About this time in the school year, our household starts to wane in our routines a little. The kids start to sleep a little too late, mornings are dark and chilly, and it’s tough, even for Mom, to rise early for lunch-packing.
If you too are struggling with ideas for children’s lunches, we are here to help. We polled our Learnwell teaching staff, who have kids of varying ages, to bring you creative, time-saving ideas. Make sure to download our checklist of “Teacher Favorites” at the end of the article.
Creative Ideas for Children’s Lunches
Learnwell’s principal, Dr. Melissa Shipman, has a very creative rule for her middle-school-aged daughters, who now pack their own lunches. She requires at least one protein item and one fruit. Her girls can only pack one “snack” item that would fall into the chips/pretzel/cracker category. This sets her daughters up for feeling full and not hitting the carb crash that can be a real detraction from focusing on afternoon classes.
She said that before this rule was put in place, their lunches paid homage to familiar names: Goldfish, Ritz, Nabisco, Rold Gold, Snyder’s… you get the idea. Now, even though she doesn’t oversee the packing, the knows that they’ll have a few healthy items in their lunch to keep them going until the end of the school day.
Another member of our team shared that yesterday’s dinner gets turned on its head to become today’s lunch. If they have fish or chicken for dinner the night before, lunch the next day is often a Poke bowl or rice bowl. She’ll throw leftover proteins into whole grain wraps with a salad dressing on the side.
Time-saving Ideas for Children’s Lunches
One of our teachers uses lunch prep as quality time with her daughters. On Sunday afternoons, they gather in the kitchen, prep salads in jars, and separate large bags of snacks into snack packs, such as Goldfish, pretzels, and grapes.
Another teacher says the time she saves by purchasing mini grab-and-go sized snack items is worth the extra money at the grocery store. Items she buys are individual servings of hummus, guacamole, olives, and peanut butter.
For students who like tuna, another time-saver shared by a member of the Learnwell staff is to buy the tuna in a Zip-top bag. Some even come with mayo and crackers in a portable container.
Children’s lunch on busy days does not need to be stressful; several of our teachers said that even the youngest help assemble items for lunches on the go. Just make sure your containers and baggies are easy for little fingers to open by themselves. Let your youngest ones practice opening containers and zip-top bags on the weekend.
Preschoolers can practice opening and closing containers; they can also help put pretzels, crackers, and Goldfish into snack-size baggies. They can also use a butter knife to cut slices of cheese into chunks and roll deli meat into roll-ups.
Kindergarten through fifth graders are capable of chopping and assembling salad ingredients, heating leftovers in the microwave and filling a Thermos, or scooping yogurt and hummus into individual-sized containers.
Middle and High School
Once students hit middle school and high school, they should be fully capable of packing their own lunches, making their water bottles, and even helping with some weekend prep — such as making muffins and/or making shredded chicken in the crockpot. Just remind them that lunch must be more than a bag of chips and a cookie.
Whenever you or your kids are in a lunch-packing rut or your motivation is low, we’re here for you. And if you are a full-time homeschool parent, download these great tips for lunch on the go too! If you are headed out the door for field trips, music lessons, errands, park days, picnics, or hikes, we’ve got you covered.
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We hope these ideas for children’s lunches re-inspire you to help your kids develop responsibility in the kitchen and prepare healthy lunches for themselves as they grow older.