We’re fortunate here in Virginia that we don’t go back to school until after Labor Day, so there’s still time to check the last few things (and favorite summertime treats) off our to-do list. My niece starts school this week though, and I know others are already back in school — having grown up with an August birthday, and having a child with one as well, the thought of starting back to school in August will probably always seem strange to me. Regardless, whether you’ve already started back or are still getting ready, I thought I’d dust off my old school lunch tips now that we’ve had a few more years of experience.
The first, though, is still my biggest one: plan lunches together. One way we do this ahead of time is to do a sandwich taste test, where I let the kids put together whatever they can imagine to see how they like it. Last year they came up with a peanut butter & salame (his) and pb & pickle (hers). Butter, prosciutto and peach was another favorite the boy came up with while we still had a few local peaches on hand.
Even if your kids love sandwiches, it helps to have some non-sandwich alternatives in your pocket to keep the lunches from becoming too monotonous. Rice cakes with nut butter or hummus, mini bagels with chévre or cream cheese, and the occasional waffle sandwich can be found in our lunch box rotation. For the preschooler, a scoop of hummus with several things that can be dipped in it (pretzel chips or pita, cucumbers and tomatoes are her usual) is often requested.
If your kids are particular about their fruits and vegetables, ask them for a list of ones they’d like to eat, and then encourage them to try one new one each week. If they normally go for carrots, do half carrots and half celery (or peppers or green beans) so that there’s still something familiar in the lunch box. When they’re caught up in conversation with friends around the lunch table, they just might drop that stubbornness they display at home. (Check out the Today I Ate A Rainbow kit if your child needs a little extra encouragement.)
Working with kids to let them feel in control of what they’re eating can go a long way to ensuring they actually eat what you pack. As they get older, they can do more of the packing themselves — even better!
Here are a few other healthy, homemade treats the kids have helped me make to pack in the lunch box too:
Do your kids have any lunch box favorites?