Swap! Pirate Ship Snacks

In Crafts by Katey Howes1 Comment

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Nothing follows story time so well as snack time. Ask any 4 year-old. (Or 40 year-old, for that matter.)

One of the super things about SWAP! (that I’m pretty sure author/illustrator Steve Light never suspected as he wrote it) is that it is packed with snacking potential. After all, what does any average group of kids do when they sit down in the cafeteria and open their lunch boxes?

They SWAP!

here’s what we’re making

Oreos swapped for a pudding cup, apple slices for carrot sticks. Why not harness that natural tendency to swap into a fun activity that doubles as a healthy snack?

SWAP! Pirate Ship Snacks can be adapted for a small group – maybe just you and your little pirate – or a big group – like a classroom of hungry buccaneers.

here’s what you’ll need

For the hulls, look for semicircle foods such as:

  • Apple or orange slices
  • Halved sausage rounds
  • Halved Ritz crackers

For the masts, use sturdy, straight items such as:

  • Pretzel sticks
  • Breadsticks
  • Toothpicks

For the sails, look for food that can be cut into squares, triangles, and rectangles, such as:

  • Cheese
  • Fruit leather
  • Deli meat

let’s get started!


1.Start with a plate or napkin for each person and an assortment of snack food building materials.

2. Make sure everyone has clean hands! Even pirates have standards.

3. Divide the basic building materials up so that everyone has ONLY ONE KIND of material.

Like this:

4. Demonstrate how to swap to get the materials you need. You may need to provide young children with the vocabulary for this task. For example:

If I want to swap with Dustin, I would say: I would like to swap 2 apple slices for four pretzels, please.
Then Dustin would say: Great, let’s swap!
And I would say: Thank you, Matey.

Decide up front if negotiation and counter-offers are approved practices or not.

5. Choose one person to start (maybe the pirate with the most recent birthday?), then take turns making one swap at a time. If everyone starts trading at once and talking over each other – well, it’s chaos on the high seas.

6. Children can then assemble their materials into delicious pirate ships.

Younger kids will be comfortable making the ships “collage style” by laying them out flat on their plates., like this:

Older kids may have the coordination (and patience!) to slide a toothpick into a slice of cheese for these upright ships.

(I found pretzel sticks useless for this – but I did get to eat a lot of pretzel crumbs.)

7. Use your imagination! Can you turn other food items into coils of rope, anchors, oars? Don’t forget the fish-shaped crackers!

8. Snap some pictures and enjoy your snack!

(Oh, and just to let you know, those little pirate sword cocktail picks in the photos are cute – but incredibly sharp! Seriously, know your audience before you consider using them. Somebody might end up needing an eyepatch. Use common sense and caution as you would with any sharp/pointy objects and children.)

Sweet Swapping Success!

We’d love to see what you come up with – so be sure to post those SWAP! Pirate Ship Snack photos on Twitter or Instagram and tag @_allthewonders so we don’t miss it!

Be sure to check out our ALL THE WONDERS of Swap! page for much more, including a look inside the book, a video tour of Steve’s NYC apartment studio, a podcast interview with Steve Light, a look at how the art for Swap! developed, and a giveaway of a hand-drawn illustration from the book!

About the Author

Katey Howes

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Katey Howes is a children's author, literacy advocate, and fun mother. Her books include BE A MAKER (Carolrhoda, 2019), MAGNOLIA MUDD AND THE SUPER JUMPTASTIC LAUNCHER DELUXE, and GRANDMOTHER THORN. When not writing picture books, Katey presents at writing conferences and contributes content to parenting, STEAM and literacy websites. You can find Katey on Twitter @kateywrites or on IG @kidlitlove.


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