Teaching kids to pack their lunch

Teaching kids to pack their lunch + FREE PRINTABLE {Heather's Handmade Life}

Our kids spent five weeks of the summer in all-day camps that required me to pack lunches. At least during the school year, our kids order hot lunch once or twice a week to give me a break!

By the end of August, I was so sick of packing lunches that I didn’t think I could look at another pudding cup.

The solution? Outsource the task! 

I decided our kids, at seven and nine years old, were surely old enough to pack their own lunches. Just before school started, I printed out a list of guidelines and stuck it to the side of the fridge. 

I broke it down into “snacks” and “entrees,” and wrote how many items of a particular category the kids were allowed to pack. Our daughter spotted the list right away and was thrilled. Apparently her older friends already pack their own lunches (“without a list, even!”) and she’s always up for an opportunity to feel more grown-up.

I don’t know which of us was more joyful on the evening before the very first day of school. (Well, me, for sure — but she was very happy to be packing her own lunch.)

The list makes it easy for them. If they’re ordering lunch at school, they only need to pack items from the “snacks” category. Treats are listed under the heading “Choose 1,” baked goods say “Choose 1-2” and fruits and veggies are a mandatory “Choose 2-3.”

The “entrees” menu includes a build-your-own lunch option where they choose two from the protein category (rolled-up ham, turkey slices, cheese, hard-boiled egg) and one from the grain category (crackers, bagel, tortilla).

If they want something hot in their thermos instead, the list suggests they “politely ask Mom or Dad” and leave their empty thermos on the stove as a reminder for us to heat something up in the morning. (We often do pasta, dinner leftovers or pancakes/waffles in their thermoses.)

So far, the kids are still liking the independence of packing their own lunches. They remind me when I forget — it’s a perfect bedtime-stalling chore — and seem to enjoy considering their choices in each category.

(I watched our daughter seriously deliberate between gummies and a pudding cup and eventually decide on the pudding because she wanted to use her pretty new spork.)

What’s interesting is that the lunches our kids pack now are much healthier than the ones my husband used to pack for them. The kids follow my list, dutifully packing 2-3 items from the fruits and veggies section, whereas he’d throw in gummies and a pudding cup — and heck, maybe a cookie — just because it’s easy. 

Let’s hope they don’t realize that, or I might have a lunch-making revolt on my hands. 😉

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