How to pack a kickass preschool lunchbox

by on September 29, 2009

in Eating,How to,Picky kids

We’re a few weeks into the new preschool year. For me and the boys, it’s the third year at the same place. All the same rules and several familiar faces make it easier for us to get back in the swing of things. With the exception of drop-offs that seem to last for an hour, regressive tantrums for no apparent reason, and the intense demands of a waste-free lunch program, things are peachy keen.

Until we start kindergarten next year and reach for the holy grail of the “Healthy School-provided Lunch” I’m still packing a lunchbox. Every Day. Two of ‘em.

There are gobs of clever websites and resources to provide inspiration. We love Wendolonia’s bento project for starters. She seems to have boundless ideas and creative energy to apply toward her son’s lunch (pictured below).

Preschool Bento photo by Wendy Copley

For those of you packing lunchboxes and snacks for the first time, allow me to offer some tips learned on the front lines:

Easier lunchbox planning/shopping:

  • Involve your kids in the planning. If you can get your kid to suggest a healthy lunch, odds are, she will actually eat it. In our house, Holden is boycotting jelly so I give him a PB sandwich with no J. He will also eat a hard-boiled egg as long as I provide a little salt to go with it (and promise not to draw on the shell – I thought it was cute but he didn’t want to break the drawing).
  • Shop for foods that will last all week and prioritize to use the freshest ones first (blueberries and baby carrots should last but raspberries might need to be used right away).
  • Stock up on healthy non-perishables. I keep these foods on hand for when the fresh foods are starting to turn: almonds, raisins, rice cakes, wheat crackers, canned pumpkin (sprinkle cinnamon, include a spoon!), and granola.
  • Make ahead what you can so you can streamline the packing process (savory muffins, hard-boiled eggs, half-sandwich for tomorrow?)

Easier lunchbox packing:

  • Pack lunchboxes the night before to save time in the morning.
  • Choose a variety of protein, carbohydrate, fruit, and fat.
  • Balance a variety of colors.
  • Avoid cookies and sugary treats. I’m sure I sound crazy, but if you don’t offer them, the kids won’t expect them.

And then just don’t worry about it. Sometimes these beautiful lunchboxes come home empty and I feel like a supermom. Other times, I see almost everything come back untouched.

I have come to realize that whether or not the food is eaten has more to do with the whims/hungers of the boys than my care and attention to lunch assembly. They tend to eat voraciously well about Every Other Meal regardless of what’s on the menu.

Here’s one of my less artful (than Wendy) masterpieces:

Two lunchboxes ready to go

Two lunchboxes ready to go

I was proud of this array of lunch options because it was a rare occasion when they did not get exactly the same thing. Holden got a little seaweed salad and Milo got some veggie booty. Holden was tired of the sandwich so he got a tortilla with cheese and avocado. Both boys got watermelon.

Whether you’re proud or hanging your head, what do you put in your child’s lunchbox?

See also, what to feed a picky toddler!

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RookieMoms co-founder & mom to 3 boys in Berkeley, CA. Bossy big sister and project manager turned blogger helping moms enjoy their first years of motherhood. Find me on my other site on 510families.com or hiding in my minivan eating dark chocolate.

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