Snacks are an essential part of a child’s daily food intake, especially in the summertime when their days are often packed with activities and play. In fact, a solid snack can provide a midday energy boost to fuel their tiny bodies for fun stuff like summer camp, imaginative games and cardiovascular exercise. And while summer days might not be as structured as school days, there are still big benefits to offering kids a variety of foods from different categories.
Here, we’ll talk to experts about some of the most beneficial summer snacks for kids and delve into a variety of recipes that are sure to please every palate and keep kids full until dinner.
What to look for in summer snacks for kids
Consider the weather during summer. As temperatures rise, outdoor activities put kids at risk for overheating, dehydration and exhaustion. So it’s important to incorporate snacks that are not only nutritious but also hydrating.
“We can meet our hydration needs not only with beverages but also food,” says Rebecca Toutant, registered dietician, certified diabetes care and education specialist and personal trainer. “Any liquid we bring into the body counts. That could be water, milk, plant-based drinks, fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables.”
Choose foods with nutritional mileage
“Kids tend to be “on-the-go” munchers, rather than big meal noshers, so it’s important their snack foods provide the nourishment they need. They are also growing so rapidly in childhood years that their body needs the extra nutrition to fuel that growth,” says board-certified nutritionist Lahana Vigliano. “The best snacks are the snacks that have a little bit of each macro group. Having a carb, protein and fat in a snack will ensure that your kiddo is feeling satisfied after it and not running back to the pantry for more!”
Registered dietician Jessica Jaeger agrees that kids’ snacks should contain a combination of macronutrients. “Ideally, each will have a combination of carbs, fats, protein and fiber for sustained appetite, energy and blood sugar regulation,” says Jaeger. “For example, offering hummus, pretzels and baby carrots is preferable over offering just pretzels since the simple carbohydrates in the pretzels will not provide long-lasting energy on their own.”
Bring in the fresh stuff
And while kids may think that a homemade snack is a lot less fun than a packaged one, parents can show them that a snack made in their very own kitchen can be just as good. One way to get the kids excited about healthy snacks is to take them shopping with you. A few trips around the produce section can help them identify their favorite fruits and vegetables. Take it a step further and visit the farmer’s market where vendors are more than happy to let kids test out potential favorites.
Summer snack ideas and recipes kids will love
Getting kids involved in snack-making — anything from following a recipe together to letting them stir in the ingredients — helps kids take ownership in their snack, too. If they make it, they might be more willing to eat it.
Here are 11 summer snacks for kids that are sure to keep them happy, hydrated and filled with energy.
1. Homemade frozen banana “nice” cream
Did you know that you can make ice cream from frozen bananas? Just blend them up, and you have a sweet and creamy treat that is ready for your favorite mix-ins. Dani Spies with Clean and Delicious suggests trying nuts, chocolate chips, sprinkles or coconut flakes and topping options for this banana “nice” cream.
2. Three-ingredient strawberry gummies
Forget packaged gummies. This easy strawberry gummies recipe from Victoria at Summer Everyday is the real deal and only takes three ingredients to make: strawberries, gelatin and lemon juice. Use a silicone mold to make them into shapes the kids will love.
3. Kids snack tray
Grown-ups love their charcuterie boards. Why not make kids their own with this kids snack tray idea from Jacqueline Vignona at Spread the Grub. Using a muffin tin, fill each hole with a variety of snacks so little hands can pick and choose what they want. Try cubed cheese, diced fruit, mini marshmallows, pretzels and more.
4. Parfait popsicles
Mix granola with your favorite Greek yogurt flavor for the perfect summertime treat with these parfait pops from Andrea Clawson with Stay at Home Circus. These popsicles are refreshing, light and can be eaten any time of the day.
“Having two growing boys at home for the summertime, means stocking up on all the snacks! I like to stock up on snacks that will keep them fuller longer and are easy to grab and go,” says Clawson. “We always make a batch of my homemade fruit and granola popsicles to keep in the freezer for those hot mornings!”
5. Veggie pops
Speaking of popsicles, did you know you can make them with vegetables too? These orange-hued veggie pops from Laynah Rose are so tasty, little ones won’t know they’re packed with veggies. Combine pineapple, clementines and carrots for this well-rounded cold treat.
“Snacktime is a fun opportunity for kids to play with flavors and textures,” says Toutant, “like experimenting with fruit-infused water (which can also include herbs), popsicles (homemade or store bought), frozen fruits, and/or flavored ice cubes.”
6. Bunny bites
These irresistible bunny snacks from Mrs. Cowman’s Classroom are made from cheese circles (head), baby carrot slices (ears), celery (whiskers) and chocolate chips (eyes). It’s the perfect mix of protein-packed cheese and crunchy veggies.
7. Cucumber boats
This snack is the perfect pick-me-up for the midday energy lull. Crisp cucumber is paired with a flavorful avocado mash to make these cute little cucumber boats from 123 Nourish Me. The healthy fats in the avocado will help keep tummies full until dinnertime, and since most produce items are relatively high in water, according to Toutant, the cucumbers help with hydration.
8. Carrot cake energy bites
These carrot cake energy bites from The Vegan Housewife are kid approved and so delicious. Carrot puree, nut butter and spices make these carrot cake flavored bites hard to resist. Plus, they offer a combination of satiating ingredients that, according to both Vigliano and Jaeger, can help to keep those hunger pangs at bay.
9. Apple “donuts”
Sometimes the best snacks are the snacks kids make themselves, like these apple donuts from Unbound Wellness. Slice up apples, cutting out the core, then let the kids spread on yogurt, nut butters or any other sticky topping. Then, add other fruits, nuts, sprinkles and other toppings for the perfect “donut.”
10. Frozen blueberry pop-its
Do you have a bunch of those viral fidget toys laying around at home? Did you know they have an alternative snack use? Use them for these blueberry pop-ups from Tasty Spork. Each bubble holds a single blueberry, and when covered with yogurt and frozen, it makes the coolest finger food snack.
11. Watermelon slushie
Watermelon is one of summer’s best fruits, and most people dice it up into bite-sized pieces or eat it straight off the rind. However, there’s more that you can do with this versatile fruit, like make these watermelon slushies from Tasty Cluster. Try blending it into a delicious slushie that is sure to keep kids cool and hydrated on even the hottest summer days.