Maybe it was the pandemic and the seemingly endless cycle of cooking and washing dishes that almost sent me over the edge. Maybe I was feeling unmotivated to try and once again coerce my kids to eat a healthy meal when they would rather sustain on Cheez-its and granola bars. More than likely, it was a combination of both that steered me to (what I feel) is one of the greatest parenting hacks out there. Charcuterie boards for kids! Grazing boards, snack plates, party platters; call it any name you feel is appropriate, but know it is pure magic!
As adults, can’t we all relate to the broad appeal of a well-garnered charcuterie board? It’s a collection of beautifully presented, tasty food, set out to allow us to snack as we please. It produces one dish to clean. I repeat, one dish to clean. It’s satisfying, easy, meets an array of dietary preferences and is, once again, only one dish to clean.
It started off similar to what I might serve a group of adult friends, but with kid friendly options. Cheddar cheese slices, mozzarella balls, Ritz crackers, Goldfish crackers, pepperoni, deli-sliced ham, leftover rotisserie chicken, raspberries, strawberries, carrot sticks, raw broccoli and salted edamame were always in rotation. I stuck to tried and true fruits and vegetables my kids would regularly eat, and then in one corner snuck in a sweet treat as a surprise. They could eat the candies or cookies first or last, I didn’t care.
My husband and I were shocked to find all of the food eaten, without protest, time and time again. Oftentimes, we would set the board up on the floor, in front of a movie, when we needed a reprieve from the craziness of the evening. We ate our own meal in peace, were able to have an uninterrupted conversation as our kids shared a healthy meal. They squeal in delight for “cheese board” nights now. It feels special, a little fancy and out of the ordinary. They know to expect a special drink of sparkling grape juice to accompany their meal, and an array of options to pick from. Without the fear of mom or dad pleading for them to eat one more bite of vegetables, they seem to graze without even realizing they are enjoying healthy items amongst the crackers and cheese.
Eventually, we branched out to more adventurous boards, and even special occasion ones. It’s become a go-to family meal when we all could use a reprieve from the ordinary.
Here are some mom-tested and kid-approved ideas for those needing an escape from the inevitable dinner rut with charcuterie boards for kids.
Breakfast for dinner has been coined “brinner” in our home. It is the perfect way to combine all of the morning goodness on one tray, but served in the evening. Ideas on items to include:
- Small pancakes or frozen french toast sticks with a small cup of syrup for dipping.
- Bacon or sausage
- Hard boiled eggs
- Orange Slices
Dessert or Ice Cream Board
The sky is the limit here. Store bought or leftover homemade treats make for a night to remember! We love this as a way to celebrate an achievement or toast to a birthday. Ideas on items to include:
Ice cream toppings
- Chocolate chips
- Gummy bears
- Crushed up candy bars
Serve with little spoons to top individuals bowls of ice cream. For extra fun, we buy small pints of five different types of ice cream (chosen by each individual in the family), and all enjoy one very small scoop of each and rank from our most to least favorite. The kids really get a kick out of this!
- Bite-sized brownies
- Individual cookies
- Mini marshmallows
- Small bowl of whipped cream
- Maraschino cherries
PB&J Snack Board
I love this for an after school snack, picnic lunch on the patio or even a day at the pool. Ideas on items to include:
- PBJ sandwiches, cut into fourths
- Trail mix
- Yogurt-covered raisins
After School Snack Board
Greet the kids with this platter, and the after school meltdowns might actually cease to exist! Ideas on items to include:
- Ants on a log celery sticks
- Apple slices
- Small bowl of hummus
- Carrot sticks
- Sliced cucumbers
- Raw broccoli
- Pita chips
Take Taco Tuesday up a notch with a nacho board. Ideas on items to include:
- Sliced grilled chicken or steak
- Shredded cheese, rolled in tortillas
- Black Olives
Movie Night Board
Turn on Encanto, lay a blanket on the floor and count this as dinner (not winning any parenting awards for a healthy meal on this night, but you win some, you lose some)! Ideas on items to include:
- Peanut M&Ms
- Goldfish crackers
- String cheese wrapped in deli meat
- Pretzel chips
- Junior Mints
- Sliced cantaloupe and honeydew melon
You’ve got the meal planning done, but don’t forget these tips for success:
- Make it look pretty and colorful.
- Cut items in to fun shapes (sandwiches, cheeses).
- Include dips that entice them to eat the healthier foods.
- Make it an event and present it as a fun and fancy meal.
- Include something sweet, and let them eat it at the time of their choosing.
- Make the healthiest foods the largest parts of the board.
My hope is this eases a little of the meal-planning stress and daily drudgery we all experience as parents. Share some boards that work for your family, we can all use helpful tips!