What's in the Lunchbox?

The fall morning routine should be in full swing by now. Get the kids up, pack their lunch and send them off to school. Why not vary that routine slightly. When you are packing that usual peanut butter and jelly or cheese sandwich in the lunchbox, brighten things up with some fun.

Your child probably would like to have a say in what they will be eating at lunch. But they can't survive on chips, crackers, and fruit snacks. So instead of letting healthy carrot sticks and apples go into trash can, think of inventive ways of coaxing your child to eat.

Here are some short suggestions:

  • Create interactive food, such as apple slices included with a caramel or sweet dip, or baby carrots and some ranch dressing.
  • Cut up your child's favorite cheeses into squares or cut with small cookie cutters into animal shapes. Send along some whole wheat snack crackers so they can make cheese and cracker sandwiches.
  • Dice some pears, apples, bananas, and grapes and skewer them with toothpicks and now have fruit kabobs. Melons will also work.
  • Vary the bread products and offer bites of bagel, or put meat and cheese into pita pockets. Send savory muffins, tortillas or pasta salad as a change.
  • If your child likes tuna or chicken salad - liven it up with raisins, nuts, grated carrots or other nutritious vegetables.
  • Instead of something like frozen ice cream treats, try freezing grapes. They are really great frozen and your child will think they are having a great treat. Frozen bananas are fun too, especially if every once in a while you dip them in chocolate and roll them in nuts.

Also, lunch is a good time to let your kids know you are thinking about them. Since you won't be there to eat with them, send something along. As you pack their lunch, include a handful of corny jokes. Young kids like corny jokes. You could tape a joke to each food item. Let your child be the life of the lunch table as he entertains his friends. If you know your child's lunch table companions, you could write a joke for each friend to share. Just have your child pass them out.

Another fun lunch idea is to create a theme. For younger children you can concentrate on numbers. Pick a number and make all the items in the lunchbox pertain to that number. For example, if you choose the number 4, you can cut a sandwich into 4 pieces, include 4 carrot sticks, 4 celery sticks, 4 slices of apple or orange and 4 oz. of juice. On a note ask him or her, "What is the magic number for the day?" Then when they arrive home from school with the correct number, continue the fun with an an activity or treat. Bend the rules and allow 4 pieces of candy or spend 40 minutes with him or her and make cookies in the shape of the numeral 4.

A note in the lunchbox is always special. Write encouraging messages for your child to read like, "You're doing great" or "We're having pizza for supper" or "I like it when you smile." Children like to know you are thinking of them even when you're not around.

These are just a few examples. Use your imagination to capture your child's preferences. Remember that you don't have to include something everyday, but a surprise is fun once in a while.