Pack Your Lunch-4

Getting kids to pack their own lunches

Part of getting into the back-to-school swing is having everything and everyone ready and out the door on time each morning. That challenge is met much more easily when everyone does their part. School lunches are one area where the sooner the child becomes independent, the easier everyone’s life becomes. And as with other areas of independence, packing their own lunches helps kids problem solve and build confidence. Even young elementary students can pack their own lunches with a little guidance. Here are a few tips to shift the lunch making task from parent to child.

Get buy-in.

  • Start with a chat that begins with something like, “Now that you’re in ___ grade, you are ready to pack your own lunch!”
  • If new lunch containers are needed, let them pick out their own. Encourage them to go for containers that are easy to open, close, and pack up when lunch is over.
  • Work together with the child to make a list of options for each food group. Try this handy downloadable shopping list that can double as a Pack Your Lunch Handout.
  • Bring the child shopping, and/or involve them in putting the foods away so they will know where they are stored.

Make it easy.

  • Create “lunch packing stations.” Designate specific, easy-to-reach locations in the fridge and pantry for lunch foods. Put all the lunch containers and their various lids, plus napkins and utensils, in one place as well. Bins/boxes/baskets are useful for corralling lunch items.
  • Do advance food prep so all is ready to go. Cut up veggies/fruits ahead of time, and divide bulk snacks into individual portions. Freeze leftovers in individual portions as well. Kids can help with all of this.
  • Post the lunch-items list on the fridge to remind them what is available and to take at least one item from each food group. Don’t forget napkins, utensils, ice pack, and drink!

Create structure.

  • Schedule a time to pack each day’s lunch. Whether in the morning or in the evening to avoid the morning rush, a set time helps to create the lunch packing habit.
  • Together with the child, create a workflow plan based on the lunch packing stations.
  • Provide sticky notes and markers for creating reminders such as “Don’t forget my lunchbox!” or “Remember to add ice pack!”

Have fun with it.

  • Plan special days, such as B.F.L. (“Breakfast For Lunch”), Orange Day (when all items are orange), or T.N.T. (Try-a-New-Thing) Thursdays.
  • Use a stopwatch to see how fast lunches can be packed.
  • Include some occasional special treats, such as Bear Yoyos. New to New Pi this year, these are pure fruit roll-ups, individually packaged for the lunch box, in mango, raspberry, apple, and strawberry. They were one of our favorite items at Expo West this year! From Made Good, an allergen friendly kid friendly granola/snack company.

Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Your kiddos may not pack the same quality lunches that you would pack for them. If your child has packed a PB&J every day for weeks, don’t sweat it. Make sure they have variety and balance in their other meals each day, and they’ll be fine. And remember: They are learning self-reliance and confidence by doing it independently — their way.

For more inspiration, see 100 Lunch Box Ideas, from the Real Mom Nutrition blog, and Rock the Lunch Box, a resource site created by four organic foods companies. And share your school lunch ideas with us on Facebook!

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