Healthy Routines: Getting Kids to Make School Lunches

school_lunch2-impAs a kid I had to make lunches and it always seemed such a chore, I never liked it.  Now as a mom to 3 school aged kids I like it even less.  Which kid likes what, who won’t eat what, who drinks what, same snacks, same sandwiches – or worse, they won’t eat sandwiches!  What is there to love about making school lunches?

I marvel at the Moms who treat school lunch making as an art form and admire the design and effort they put into their kids colourful lunch boxes. They make healthy lunches look so yummy and while I secretly wish I was a Mom that did that too, it is just not where my creative juices flow. I still don’t like making school lunches.

I had another plan in mind. I set out to make the task of lunch making easy so I could transfer all lunch making duties to my kids as soon as they were old enough to reach the counter.  I started slow when they entered Grade 1, giving them one or two small tasks, then added on to it each September as they got older.

This year they are in Gr. 6, Gr. 5 and Gr. 3  . . . and they have officially taken over making all of their school lunches. Yay!

With years of school lunches still left to be made, I am officially retired from school lunch duty. How did I do it?

Start Young
Kindergarten I focused on the kids personal goals of getting dressed themselves, making their own breakfast, brushing teeth and helping them learn to be independent.   In Grade 1 they were allowed to help with lunches. I made sure to not label helping as a chore or treat it as a punishment, but rather another step in their independence and being a bigger help to our family. The older they get, the more they can ‘help.’

Routine, Routine, Routine

I love routines. The more they are practiced the more it becomes the norm. I created a chart for when they were really young of everything that needed to be done before school – get dressed, brush hair, practice music, eat breakfast, brush teeth – same routine every morning.   Now it is a checklist that includes emptying the dishwasher and cutting up fruit. Each September the kids and I review the list and change up who does what so they are involved in the setting the routine for the new school year.

Kids Decide
Let the kids make the list of fruit they love, favorite sandwiches and yogurt flavours they like best and have them help with finding recipes for healthy snacks and doing some baking. You have a huge opportunity to teach the kids about nutrition and making healthy choices by having them be a part of the lunch making process, and if you play your cards right, they may make your lunch too!

Keep It Simple

Keep it as simple as possible for the kids by setting up breakfast cereals in the pantry beside their bowls, plates, cups and cutlery so they can help themselves. Assign a specific container for each item in their lunch and establish the food options they can choose from to take each day.  Have different fruits and yogurt flavours on hand in the fridge and homemade snacks in the freezer so kids can mix it up to keep it interesting!

Lunch making has become a bit of an assembly line here, but that has helped it remain a familiar pattern  and making sure the kids have options on hand, allows them to have choices in their lunch making.

How We Do It
Gr 1 Empty top rack of the dishwasher (all plastic) and put out everyone’s vitamins

Gr 2 & 3 Fill water bottles, milk containers and empty the bottom rack of the dishwasher

Gr. 4 & 5 Snacks into snack containers, yogurt into yogurt containers.

Gr. 6 Cutting up fruit, making the sandwiches and packing lunch bags.