School Lunches Can Be a Big Challenge
School lunches are a big part of your child’s day. The start of the school year can be a stressful time for kids and parents alike, and one of the major stressor for parents involves school lunches. Not just coming up with kids’ school lunch ideas or finding the time to put it together, but the feeling you get when your child comes home and you open their lunchbox to find most of that lunch you worked so hard on has returned uneaten. Why does this happen? If you ask your child, they will come up with a seemingly endless list of reasons: bees in the school yard, it fell on the floor, somebody else ate it…but often it is the actual lunch that is the problem.
Here are some examples of common school lunches challenges for children:
– Food temperature/how well the food holds up
– Ease of opening containers
– Lack of time (eager to get outside and play or busy chatting with friends)
– Lunchroom environment (noise, lights, smells)
– What’s in their lunchbox is not what they felt like eating at that moment
For some children, there can be multiple reasons why their lunch is not being eaten. If your child has any type of sensory issues, these factors and their effects can be magnified.
Here are 5 ways to increase the likelihood of lunch being eaten:
Send favourites for lunch:
Children are “learning eaters” and part of the learning process is being exposed to new foods. Children learn best, however, with an adult present, eating the same foods and modelling healthy eating habits. Try to focus on learning to enjoy new foods at family meals such as breakfast, dinnertime or on weekends and allow them the comfort and familiarity of their preferred foods in their lunchbox.
Bento-style lunchboxes are a great way to eliminate the need to open multiple containers, which can often result in your child only getting around to opening one of them.
Bento-style lunchboxes are a great way to eliminate the need to open multiple containers, which can often result in your child only getting around to opening one of them. With a bento box, everything is right in front of them. They can take a little from here and a little from there and do so with ease. It also offers a way to serve multiple food items together, but without actually touching each other, which can make or break it for a lot of children. Whichever containers you choose, be sure to test them out at home to ensure your child can open them on their own. Visit Planetbox.com for an example of a stainless steel, bento-style lunchbox and be sure to check out their meal planning app (http://planetbox.com/pages/meals?u=/) for lots of great kids’ school lunch ideas.
Some parents have success cutting foods into fun shapes while others simply try to make their lunches more colourful.
Visual appeal is very important for children and can be a huge influencing factor in determining whether or not they will eat their food. Some parents have success cutting foods into fun shapes while others simply try to make their lunches more colourful. The important thing is to make sure their lunch looks fresh. This means, no soggy bread, wilted lettuce or mushy tomatoes. If you are packing your lunches the night before, this is something to keep in mind. If you are looking for some fun and visually appealing kids’ school lunch ideas, check out some of the ideas on my Fun With Food Pinterest page. (http://www.pinterest.com/avivaallen/fun-with-food/)
Warm foods should be warm and cold foods should be cold.
Warm foods should be warm and cold foods should be cold. This mean investing in a good thermos container for warm foods or packing a cold lunch with an ice pack. Some children don’t care as much as others, but if your child is not eating their lunches, this could be something to explore.
Depending on the age of your child, they can be involved in the lunch making process in various ways.
Let your child help:
Depending on the age of your child, they can be involved in the lunch making process in various ways. This give them a sense of ownership and increases the likelihood of them actually eating their lunch. It can begin with having them assist in assembling certain parts of their lunch or snacks and as they mature, they can become solely responsible for these tasks. They can even incorporate simple recipes for kids to get more creative with their lunch making. Be sure to allow your child to get there at their own pace rather than a sudden announcement telling them they are on their own for lunch.
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