As a kid I had to make lunches and I never liked it. Now as a mom to three school-aged kids I like it even less. Who likes what? Who won’t eat what? Who drinks what? Same snacks, same sandwiches…or worse, they won’t eat sandwiches! What is there to love about making school lunches?
I know there are moms who treat school-lunch-making as an art form and actually love the challenge and the design of festive lunchboxes, and while I admire their work, it is not where my creative juices flow. So I set out to transfer lunch duty to my kids as soon as they were old enough. This year, they entered Grade 6, Grade, 5, and Grade 3, and they were old enough.
After seven years and thousands of packed school lunches, I am officially retired with three kids still in elementary school! How did I do it?
Routine, Routine, Routine
I love routines. Teach kids how to do something and what is expected and watch them thrive. Each school morning we have steps: get dressed, brush hair, practice music, eat breakfast, brush teeth. Same routine every morning.
For young ones I made a picture chart so they knew what order to do things in, for older ones a checklist chart helps them remember.
In kindergarten I focused on their personal goals of getting dressed and making their own breakfast, helping them learn to be independent. As they got older I added more items to the list, making sure to not label them as chores or treat it as a punishment, but rather another step in their independence and being a bigger help to our family.
Some ideas that worked for us:
Grade 1: Empty top rack of the dishwasher and put out everyone’s vitamins.
Grades 2 and 3: Fill water bottles and milk containers and empty the bottom rack of the dishwasher.
Grades 4 and 5: Put snacks into snack containers, yogurt into yogurt containers and pick out a healthy treat.
Grade 6: Cut up fruit and make sandwiches or even cook a pizza for our own version of pizza day.
Keep It Simple
I keep it as simple as possible for them by setting up breakfast cereals in the pantry beside their bowls, plates, cups, and cutlery so they can help themselves.
We use the same containers for each item in their lunch and they take the same food groups each day to establish the routine but also making sure we mix up flavours and fruits to keep it interesting! It becomes a bit of an assembly line but that also helps it become a familiar pattern.
Make it Fun
Let the kids make the list of acceptable fruit, favorite sandwiches, and yogurt flavours they like best and have them help with finding recipes for healthy snacks and doing some baking.
You have a huge opportunity to teach the kids about nutrition and about making healthy choices by having them be a part of the lunch making process, and if you play your cards right, they may make your lunch too!
Deb Lowther is a mother of 3 young daughters who, when not running after the kids, is running in the trails! She blogs on many websites about raising healthy kids and ensures her own have fun while eating healthy and staying active. To read more articles and see her favorite healthy recipes that she promises even your kids will love, visit her websites www.ironkids.com and www.adultessentials.com or follow her on Twitter @Deb_Lowther.
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