even include a sign with portion recommendations (e.g., “One scoop of pretzels, four apple slices, five crackers”).

This not only saves me from being a 24/7 snack dispenser but also teaches the kids some independence. Plus, it reduces the chance of them grabbing a sugar-filled treat right before dinner, which inevitably leads to them poking their dinner with a fork like it’s some alien life form.

Tip #4: Offer Snacks that Fill Up

I learned the hard way that fruit snacks are essentially candy in disguise. Now, I offer more substantial snacks that keep my kids fuller longer. Some favorites in our house include:

Graham crackers and peanut butter

Pita crisps and hummus

Banana, peanut butter, and yogurt smoothies

Apple slices and almond butter

Wheat crackers with pepperoni and cheese slices

Trail mix with nuts, dried fruits, and chocolate chips

These snacks not only curb their hunger but also provide the energy they need to keep them from turning into zombies in front of the TV.

Despite my best efforts, there are still moments when I wonder how many more days until school starts. The constant barrage of “What can we do today? I’m booooooored!” is only marginally more tolerable than the incessant munching.

But for now, I’ll stick to my schedule, keep portion sizes in check, and make sure the snack station is stocked. With a bit of planning and a lot of patience, I might just survive this summer with my sanity—and my pantry—intact.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to hide the rest of the Doritos before Findlay discovers where I’ve stashed them.