23 Fun Ways to Get Your Kiddo Involved in Packing Their School Lunch

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little girl pouring tea with apron

Dude. Are you guys so sick of packing school lunches? I’m not sure why but that is the one task that really chaps my hide. It just happens so often – how can you people need to eat again ALREADY? – and I never know what to pack and we’re usually running late so my children get things like whole avocados and blocks of cheese. I can’t even imagine you poor, poor mothers who have to get it ready the night before and have to do it every day. I am awarding you sainthood in my mind.

So, my goal is to get my kids making their own lunches today (or in my one year old’s case, maybe tomorrow). I firmly believe the best way to get people to do things is to make it fun so here are a bunch of easy ideas to make the whole lunch packing time interesting enough your kids will be begging to help out. Or at the very least leave their mama alone long enough to put my feet up, drink a glass of Champagne, and let Ryan Gosling work his massage magic on my shoulders.

Ideas for Making Packing School Lunches Fun:

1. Dress them for the task. You wouldn’t dare play Tinkerbell while wearing a Ariel costume so I can hardly imagine the horror of cooking without an apron. Don’t play with fire.

2. Let them pick out fun napkins that you include in their lunch every day (this is going to be a big surprise, but Alice picked PRINCESSES. So weird, right?).

3. Pick a letter of the day and only include food which includes said letter (apple, avocado, sandwich, animal cookies, etc).

4. Let them buy school lunch a set number of days per week or month. I still remember the excitement I’d feel when our school would release the menu for the month; I’d study it with a care normally reserved for my sticker collection to determine which days I’d be purchasing my lunch (it almost always involved corn dogs and probably still would).

5. Write a story together through their daily napkin. Write a sentence or two a day that ends with a question (eg. The rabbit had to run into the hole to hide from the balloon. Why was he scared?) – you can incorporate their answer into the next day’s napkin.

6. Designate a hat that signifies it’s time to pack lunches. Any type works – an In-N-Out burger hat, a chef’s one, or, most likely if it’s our house, wait for it, a princess crown.

7. Feel like you’re always trying to come up with lunch ideas? Let them check off what they want for today’s lunch using this adorable printable from Tip Junkie.

8. Put them in charge. Make a rule that during lunch packing time they get to run the show and tell you what to do (not at all like the rest of your life).

9. Play restaurant. Download a server order form and take their order, then pass it along to the kitchen where you can “fill” it together.

10. One of my greatest joys during my elementary school days was my Garfield lunch box. Every time I looked at it I would laugh at his obvious hilarity. There’s something to be said for letting your kid pick out their own lunchbox, even if it’s (surprise!) princesses again.

11. Put a brain teaser in their lunch with the answer due by the end of the day.

12. Ask them to think about their teacher and what kind of treat they might like. Make it together and then pack enough for the two of them to share.

13. Make lunch a bit more fancy with a daily, personalized menu. Have them fill it in to practice their writing skills.

14. Watch Dunkin’ Donuts’ “Time to Make the Donuts” commercial together and use “Time to Make the Lunches” as your code for heading into the kitchen to start packing.

15. Toothpicks are highly underrated. Have them pick out and add decorative toothpicks to their food, which everyone knows will make it taste even better.

16. Let them make your lunch. One day a week let them make your lunch while you make theirs (it might make sense to do it on a day you’re already planning to go out to lunch as I’m thinking my kids would go heavy on the goldfish crackers).

17. Include a lunchtime survey in their lunchbox to get a sense of how their day is going; talk about it when they get home.

18. Turn on some cooking music. I highly recommend this little song you may have heard of called “Let It Go.” Once I turn that on I can pretty much get my daughter to do anything as long as I’m calling her “Elsa.”

19. Give them a knife! Put your kids in charge of cutting up their own fruit or making their own sandwich with a “real” table knife (obviously, make sure they’re correctly supervised). The extra responsibility may make them more inclined to help out more often.

20. Use lunch-packing time as their time – let them ask you any questions they want, talk in funny voices, stand on one foot the entire time – anything that might make them laugh or open up conversation.

21. Pack a mini-lunch with only small things – mini bagels, little quiches, individual cheeses, Cheerio sandwiches, little hot dogs… You get the idea.

22. Timing is everything. Do it right before bedtime and you better believe you’re going to have all kinds of help…#stalltactic

23. Make a wipable lunch bag they can use to write up that day’s menu or reminders for the afternoon ahead.

Need more ideas for making lunches fun?

 12 Ways Your Kindergartner Can Help Pack Their Lunch (like host a cooking party with your mom friends)

Ways to Make Their School Lunches Fun (like secret messages that appear on bananas, oh yeah)

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