My 9-year-old son has always enjoyed coming home for lunch from school. He loves eating his warm meal at his own leisurely pace in our comfortable and relaxed atmosphere. We have a wonderful routine, I enjoy seeing my son midday, and meal-making is super easy.
So, last year, when his little sister started Grade 1 and decided that she wanted to have lunch at school instead, I panicked.
Packing a school lunch bag was totally unfamiliar territory for me. What do I pack for a little girl who, until then, ate only rice for lunch at home? Will she actually eat what I gave her? Or would she not eat it and stay hungry for the rest of the day? Could I still give her rice? Or will it just be a big mess to handle in a crowded, high-energy environment of a school cafeteria?
My daughter is now starting Grade 2, and I’ve learned a few things about lunch-making over the past year. Here are a few tips to help you navigate the wilds of the lunch bag…
– Ask your child what she wants to have for lunch. She may have some good ideas that she’s picked up from the lunches her friends bring to school. With her input, you’ll have a better chance of having your child come home with an empty lunch bag and a full tummy.
– Find out what the school’s policy is with regard to food restrictions and food allergies. For example, my children’s school has a strict Nut-Free Policy to ensure that students keep nut and peanut products at home and away from their classmates who have severe and potentially fatal allergies.
– Finger foods are always a hit. Baby carrots, celery sticks, cheese strintg, rolled up ham slices, and apple boats are a list of healthy finger foods that my daughter loves. It’s simple, very easy food. And that’s okay — young kids like items they recognize and can handle.
– Include a lunch bag note in your child’s lunch bag once in a while. It makes them feel special, and they think it’s fun! For my son, on days he would have lunch at school, I’d write jokes and quiz questions (with the answer on the back). On the other hand, my daughter — who couldn’t read at the time — would get Mommy’s hand-drawn stick figures of things she loves (eg. her little stuffed bear) or pictures of recent events she’s enjoyed (eg. her daddy pushing her on the swing at her favourite playground).
– Don’t get upset with your child if, once in a while, she comes home with an uneaten lunch. If you do, she’ll just find a way to avoid your anger by either giving her food to a friend or just throwing it away. Encourage her to bring home any leftovers so you can keep track of how much she does eat and learn which foods she likes and doesn’t like.
– Don’t worry if your child requests the same lunch every day several days in a row. Sometimes kids get very attached to a certain food item and will get refuse to eat anything different for long stretches of time. This is okay. Eventually, your child will get tired of it and will ask for something different.
– Even though your child’s school may have a microwave, don’t be tempted to pack one of those ready-made freezer meals in their lunch. Those things are loaded with sodium which isn’t healthy for young children. Or adults for that matter.
– Don’t be afraid to give your kids regular home food like rice and pasta if she can handle it. Your kids can heat them up in the school microwave. Just be sure to include a plastic disposable/recycleable spoon and/or fork so it won’t be so bad if it gets thrown in the garbage by accident.
– Don’t ignore recommendations from your fellow-moms who’ve been there. Like me. And I recommend you try the following recipe!
Hawaiian Ambrosia is a fresh and tasty dish you can easily pack for lunch. Kids love the tasty fruit, and somehow the combination of yogurt and sweet fruit reminds many of them of ice cream. Just be sure to put it in a thermal container with a cold pack to keep it cool.