It’s easy to get in the habit of doing everything for your kids, from cleaning their rooms and folding their laundry to cooking and clearing the table for them after every meal. But if you want to raise independent, confident kids, you need to let go of a task or two.
Packed lunches for school are a great place to start – and no better time to introduce a new responsibility than at the beginning of a new school year! Letting your kids pack their own lunches can teach them about healthy eating and responsibility, and gives them a confidence boost and a chance to unleash their creativity. Plus, it takes one job off your endless to-do list.
With a little guidance and encouragement, your kids can pack healthy, balanced lunches with minimal effort on your part. It’s a win-win: They’ll look forward to lunchtime, and you can feel proud of their growing independence!
1. Start Them Young
Even if you feel your little ones aren’t quite ready to make their own lunches, get them to help you. Ask them to pass you things from the fridge, grab a piece of fruit from the bowl, help you spread mayonnaise or peanut butter on a slice of bread, and even help clean up. Let them wipe up spills from the table or countertop with a damp Bounty paper towel, or get them to load the dishwasher – just make sure to add the Cascade Platinum ActionPac yourself.
2. Teach Them the Basics
Depending on how young your kids are, you might need to chat about this new responsibility. Explain that they’re growing up and you think they are ready to take charge of lunch packing. Play up the big benefit – they can have more choice about what they eat each day! Then describe what a healthy lunch looks like: a whole-grain bread, bagel or wrap with a nutritious filling (turkey and cheese slices, nut butter and apple slices), a piece of fruit, a yogurt, a healthy snack like carrot sticks or a piece of cheese – all finished off with a drink of water or milk. And, of course, one little treat!
3. Oversee the Process
If your kids have never helped in the kitchen before, you’ll need to run through the basics with them, from how to make sandwiches and how much cheese to add, to how to put lids on properly. Once you run through Lunch Making 101, step back and let them take the lead. They’ll gain more confidence if they do most of it themselves.
4. Go Shopping Together
Talk about your kids’ favorite foods, and then make a shopping list of tasty sandwich fillings, favorite fruits and veggies, and snacks like crackers, raisins and air-popped popcorn. Head to the grocery store together to buy the ingredients, and let them pick out a new lunchbox – this will help them get excited about their new responsibility.
5. Set Them up for Success
Encourage the kids to help you put the groceries away when you get home, and give them a space in the pantry and the fridge for their lunch ingredients so they can easily find everything they need. Tape up an easy-to-follow list next to this space (with drawings if you’re artistic!) of what needs to go into each lunch so they don’t show up at school with three chocolate bars, two bags of potato chips … and nothing else.
6. Give Them Options
If your child is desperate for only sweet or savory snacks and shuns the healthy stuff, suggest an alternative like pita chips with hummus or cream cheese spread on a bagel. Buy different types of bread like whole-grain wraps or pita pockets to keep lunch interesting. Don’t forget to have them pack a Bounty napkin to clean themselves up after lunch.
7. Make a Plan
Decide together the best time for packing lunch. If your kiddo is an early riser, they can make lunch before school, but if they’re always rushing around first thing, it’s probably smarter to have them prep the night before.
What are your kids’ favorite packed lunches? Share your creative ideas in the comments section!