My son is very adamant about taking his own lunch to school. Unfortunately, he gets bored with the same old thing every day. Upon hearing him groan after asking what was for lunch, I began trying to put some “spice” in his lunches. As Stephanie Gallagher so finely put it, “The secret to untradeable school lunches is to give kids lunches that are creative enough to get their attention, but not so unusual as to put them off.”For any mom out there looking to keep your child interested in their mid-day meal, I have accumulated some very basic steps in helping you on your way.
Now, as everyone knows, there are certain things needed in every lunch. You know that there has to be a drink and a combination of food groups. What a lot of moms do not know is that there are so many variations of ingredients that can be used to ensure your child has a fun and healthy eating experience. I am going to start with the drinks. This section is not directed to all moms, but the select few who are just beginning the lunch-packing experience.
As you know, children like variety. Instead of always packing juice or sending milk money, mix it up a bit. My son likes being independent, so we buy a variety of Kool-Aid Singles flavors. When he begins packing his lunch, he can get a bottle of water and a singles pack (flavor of choice) and be on his way. Sometimes we fill a thermos full of hot cocoa. You can send enough Nesquik chocolate powder (in a Zip-Lock bag) for him/her to mix with their white milk at school. Doing this lets your child know that they are in control, and that you care about his/her tastes. Like I previously mentioned, this advice is specifically aimed towards to beginner lunch-packing moms.
Now we will begin the fun part! Actually packing a lunch that can become a fun experience for you and your child. We will begin with the very basic sandwich. Even something so simple as this can become a showing of your (or your child’s) creativity. My best advice is to let your child decide what is in between the slices of bread. My son’s favorite is peanut butter, ham, cheese, pickles, and ketchup. Either way, you should purchase bread cutter shapes or cookie cutters. I have a dinosaur bread cutter. Using these on your child’s sandwich makes even the most common sandwiches enjoyable and a conversation piece at the lunch table.
Since we have covered the basic sandwich, let us go into detail on making unique sandwiches. Use different combinations of bread and inner ingredients. Instead of packing your typical sliced white bread, go out on a limb and try another kind. There are so many options that it is never ending. You have wheat, honey wheat, sub, rye, etc… My son likes sub bread and hot dog buns. Instead of putting a hot dog on a bun smeared with ketchup, I spice it up. You can purchase sub sandwich bread, and slice hot dogs (long ways) and put it together. Write your child’s name on the bread with the ketchup (this personalizes the sandwich). Next, put the cheese (and whatever else your child likes) in separate Zip-Lock bags or pouches of tin0foil so he/she can add their own special ingredients. Wrap a pickle spear in tin-foil and send them on their way.
Another recipe for fun is self-made Lunchables. Instead of buying Lunchables, make them. When making this delectable dish, think about your child’s likes and dislikes. You can add the basic crackers, ham, and cheese, but do not stop there. There is always room for improvement. Think about the foods that you know your child enjoys. If likes grapes, throw some in there. If your child likes tomatoes or cucumbers, add them too. You can eve put a whole new spin on things by tossing the typical foods out and adding alternatives. These alternatives can be anything from peanut butter and jelly to tuna fish and pickles. The only thing that you need to have is knowledge of the food he/she will be sure to eat. There are a million different ways that this can be made; however, the best way is with your son/daughter’s help. Children love being a part of things. My son used to never eat vegetables until I let him help me make vegetable soup. Since that day, he has been a veggie connoisseur and I have been a happy mom.
On any given day, you may go into creative overdrive and make shish kabobs. This does not mean that you have to go fire up the grill and spend hours making a lunch. This simply means that you can take a few extra minutes out of your morning to create something fantastic for your child. You simply need, once again, the basic sandwich ingredients. You cut these items into different shapes and sizes, but you should be creative and add some tomatoes and other items your child enjoys. The next thing you need to do is grab a few toothpicks and place the items on them. This is usually done in a pattern, and has better educational value if you do. This gives your child a change of pace, and the patterns add an educational experience to a well balanced meal. Shish0ca0bobs can also be used as a dessert. You simply cut fruits, instead of sandwich ingredients, and follow the same steps.
I do not know how your child feels about salads, but my son hates them! Lettuce is one of the few foods that he does not like; however, we make “sandwich salads”. Pull out ingredients such as cucumbers, pickles, ham, cheese, tomatoes, and any other vegetables (or fruits) that you can think of. Let your child help you dice all of these in or over a bowl or plate. As you are cutting, you will see that all of the natural juices begin accumulating on the plate or in the bowl, do not dispose of these juices as they will make a great, natural dressing for the salad. Put all of the ingredients in a Tupper-wear bowl then pour in the juice. Toss it altogether, and you have a “sandwich salad”. As you know, you can always add crackers to the mix or on the side. A great topper, if your child is not allergic to nuts, is sliced almonds or cashews. Some schools do not allow any nut food items so be sure yours does, and when it is all said and done, your child is almost guaranteed to enjoy this excellent dish!
As you can see, lunch time can be fun. You do not have to follow these exact directions, but this is a great starting point for your kindergarten through second grade child. Almost all of my friends have started using these ideas, and their kids are enjoying them too. Let you creative juices flow, and let your child have lunches to talk about! Simply make something bizarre and outrageous, or just change it up a bit, add fruit for dessert, and your son/daughter will have a new light in their eyes when you say, “It’s time to pack your lunch!”