It’s that time of year again – we have to start thinking about back to school. One of the biggest battles many parents face, come school time, is the battle over school lunches. The kids don’t eat what you pack. They trade their healthy lunch for gummy bears. They’re just too picky. The solution: have your kids pack their own lunch.
Now, obviously, kids of different ages will need different levels of help and supervision in the lunch making process, but if they’re old enough to learn their ABCs, they’re old enough to be involved. If you’re concerned about your child’s ability to choose the right foods, a) we’ll cover that, and b) pick up a copy of Intuitive Eating. Basically, children are born knowing how to eat well, and external influences corrupt that. By teaching them to honour their hunger and their intuitive needs, you’ll set them up to have a better relationship with food in the long run.
No matter how old your child is, you may need to go over the components of a school lunch. Sit down together and brainstorm options.
Main Course Ideas: sandwich, hard boiled eggs, leftovers, soup, pasta, cheese & crackers, etc.
Fruit & Veg: choose at least one per lunch
Sides: crackers, granola bar, salad, etc.
Dessert: cookie, fruit, pudding, etc.
Head over to Silly Goose Kids together, and pick out some reusable containers that your child can operate. Make sure there’s a designated spot in the kitchen for your child’s containers so they always know where to find them. Decide if packing lunch the night before, or the morning of will work best for your child, and set a designated “lunch packing time”. Take them shopping, and let them choose some items they’d like in their school lunches. Then, set the routine.
School Lunches With Young Kids
Let’s be honest – you’re going to have to do the bulk of the work here. But, your child still should have input. Help them to remember the components of a lunch. Let them choose their main course, and you can prepare it, and do the child unfriendly task of chopping veg. But even kids as young as 3 or 4 can wash their own fruit, and put a granola bar in their lunch pail.
School Lunches For Ages 8 – 10
By age 8, most kids will be able to handle doing most of the prep work on their own. For some kids, this will come sooner, and for others, later. While kids as young as 8 can wield a knife on Masterchef Junior, not every 8 year old child is ready for that responsibility. Let them take the reins, and only interject where absolutely necessary. Have a list of the lunch components and ideas on the fridge that they can refer to, and remind them if they conveniently forget their veg. Make it their responsibility to put their containers in the sink at the end of the day (and maybe even wash them themselves!)
School Lunches for Ages 11+
They’ve got this down. Let them pack their lunch solo, and have a bigger hand in choosing foods at the grocery store. Let’s be honest: they may not always remember to pack their lunch without prompting, especially at the younger end of the spectrum, so poke them, if necessary. Now is also a good time to start teaching them to cook basic meals. Let them pick a recipe they’d like to try, and make it together. Maybe it can be dinner for the family, with leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch. Basically, you’re investing in them not living off of mac & cheese during their entire college career.
While this might make more work for you in the early years, it will pay off in spades by the time their in their pre/teen years. Then, both you and they will have the confidence to send them off into the world as competent adults who know how to do their own laundry, clean their own apartments, and prepare their own meals.