I’ll admit it. Packing lunches is not my favorite thing on my to-do list during the school year. I’m always running out of good lunch box ideas before we even make it through the fall! And this year, I have 3 kids who will require a packed lunch every. single. day. Ugh!
But I’m bound and determined to make this year different! We’ve decided to start fresh with a new lunch packing routine in our house and…the kids will pack their own lunches! Yep, I have declared my own freedom from the monotony of cutting up sandwiches, portioning out chips, fighting over fruit, and ensuring balance between food groups.
Easy enough, right? Well, establishing a kid-directed lunch packing routine is easy when you have simple lunch and snack ideas on hand that the kids can make by themselves.
And, as pediatric therapists, our focus is on promoting independence and self-reliance in our kids – so that packing a wholesome lunch that will keep them fueled up all day long becomes a lifelong habit. Here’s how our new lunch packing routine will work:
Lunch Packing Routine
1 || First stop…making sure kids can actually open the packages and containers inside their lunches!
If you’ve ever volunteered or visited in a school cafeteria, you know what a big deal this is! It’s important to make sure that little hands are strong and that the fine motor skills are in place to tackle those straws, milk containers, and other packages. At our house, we’ll be working through this list of 35 Hand Strengthening Activities for Kids. Kids will also benefit from some of these quick tips to practice opening packages and containers.
2 || Next stop? The grocery store!
Part of our lunch packing routine involves bringing the kids along to the grocery store so that they can choose their favorite snacks to include in their lunch boxes. Planning meals, making lists, and coming along to do the shopping are all great ways for kids to get involved and invested. Kids get great practice with handwriting as they make their shopping lists and little ones love searching for items on the grocery store shelves!
3 || Then, on to tasty, easy-to-grab snacks!
The staple item of any kid’s lunch? Snacks, of course! On Sunday nights, the kids portion out containers of these yummy snacks so they’re all set to go for the week!
4 || A kid-made (and kid-loved) main course
One of the most sure-fire ways to get even the pickiest eaters to eat their lunches? Let them make it themselves and..make it fun! Whether it’s cutting a sandwich into fun shapes with cookie cutters or making kabobs with fruit and cheese – let kids get creative in the kitchen! Each night after dinner, we put on our chef’s hats and make something fun for lunch for the next day.
5 || A drink to wash it all down!
The kids then choose their favorite water bottle to make sure they stay hydrated or maybe a milk or chocolate milk for a little protein punch!
6 || A little something extra to trade or share with a friend!
Here’s a great way to encourage some social skill building in the cafeteria! If you pack something that’s designated just for sharing or trading, kids might just strike up a conversation with that new girl across the lunch table.
7 || Last, but not least, a secret treat or a note
Here’s my part of the routine. This one usually happens after the kids are in bed…I sneak in a little note and/or a sweet little treat so my kiddos know that I’m thinking about them when they’re at school. Another fun idea? Let the kids pack a secret note or treat in each other’s lunches! A joke or a handmade drawing works great and is a fun surprise!
This new lunch packing routine is a win-win situation in our house. I’m less stressed because I have crossed one “to-do” off of my list and the kids are happy because they have more control over what they’re packing in their lunches! Hooray!