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Ahoy mateys! In order to make snack time fun for Pirate Week at my daughter’s preschool, I created four different pirate-themed snacks:

They were super easy to do and a big hit with the four-year-olds and their teachers.

Pirate Ships

First off, the snack that was the most fun and nutritious, and happened to be peanut-free to boot (my daughter’s class is not nut-free but it was last year so I pay attention to these things!) I made pirate ships from apple slices, mild cheddar cheese and white cheddar cheese. Supplies for 14 servings (28 ships, two ships per person):

– 7 medium or large apples (any variety, preferably organic!), cored and cut into fourths
– 1 block of mild cheddar cheese, cut into 28 thin 1-inch long slices
– 1 block of white cheddar cheese (or swiss or monterey jack), cut into 28 thin 1-inch long slices
– lemon juice (optional, to sprinkle on the apples to keep them from browning – I skipped that)
– toothpicks
– stiff white paper, markers, and glue for the pirate flags

Lucky for me my mom was in town and she helped me prepare the pirate flags the night before I needed them. She made a simple flag shape template and traced and cut out all the flags. She used glue to adhere them to the tops of the toothpick “masts.” On the morning of school, I cut all the apples and cheese slices, and my kids volunteered to assemble the ships: one apple slice stacked with one cheddar and one white cheddar, all speared with the toothpick mast. We had a blast working together and it was very satisfying to see our fleet of pirate ships!

Fleet of pirate ships

These pirate ships would soon be sunk by a mob of hungry preschoolers.

Pirate’s Booty

While this snack was one of the least nutritious, I think the kids enjoyed it the most! My nutrition motto is “everything in moderation” and that includes Pirate’s Booty, the puffed rice and corn treats. I chose the aged white cheddar variety. Good news on the allergy front: Pirate Brands’ products are produced in a nut-free facility and thus are peanut and tree-nut free.

While certainly you could serve this in cups or on plates, we went one step further and prepared individual serving bags of Pirate’s Booty. Supplies for 14 bags:

– 2 10-ounce (extra large) bags of Pirate’s Booty (buy extra if you’re worried as this was just right)
– 14 bags (I used brown paper bags but if you could find wax paper bags that would be better due to the grease on the puffs)
– white or beige paper for pirate treasure map labels (download my free printable template here)
– glue
– twine (optional to tie the bag tops like bags of loot — I just folded the top)

Again, my mom helped me print and glue the labels on the bags in advance. All I had to do on the morning of school was scoop the servings into each bag and fold down the top.

Pirate's Booty

A crossbones X marks the spot for Pirate’s Booty

Melon Cannonballs

This pirate snack wins the award for most beautiful.

Melon balls

Cannonballs packed with melon nutrition

It’s also a gold medalist in “messiest snack due to the likelihood the preparation will drip fruit juice all over your counter and down to the floor, guaranteeing your shoes will stick until you find the time to mop.”

If you have the time, energy and skill to go over the top with the pirate theme, you could carve the watermelon into a pirate ship (Google “pirate ship watermelon” and you’ll see some incredible examples). I stuck to the basics and just served the melon cannonballs in cups.

Supplies for 14+ servings:

– 1 large watermelon
– 1 cantaloupe
– 1 honeydew melon
– 1 melon baller
– cups and forks for serving

Again my children eagerly volunteered to help in the preparation of this snack. They took turns handling the melon baller while I prepped each piece of fruit for maximum scooping potential. (Tip: halve the watermelon. Scoop out a layer of balls. Then cut vertical slices down the short width of each half and scoop more balls out of each side of the vertical slices.)

My preschooler reported that these cannonballs achieved a direct hit. She did say that “some kids only liked one color [watermelon] but some kids liked all the colors [cantaloupe and honeydew too!].” Thank goodness I’d erred on the side of including more watermelon than the other melons.

Pirate Mix

The last snack is arguably the least creative but most guaranteed to please. Note though, that it is NOT peanut-free. In the “Pirate Mix” I offered pirate pegleg pretzel sticks, Gorilla Munch cannonballs, and “gold” “fish” whole grain Goldfish crackers. Supplies:

– 1 bag of pretzel sticks (I buy Snyder’s of Hanover because the pretzel sticks are free of corn syrup)
– 1 box of Gorilla Munch (yes, I know that just because it’s organic it’s not exactly the most nutritious)
– 1 box of Goldfish (I chose the cheddar made with whole grains)
– serving cups

By the fourth day of making pirate snacks for 14 people, I was happy to just open the above containers, mix everything together, and parcel it out into cups.

Pirate mix

Pirate peglegs, cannonballs and “gold” fish

Easy-peasy. A little sweet, a little salty, something to please everyone.

Other Pirate Snack Ideas

Two other cute ideas I saw on the web involved pirates walking the plank. The first was ants on a log — take a slice of celery, fill it will peanut butter and top it with raisins (one of my favorite snacks although I decided the preschoolers might not like it the best and I didn’t want to send peanut butter to school. You could substitute SunButter for a peanut-free alternative). Another cute idea was making a plank out of a long cookie topped with a Teddy Grahams teddy bear with an eye patch painted on it in chocolate icing.

One Final Snack Reminder

Note that the applicable child care laws in California require that preschool snacks include servings from at least two different food groups. Any snack that didn’t include two food groups was served with organic milk instead of water. Yes, I am a rule follower.

Do you have any pirate-themed snack ideas to share? How do you make snack-time fun? I think getting the kids involved in choosing and/or making whatever you plan to serve is the best way to ensure they’ll eat it.

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All summer long I have been working on a fun project that promotes good nutrition, an interest in geography, and a broader world view. See this map?

World Map

World map with flags for recipes from various countries

It’s hanging in my kitchen. Those little yellow flags represent meals I have cooked from countries around the world. My kids get involved in the selection and preparation of the meals (a tip I have found that works wonders for making children more likely to try something new!) My 10-year-old read the Percy Jackson series and asked for a meal from Greece, so we made Greek salad with homemade Greek dressing. Then she read The Red Pyramid also by Rick Riordan and we made koshary from Egypt.

Many of the recipes we’ve made have been inexpensive, vegetarian, and easy to prepare. We’ve made a broad range of recipes using whole foods and a wide variety of spices, which I believe contributes to good health. From the cookbooks The Best Recipes in the World and Extending the Table: A World Community Cookbook, we’ve made pumpkin soup from Venezuela, scalloped corn from Paraguay, African meatballs from Chad, rutabaga pudding from Norway, red curry from Thailand, and outback damper from Australia, just to name a few. Several of the recipes we pulled from Allrecipes.com for free:

Canada: Firefighter’s Meatloaf
China: Steamed Buns with Barbecue Pork, Egg Rolls (I left out the ground beef and MSG, and baked them not fried, and made this Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce for them)
New Zealand: Pavlova
South Africa: Milk Tart, Yellow Rice

Finally, I couldn’t forget our great state of California: California Rolls (we replaced the imitation crab with shredded carrots)

Not everything has been a huge success, but several of the meals have become family favorites. When a child turns her nose up at a meal, she knows the house rules. You don’t have to eat it, you don’t even have to try it, but if you don’t want it, you make yourself your own dinner. Even the four-year-old can pour herself a bowl of cereal and milk or use the toaster with supervision. Dinnertime should not be a battle — it should be fun!

The kids help locate the country or state on the map and push in the flag pins, often on the capital city. If we have time, we look up pictures from the country on the internet. During the meal, we talk about our travels if we have been there, or daydream about the trips we’d like to take some day.

Want to recreate this project? We bought the map on Amazon.com, mounted it with spray glue to three foam core boards, then framed it with molding from Home Depot. Here are some of the products I used: Giant World MegaMap, Large Wall Map, Non-Laminated 48×77, The Best Recipes in the World cookbook, Extending the Table: A World Community Cookbook, Yellow Rectangle Map Push Pins.

Do you have a favorite world recipe?

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