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Back-to-school brainwave: have your child make their own lunch

Everything is so "back to school" these days isn't it? We seem to be bombarded with advertisements, articles in magazines and newspapers, and talks on the radio. I often hear of popular back-to-school lunch ideas, such as the recent trend of likening the bento box lunch to food origami. Luckily, you can cross making lunch - bento box style or otherwise - off your "to do" list for good. I have a more sustainable lunch idea for moms: let's get kids back in the kitchen and preparing their own lunch.

Take steps to buck the trend

Recent findings from a Quebec-based consumer study highlight the importance of involving children in preparing food:

  • 35% of parents mention time as being the major obstacle to eating well
  • 56% of children say they do not regularly prepare food with their parents
  • 80% of children would like to take part in meal preparation
  • only 18% of children say that they help prepare meals every day.

So what are you waiting for? Now is a perfect time to buck the old trend of making all the food for the family. Having kids make their own lunch is a simple place to start.

Set up a system for success

Here are some ideas you can try to prepare your kids to make their own lunch.

  • Direct them in the kitchen. Tell them where the food is stored so they get a sense of how your kitchen is organized.
  • Decide on what you will need for them to pack a lunch. Would you prefer them to have a "lunch box" or to keep it simple and "brown bag it"? Do you want them to store products in a plastic reusable container or milk in a thermos?
  • Include your child when planning your grocery list. This way they can have a variety of food that they like, within reason.
  • Remember, there are social implications when a child brings their own lunch. By a certain age they don't want to bring a kiddie lunch box anymore. Help your kids stay on the "cool list" and work out exactly what food and type of container will pass the test.
  • Prepare lunches together for the first few days or weeks. During this time your kids will learn about food storage, food safety, and kitchen clean up.
  • Give your child responsibility for organizing their lunches. For example, consider putting a note on the front door to remember the lunch for that morning rush.
  • Make sure they know how to store products they might not have eaten (if it's safe to do so). Remind them to clean reusable containers properly and prepare for the next day.

Starting a new routine requires practice and planning. The first few days are critical. This is when you can help propel your child in the right direction.

Foster lifelong skills through food preparation

Well parents, this fall is a brand new chapter. Children who take part in the kitchen are more likely to eat and enjoy what they make. I'm sure they won't be asking for any bento box anytime soon once they take on this important role. If they do, you might have a master chef on your hands, and that's a good thing! When a child learns to prepare their own meals, they gain life skills. They will continue to benefit from these skills as they grow into mature adults. Just like we teach our kids their ABCs, we also need to teach them how to get their own lunch, and oh, not one you order at the drive through.


Francy Pillo-Blocka RD FDC is the Clinical Educator for AboutKidsHealth. She is fondly referred to as Francy the Foodie. Francy writes about various aspects of family, food, nutrition and lifestyle for your interest.