So the time has come and your baby is off to kindi or prep. I understand this is a daunting time for both of you, so I thought I’d share some tips for tackling the world of school lunches and supporting your child to eat independently.
1. Choose and appropriate lunch box
Often your kindi or schools policy will dictate the types of containers and how you pack their snack and lunch. I know when my kids were at kindi, the morning tea and lunch had to be supplied in separate containers and the kids were given them at the designated break.
Even if they are being watched over at kindi, it is really important to support and encourage them to be able to eat independently at this stage or you may run into strife when they do go to school and have to fend for themselves. So make sure you only supply them with containers they can open easily themselves (even if there is a teacher there who will do it for them, they won’t be there come school).
Whether you choose a bento style lunchbox or provide food in separate containers is entirely up to you and what works best for your child. Personally, we have used both but found bentos worked best (my kids used to forget they had food left in other containers so there was a lot of waste). Since changing to one big bento, they have never come home with uneaten food (or lost a lunchbox), plus I find it easier to wash up.
2. Have a trial run
Start packing them food in their lunchbox before school starts or on weekends, that way you can iron out any issues and determine the sorts of things they do and do not like packed.
Make sure the food is easy for them to handle and also discuss with them the best order to eat the food (i.e.; cut fruit first so it doesn’t spoil). Also never pack a new food in their lunchbox – make sure they definitely like it before you do include it.
3. Get them involved
Kids that are even a little involved in making or packing their own, are way more likely to eat all their lunch. It can be as simple as asking them to place food you’ve prepared into their lunchbox (with lots of praise for how well they’ve packed their own lunch).
Make sure you talk to them and ask them what (healthy food) they want to have in their lunchbox. Give them choices (but not too many), all kids like to feel a little in control. If they bring food home at the end of the day ask them why. If it was to much, then you know to pack less food. What ever the issue, you need to understand what it is to deal with it.
Once I had determined what and how much food to pack my kids, I also set my expectations that they eat what they are given. I know this may sound a little old fashioned, but as a family we have rules and boundaries around food (like they need to ask to leave the table). This also applies to them being required to eat all of the beautiful food I pack for them at lunchtime. They understand and respect that rule and rarely bring food home untouched.
4. Get teachers onboard
When they are little, it’s also great to have the teachers support in encouraging healthy eating habits. My kids were always really thrilled when a teacher commented on how delicious their lunch looked. So if you child is reluctant to eat their lunch, it’s a good idea to word up their teacher for extra support.
So that’s about it. I hope this helps all the new school mums feel on top of packing lunch each day (you only have to pack about 3,000 lunch boxes per child)!! Of course for loads of ideas (and all the inspiration you are ever going to need) to make lunch as nourishing and delicious as it can be, check out my bible of healthy lunch boxes “The Well Nourished Lunchbox.”