Are you looking forward to summer because you can take time off from making your kids’ school lunches? I have heard this complaint from quite a few moms. Now that I got my kids to make their own lunches I’m not worried about the frantic morning lunch rush. Ok there is a rush…but it’s not me scrambling. My kids have made lunches in the past but somehow it always comes back on my shoulders when we’re in a hurry and my kids are enjoying a leisurely breakfast. I love that my kids have breakfast with Dad every morning while I’m in the shower. However is doesn’t need to go on for 40 minutes!
I turned the tables on my kids a few weeks ago and told them they needed to scale back their breakfast time and were now officially in charge of their lunches. This was met at first with groans. However when I told them about their new power and freedom in packing what they want they got excited with questions.
First was my daughter. “We can pack whatever we want?!”
“Well within reason”, I said. “I am going to check the lunches before you put them in your backpack”.
My son then requested, “Can I put in a dessert?”
“Depends on the size and type of dessert”. Thinking an ice cream sundae doesn’t really pack in a stainless lunch box.
I did have to confiscate a chocolate egg the size of a real egg from lunch day number one. My kids were laughing when I found it. Of course I expected some testing and trickery. (I forgot about the neighbors bringing Easter chocolate) But my son was happy when I suggested he could have a small mini chocolate egg. “See. If you don’t push it and put treats and sugar in every time, you can do this yourself and I won’t even have to check. You know what gives you good energy to play P.E. and get your through the day.” Yes, that was a bit of my usual healthy food reminder, but they get it. That reminds me if you don’t have junk in the house, they can’t pack it.
So now it’s been a month and with the exception of Dad being out of town and the kids and I oversleeping, I haven’t had to help with the lunches. I do have to set a timer so they get up from the breakfast table and sometimes I help clean up as we’re hurrying out the door. The clean up part is always the bummer. It’s the reason why sometimes I don’t feel like cooking. It’s not the cooking but the mess and cleaning that inevitably comes after.
My kids have gotten very creative and sometimes even competitive about who’s packed a better lunch and now ask for specific things for me to buy for them to pack. My daughter has discovered all the various burritos she can make with veggies and beans and left-overs. They both now like pickles on sandwiches. Flat bread pizza is easy if you toast it while gathering the rest of your lunch items. My son now makes his wrap with less turkey and more hummus so it’s not too thick, like “mom used to make”. And they both now cut carrots into “coin” shapes.
I hope we can keep this up until the end of the school year and then for camps and summer outings. I’ll just look forward to sleeping in a bit this summer.
Here’s 6 tips for getting your kids to pack their own lunches:
- Set expectations and timers so they have enough time to get the packing done.
- Stock the pantry with things they like so they’re excited to make and eat their lunch.
- Store all the lunch containers in one location, and within their reach, so they can find things easily.
- Give them some variety and flexibility. Make cookies or muffins on the weekend so they can pack for their lunches. Make a dip they can pack with their veggies. They may need some help with suggestions.
- Show them which food prep items are appropriate for them (knives, cutting boards) and show them how to use them with caution.
- Praise their efforts and tell them how great their lunch looks. You may have to take foodie photos too.