This year I’m starting right and getting my kids to pack their own lunchboxes. You see, one of my kids is very independent, the other one – not so much. When they were really little it was one of my main focuses, having a Montessori background and all.
But this thing happened just before my son turned 3, I got a new job that was somewhat demanding and all of a sudden it was about a million times quicker to just do things for him rather than encouraging him to do it himself. And now I have a 4.5-year-old who thinks sticking his foot out is his only role in getting his socks on his feet.
But I’m determined to go back to my roots and get them doing things for themselves – even if it means that it takes more time, makes more mess and is generally more difficult for me.
So here are my top tips (you may think I’m unqualified to write this after that intro but rest assured, I actually do know how to do these things.)
1. Give them time to pack their lunch
It’s not going to happen at the same rate it does for you so make sure that they have at least 15 minutes to get it done.
Having a bowl of hard boiled eggs, carrot sticks or grated cheese in the fridge will help them put fresh food in there. Basically, if you want them to eat it, make sure it’s easily done.
3. Get them the right tools
If your kids are still little, get them the tools they need. Imagine trying to make a lunchbox in a giants’ kitchen? You’re probably going to make a mess and get stressed. So make sure they have a step stool, maybe some kid-sized utensils; a little butterknife, tongs etc. Get them an apron or something to put on over the top of their school uniforms so they can still get out the door clean, give them control.
4. Aim for no-chop ingredients
Think cherry tomatoes, bocconcini, grapes, strawberries, mini Cheesymite Scrolls, Cheese & Bacon Rolls etc.
5. Make sure that all of their lunchbox stuff is in a lower cupboard
We keep all the lunchboxes, drink bottles, silicon cups and small chopping boards down low so they can easily get everything. Same goes for the fridge and pantry.
6. Give them an Easy-to-follow Guideline
I try to put grains, dairy, protein, fruit and veggies and a treat in every lunch. Kids like having guidelines to follow, especially if it means they are more likely to get it right without your help.
7. Keep the ‘school food’ in a specific spot
Use containers or baskets in the fridge and pantry for ‘school food’. Keep them down low also so they can easily see what they have to choose from. Check out what I usually put in our lunchboxes here.
8. Don’t expect them to get it right
They are going to do it wrong, but give them some space. Obviously, you still have to check their lunch and help them when they ask, but try to hang back and not micromanage. It’s not cool to be told to do something then repeatedly be told how to do it. No one enjoys that. So even if you have to sit on your hands – just back off.
9. Remember it’s not going to be easier in the short term
But it will pay off in the long term. And they will be super happy too.
10. Get them involved at the shopping level
Talk about healthy choices and let them pick what they like – the end game is for them to actually eat it after all.