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Sep 12

School Lunches: Made by Kids!

The last days of summer have slipped away, so it’s time for you to work with your family to get school-year routines back in place. Consider introducing something new this autumn. School Lunches: Made by Kids!

Untitled design (1)Yep, you read that right. Consider the basic math of it using the School Lunches Formula:

D (no. of days of school per year ~180)   x   K (no. of kids)  =   A   (as in A LOT!)

There are so many reasons to get your kids packing their own lunches. Who better to gauge how hungry they are and what snacks are likely to be eaten? What better lessons in autonomy and, if you make lunches the night before, the benefits of planning ahead? But the best reason – if I am being honest – was well put on PopSugar:  “After all, of the thankless and often unproductive exercises parents submit to over the school year, making lunch, well takes the cake.”

Hear, hear to that!  Now, you must recognise that it may make the process longer to begin with but the return is well worth the investment. And I do recommend doing it the night before as mornings are already busy: there is no reason to add to the stress.

If you have made the mental leap (I know, I know… twist your arm!), start at the beginning and let your kid choose the lunch box or sandwich bags or whatever! Let them choose how they will be carrying their lunch every day for the next year.

And set them up for success: plan ahead for balanced meals. Take your kids shopping; create their own accessible space in the kitchen; take advantage of some breaks from lunch-making such as a “lunch at school”; and make it fun!

Find time towards the end of each week to talk about what they liked and did not like about their lunches over the week and then make a plan for their lunches for the coming week. You know what they say – planning is 80% of the job!

When planning, help them consider building a well-balanced lunch. Yes, it would be nice if we lived in a world in which potato chips, sugar drinks and chocolate bars equalled good health but alas… You will likely have your own views on what constitutes well-balanced but the basics should include: protein, whole grains, dairy and fruit and veg. Don’t forget to reinforce any restrictions your school has: nuts, peanuts or other!

Armed with your plan for a week of well-balanced lunches, it is time to head to the grocery store. Not only should you involve your kids in the full “lifecycle” of lunch-making but the grocery store is also a great place to get new ideas.  And when you get home, let your kids unpack their lunch supplies to a place that is their designated lunch space such as a kid-level shelf in the pantry. This will keep things focused when the packing begins.

And as with everyone thing in life, create some breaks from the routine and have some fun! It is the only way to keep things going over a long period like a school year. If your kids school offers lunch, choose a day when he or she buys versus brings. I still remember Taco Thursdays fondly! And consider introducing some fun such as “Whacky Wednesday” where the rules are loosened on what can go into that lunch box.

Congratulations! You get your first gold star of the school year! One thing off your Mommy (or Daddy!) list of things to do and a great life lesson for your kids.

In the short term you can enjoy the empty lunch boxes coming home at the end of each day. [Although not scientifically proven – it has been suggested that lunches packed by kids are more likely to be eaten.] And over the long term, you can feel satisfied that your independent and well-adjusted kids are free to pursue their big dreams and make time for fun, rather than struggling with the basic maintenance of life. And just think – all because you got them to make their own lunches. ☺

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