Let Your Kids Pack Their Own School Lunches

CC BY 2.0. Melissa

With minimal assistance, kids can easily take over the most dreaded school morning chore. What are you waiting for?

Imagine how less stressful the getting-ready-for-school routine would be if you didn’t have to worry about making lunches. Well, guess what – you don’t! Put your kids to work making their own lunches. Hand that responsibility over to them for the start of the new school year. It’s not just about reducing the burden on you, as a parent, but also about building confidence and capability in your kids, who, if they’re school-aged, can absolutely handle such a task.

Packing their own lunches is not something my kids (7 and 4) have done up until now, since I always assumed (and never questioned) the idea that they were too young, but after reading Casey Seidenberg’s article, “Yes, your kids can and should pack their own lunches,” I’ve been converted and will be instituting the practice come September.

Wondering how to get started?

1. Talk to your kids. Explain that with age comes greater responsibility, and they’re now old enough to make their own lunches. Outline the basic guidelines – 1 vegetable + 1 fruit, with possibly 1 treat, depending on what’s allowed in your household.

2. Discuss timing. It’s easiest for everyone if you set a regular time for lunch preparation, either the evening before or in the morning before school. Discuss this time with your child and explain that you expect them to be consistent about making lunches at that time.

3. Make a list. Together, make a list of lunch ideas. Divide into the following categories: 1 protein, 1 fruit, 1 vegetable, 1 side, 1 treat. (Here’s a lengthy list of ideas of lunch ideas I compiled a couple years ago.)

4. Stock up. Especially for young kids, parents should make this new chore as easy as possible by stocking the house properly. (I can scrounge together lunches with years of skill that my kids simply don’t have.) Go shopping together each week, buy some of the items on the list, and place in an easy-to-reach location in the pantry and fridge, so your kid knows where everything is. Set your kid to work, slicing enough vegetables and fruit (yes, with a sharp knife, but also with supervision) for a few days.

5. Buy the right gear. Having a variety of multi-sized containers, a reusable water bottle, an icepack, small thermos, and a cute lunchbox make a world of difference. The process is easier and more fun, not to mention less wasteful. Keep containers in a cupboard or drawer that your kid can access. Make sure your kids know to empty their lunchboxes and put all dirty containers in the dishwasher immediately upon arriving home. (Check out these 7 items for a plastic-free lunch.)

6. Let go! The time has come to step back. If you’ve given your kid the right tools for the job, then you have to trust her ability to do it without interference from you. Who cares if he takes the same thing, day in and day out, for a year? Clearly it’s not bothering him. Keep critical comments to yourself, unless, of course, the basic guidelines are being disregarded, which may require some temporary guidance.