School can be overwhelming for little ones who are new to the scene—especially in this day and age. There are a lot of rules to follow, a lot of new routines and schedules to learn and, of course, there are new friends to make, and conversations to be had.
Sometimes, all of this is happening during lunch, which means the actual eating of food gets pushed aside. If you find your little one is coming home from school at the end of the day with an almost untouched lunch, here are some strategies to get them filling their tummies.
Break It Up, Bento-Style
When it comes to lunch, it’s all about appearances. We’ve found that a bento-style box is a great way to get little ones to eat because they only need to open up one container and all their food choices are right in front of their eyes. Boxes like the YumBox, for example, provide a spot for veggies, fruit, grains, even a little treat—and kids can graze on whatever strikes their fancy at the time.
Get Them Involved in Making It
When you ask your kids what they want in their lunch, and even enlist their help in putting it together, they’re more likely to eat it all up when the time comes to sit down to lunch. Again, we’ve found that bento boxes are great for this as well, as little ones love to fill up the compartments with their favourite foods.
Practice Opening & Closing Containers
This may sound like common sense, but we’ve found that food can come home untouched for the simplest of reasons, like the container was too hard to open. Kindergarteners have little hands and fingers, so before they go to school, do a trial run to make sure they can manipulate all those containers. Don’t twist water bottles or a thermos too tight, and make sure snaps and seals are easily opened.
Be Sure To Pack Foods That Can Stand the Test of Time
We’ve heard a number of reasons for uneaten foods before: “I don’t like it when my applesauce goes warm.” “My strawberries go mushy when they’re in my lunch too long.” If your kids are bringing food home, you might want to start by asking them why. Sometimes cheese can go sweaty, ripe pears can get too soft, or you might even find there’s some teasing going on about foods they would otherwise gladly eat at home. If there are certain foods that don’t travel well, keep those as breakfast, after school or dinner foods. Remember, it’s all about what they eat over the course of the day and week, not just about what they get at lunchtime.
Go Back to Basics
Having creative lunches with a different type of food, texture and colour every single day is a nice idea, but maybe it doesn’t work in practice. If you’ve found a few balanced, healthy options your kids will eat, why change it up? To avoid boredom, you can change the way you present it. For example, if your kid loves cheese, offer it in cubes one day, shredded the next, or a string cheese another. If they’re big on sandwiches, cut it triangles one day, squares another, offer them the chance to build it themselves. But don’t worry so much about making sure they’re trying all new things all the time. Sticking with tried and true will help ensure they’re eating.