healthy happy child's plate of food

It’s basic human instinct that we want what we can’t have – and our children are no different. When it comes to feeding children, the aim is not only nourishment but also to encourage them to have a healthy relationship with food.

Our role as parents is to expose our children to a range of healthy foods and snacks during the course of the day, week and month. It’s a journey we embark on when they are born and one we continue for many years. As our children grow up, we start to educate them and explain the concepts of healthy eating so they can start to make informed choices.

The Treat Box concept

The concept of the Treat Box is to enable our children to start having some autonomy with regards to their food choices and also to take all the intrigue out of this particular group of foods. It also teaches little ones that food does not have a moral value of being bad or good. Some foods need to be eaten more frequently and nourish the body, and others (like treats) need to be eaten moderately, promoting food enjoyment and bringing a fun element into snacks.

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How do you put together a Treat Box?

A Treat Box works in the following way and is appropriate for children who are 4 years and older:

  • Find a container or shoe box. Ask your child to decorate it and put her name on it.
  • Together with your child, choose seven treats for the week.
  • Each treat must be the size of your child’s fist.
  • The treats must be a mix of savoury and sweet.
  • Two of the treats can be a chocolate and/or sweet, but a small version.
  • The Treat Box gets filled up only once a week. Your child can have access to the box at any time, but once it’s empty, she has to wait until the next week.
  • If your child gets a treat elsewhere, then she must give you a replacement treat from her box.
  • Party packs can be used as treats for the Treat Box.
  • You are not allowed to make any comments around the Treat Box, such as, ‘Don’t you think you should stop now, or leave some for tomorrow?’ Your child will learn this on her own.
  • If your child is under six years old, you may want to fill up the Treat Box halfway through the week – so include only enough for three days, and then on a Wednesday, add more treats for the remaining four days of the week.

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Suggestions for what to put in your Treat Box:

  • 1 x mini biltong packet
  • 1 x 50 g chocolate
  • 1 x small packet gummy sweets
  • 1 x 30 g packet potato crisps
  • 1 x 15 g packet dried fruit
  • 1 x pack of 3 mini yoghurt-coated rice cakes
  • 1 x pack of 2 strawberry whirl biscuits
Kath is a clinical dietitian with special interest in paediatrics. Her private national and international practice is not only built on assisting her little patients with their nutritional needs but also offering support to moms and dads. She is a regular speaker at baby and toddler seminars, runs workshops on infant and childhood nutrition, writes for leading publications and she is a respected author in her field. Kath sits on three international boards including the European board for feeding premature infants.