Spring means one very important thing in my house: baseball is back!
This year, my seven-year-old son will, for the second year in a row, join a T-ball team (the precursor to baseball) in our town’s recreation league, and my husband will serve as the team coach. They have been gearing up for the cry of “play ball!” by attending winter baseball skill-building sessions and by playing catch in our still snowy backyard.
My son’s games will be in the early evenings after a full day of school, and during the afternoons of our always busy Saturdays. First, he and his teammates will practice, running through drills and reviewing baseball rules and good sportsmanship strategies. Then, the game will begin. Mid-way through, the boys often get hungry, and that’s when snack time begins.
My job during baseball season is cheerleader and all around support system. Inherent in those duties is the title of “supreme snack maker.” (Okay, I gave myself that title, but it works, right?) Having made snacks for soccer games and dance classes, I have learned two important rules:
1. Simple and healthy snacks are the key to everyone’s happiness (and my sanity).
2. Snacks have to keep well and be easily transportable.
Athletes big and small (and their coaches and fans) often want sustenance during practices and games, and the break that accompanies the snack is a good time for the team to check in on their progress and discuss the next play. While the players and coaches convene, snack makers like me pass out goodies for them to enjoy. Here are some of my snack favorites, guaranteed to help players keep their eyes on the ball:
1. Water, Water Everywhere – No matter what you bring to eat, make sure you have plenty of water on hand. Keeping the kids hydrated is so important during active exercise and play. I’ve learned the hard way to pack double the amount of water I think my family will need, filling several water bottles for each of us, players and spectators alike. During especially hot days, I fill up empty plastic milk containers with water, sharing it with the other players and their families, as needed.
2. Fruit It Up – For seven-year-old boys, the CDC’s fruit and vegetable calculator recommends 1.5 cups of fruit per day, and snack time at sporting events is a great time to fuel up the kids with fruit. A classic snack choice, fruit calls for minimal preparation and can easily be packed in a tote bag. Bring bananas, apples, sliced watermelon, orange quarters, whole strawberries, or seedless grapes. Or, go a bit more creative (but still easy): pack precut frozen pineapple or mango in a cooler, along with spoons and disposable cups. At snack time, hand each player a cup filled with fruit, which, by that time, will be partially defrosted—and yummy.
3. Frozen Deliciousness – Ice Popsicles are a snack I have often seen parents bring to games, and the kids love the icy cherry, limes, and grape treats. I’m always concerned about the chemicals, dyes, and preservatives that are included in food options like those, electing to not purchase them for my family. But I understand how much fun it is to eat something cool and drippy on a hot summer night, as the sun sets and the sweat from running for that home run cools on the foreheads of eager players. To get that same feeling, I freeze YoKids Squeezers, Stonyfield’s organic yogurt tubes, handing them out as a more nutritious icy treat. These yogurts pack well into a cooler and come in assorted flavors like blueberry, lemonade (my T-ball player’s favorite), strawberry, and berry.
4. Get With Granola – I learned early on as a parent that having a snack in my bag keeps the hunger pangs away (for kids and parents), and granola bars are my go-to choice for a snack on a busy day running errands or even sitting at my desk at work. They are a great option for game day, too. Granola bar choices are plentiful at the grocery store, and once purchased, they can be kept in the car hours or even days before the game (place them in your car’s trunk straight from your grocery bag), so busy parents who travel to the field from work or other commitments don’t have to worry about stopping en route to pick up the team snack. I recommend organic granola bars that are nut free, in case you have players with allergies on your team.
When I pack up our snacks, I always bring extras for friends who may have forgotten theirs (who doesn’t that happen to?) and for siblings who are often as hungry as their game-playing brothers and sisters. I also pack bags for trash and paper towels or wet wipes to clean off sticky fingers.
Finally, since an uncomfortable snack master is an unhappy one, I start off each sports season by putting collapsible chairs in the trunk of my car, so I won’t forget to bring them to each game. Hats and sun block round out my must pack list. With that, I’m ready to go, awaiting the umpire’s call of “batter up!”