Skip to Content
chevron-left chevron-right chevron-up chevron-right chevron-left arrow-back star phone quote checkbox-checked search wrench info shield play connection mobile coin-dollar spoon-knife ticket pushpin location gift fire feed bubbles home heart calendar price-tag credit-card clock envelop facebook instagram twitter youtube pinterest yelp google reddit linkedin envelope bbb pinterest homeadvisor angies

I have four kids – at two different schools – a husband, and a full-time job. That’s enough to keep me busy on a good day. Throw in doctors appointments (we’ll have two tonsillectomies within three months of each other), speech therapy, homework, and extracurriculars, and I’ve accepted that “really busy” is our new norm.

I’ve always valued making healthy, homemade lunches for my kids. My oldest son had severe food allergies (he has since been desensitized!), so this was also as much a need as it was a desire for several years. But somewhere between the birth of my fourth child and going back to work full time, this desire started to feel more like a burdensome task than it did a life-giving act of service. We descended into a rut of mac and cheese and corn dogs. Now please don’t misunderstand – I have nothing against mac and cheese or corn dogs. Serving it 4-5 days a week just seemed a bit much for our family!

Once we got a few weeks of school under our belt and were fairly settled into our routines, I decided that I didn’t have to be the only one to bear the brunt of the lunch making. My oldest kids are 8 and 6 – definitely old enough to be active participants in the process – and I can rest assured that if the actual big kids are doing something, the little two will want to take part as well.

Not only has having my kids help with the meal prep and packing been a relief for me, it gives them some ownership in the process, too. I’ve noticed far less complaining about what’s for lunch along with a smile of pride when they tell me they are making their lunch.

I put together a few tips that have helped make this easy for us. Whether you also want to involve your kids in the process of making their own lunches or just want to make the process a bit smoother for yourself, I hope you find these helpful.

Create a formula: My kids know they need to have a carb, a protein, a fruit, and a vegetable for lunch. Knowing the “formula” ahead of time keeps us from having battles over the all-carb lunch my oldest would otherwise try to pack.

Pre-prep what you can: I usually order groceries over the weekend, so I prepare what I can sometime on Sunday afternoon. If I’m running high on patience, I’ll invite one of my older kids to help me. This usually looks like peeling and slicing cucumbers, slicing bell peppers, baking and cutting a large sweet potato (a toddler favorite), cutting stems off strawberries, etc. Three of my kids don’t mind slightly brown apples, so I will also cut up three or four of those to get us through a couple of days. Once or twice a month, we will make hardboiled eggs. These are so easy to pack in a lunch or grab as a snack for a quick burst of protein.

Have variety: I always try to have a variety of every part of the formula on hand.

  • For carbs, we usually have bread, tortillas, sweet potato, muffins, a variety of crackers and pretzels. I’ll change things up occasionally with something like a pita pocket, English muffin, or Hawaiian rolls. Kids can fill it with a protein or eat it individually – whatever they prefer!
  • Proteins are lunch meat, turkey pepperoni, cheese sticks, corn dogs (we still do those), nuts and nut butter for kids whose classrooms allow that – sunbutter for the others. (I put a sticky note in the lunchbox of kiddos who can’t have a certain food in their class so we remember. I’m sure this will be second-nature as the year progresses, but as an allergy mom, I understand how stressful it is to worry about what another kid might bring to lunch, so I’m willing to spend some extra energy to make sure we get that one right.)
  • Fruits and vegetables are just what’s in season(ish) and what my kids are into at the time. Sometimes this includes canned fruits, pouches, and even dried fruit.

Get the right containers: Some people swear by bento boxes, but they have never worked great for me. The number and sizes of sections just never seemed to match what I thought my crew would eat. If they work for you, though, great! I just use reusable plastic containers. The kids typically know to fill one with fruit and veggies, the other with a “main” or a protein and carb. The containers help get the portions right for both the one who thinks one cucumber will be enough for lunch and the one who thinks he would eat an entire box of mac and cheese in his 20-minute lunch period. I also use silicone muffin cups for things that shouldn’t touch each other that we want in the same container.

Start small: I know that granting my crew the honorable chore of helping make their lunches daily would backfire, and no one would be happy. I just started by letting one kiddo help while big brother was at soccer practice and the littles were in bed. When everyone found out someone had made their own lunch, they were suddenly interested in doing the same thing.

Don’t force it: Our mornings are hectic, so I like lunches done mostly the night before. If the evening isn’t going well, I don’t force the issue and just try again the next day. And sometimes my kids surprise me. I walked into the kitchen the other day to see my 8-year-old putting some random things into his lunchbox not knowing I had made his lunch the night before. Obviously I did not tell him and risk wiping the huge look of pride off his face!

Don’t expect perfection: There will be weeks you’ll forget something pivotal from the grocery list. You’ll have a sick kiddo and involving the well ones is more hassle than help. Your kids will refuse three-fourths of the things in the “formula,” and you’ll let them have the all carb lunch for a week.

In the long-run, it will all be ok. You are feeding your family, teaching them life skills, and showing them your love – and that’s really all that matters. You’ve got this, and we are cheering for you!

-Micah Q, Marketing Manager

Ways to involve kids in making lunches pinterest pin