Last Updated on November 12, 2022 by Corinne Schmitt
This post was sponsored by Nabisco as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.
Do your kids pack their own lunches? It’s a great learning experience for them and I’ve created a What to Pack for Lunch printable to make it easy too. You can download it near the bottom of the post.
Why Kids Should Pack Their Own Lunches
Since my job as a parent is to prepare my kids for the real world, I teach them to do things for themselves as soon as they are able. In addition to making their beds, doing laundry, and helping with yardwork, I have them pack their own lunches.
This is a daily task that is specifically beneficial to my kids. They should be part of the process!
Also, I want my kids to develop a lifetime habit of healthy choices. If I make all of those choices for them, how can I expect them to make them for themselves later on?
Since I do all of our grocery shopping, I exercise my influence over their choices by providing lots of healthy options. I also buy treats though because I want them to learn that occasional indulgences are absolutely okay! Moderation is what’s important and they get to practice it each day when they pack their lunches.
How to Enable Kids to Pack Their Own Lunches
In order for kids to pack GOOD lunches for themselves, two things need to happen. First, as a mom, you have to be willing to give up a little control. Sure, you can force your kids to do the work, but the outcome will be much better if they buy into the idea.
That leads me to the second thing that needs to happen. The kids have to be invested in the process. If you give them some input into what lunch items are available and also give them the freedom to make their own choices, they’ll be far more likely to appreciate this “chore.”
At the beginning, it’s really important to let kids be a part of the planning process. Ask them what foods they like so you can incorporate some of them into your shopping list. Even better, bring them to the store with you.
If they’re like my kids, they’ll bring you straight to this aisle.
I’m actually a huge fan of this aisle. The NABSICO Multipacks are perfect for lunch dessert because they provide a great variety of cookies (Oreo minis, Nutter Butter bites, and mini Chips Ahoy) for the kids to choose from. Plus, they’re already portioned and packaged to be lunch box ready.
I learned the hard way that letting the kids portion out “one dessert” led to really big dessert portions relative to the other food choices. And frankly, the portion control is great for me too since I can grab a pack of Oreo minis and don’t run the risk of eating half my daily calorie allowance in one sitting.
Once the kids have picked out some of the fun items for their lunches, introduce them to all the choices in the produce, dairy and deli section too. You might be surprised at some of their choices (like my youngest child’s love of edamame).
What to Pack for Lunch Printable
Empowering our kids to make their lunches doesn’t mean we send them on this new adventure with no directions. It’s important to share your expectations with your kids before they pack their first lunch.
I had some guidelines for my kids when it came to what to pack for lunch. I outlined the criteria for a balanced meal (based on USDA recommendations) and asked them to follow it when packing their lunches. To help them with ideas, I created a What to Pack for Lunch printable that listed my guidelines along with suggestions for each category.
This is the What to Pack for Lunch printable that we use.
For a free copy of the What to Pack for Lunch printable, simply fill out the form below.
Fill in the form above. After you submit the form, you’ll receive an email from “Wondermom Wannabe” with a direct link to the printable. If you do not see the email in your inbox within a few minutes, check your spam folder.
The most likely place will be in your computer’s Downloads folder. You can also select “Downloads” in your browser menu to see a list of your downloads, then simply select “Show in folder” below the file name to see where it is stored on your computer.
You’ll need a program that supports PDFS, like Adobe Acrobat (which is free). Open the program, click File > Print. Select your printer and set the number of copies you want to print. Double check your print preview, then click print.
The items listed in each category are ideas to help the kids make choices. The kids aren’t limited to the items listed.
Above each box of suggestions is my guideline for how many they should choose. I encourage them to pack a lot of fruits and vegetables and limit themselves to one dessert.
Lunch Packing Tips
When my kids first started packing their own lunches, we hit a few stumbling blocks. I already mentioned the dessert overload problem.
Another problem we had was time management. The kids weren’t allowing enough time to pack well balanced meals.
We encountered other problems as well. Instead of listing them all though, how about I get right to the things we did to fix or avoid them?
- Pack lunch the night before right after dinner so leftovers can get packaged individually, if needed.
- To save money, buy some items in bulk and have a “portion party” to assemble snack-sized bags of trail mix, salads, pasta, and/or mixed fruit cups.
- Watch for coupons for pre-portioned packages of snacks, olives, desserts, etc. to save money on grab-and-go items.
- Assign each child their own lunch box, thermos, food containers and cutlery (and label them) so you can easily identify who keeps losing or throwing their stuff away by accident.
- Designate a section in your pantry and in your fridge for lunch items to make them easy to find and grab.
I’m able to share my ideas, experiences, and tips with you thanks to great partners. Today I partnered with Nabisco because their products are a regular part of our lunch packing routine.