How to get ready for school lunchboxes

Is your child about to start school? Starting school can be an exciting and overwhelming experience for your little one! In this blog, we share five tips to help your child and family prepare for school lunchboxes. 

Tip 1: Read the school handbook or policy 

Find out when, where, and how long their lunch breaks will be, as well as any food restrictions. Schools often incorporate a fruit and vegetable break like Crunch&Sip, before their first and second lunch breaks. Many schools also request that parents avoid packing foods with common allergens as part of their allergy management strategy (e.g., nut-free) or have implemented initiatives to reduce waste and rubbish in schools (e.g., nude food).  

Tip 2: Think about your child 

Before investing in any lunchbox gear, think about your child’s eating habits and preferences. How much food do they usually eat at lunch and snack times? What types of foods do they like to eat? If your child loves sandwiches, wraps, rolls, or burgers, a bento-style lunchbox with lots of tiny compartments is not going to work well. Some kids prefer hot meals like spaghetti bolognese, fried rice, or soup, so investing in a high-quality thermal food jar is a good idea. Understanding your child’s food preferences will help you identify the features to look out for when purchasing their lunchbox gear. 

Tip 3: Purchase their lunchbox gear 

For a fresh and tasty lunch, we recommend purchasing the following six items: 

Lunchbox
Insulated cooler bag
Cold packs
Water bottle
Cutlery
Insulated thermal food jar

Consider practical aspects such as materials, durability, size, shape, weight, design, price, ease of cleaning, and leak prevention. Choose lunchbox gear that suits the amount and types of food your child regularly eats, and can be used easily by your child. 

Although shopping with kids can be a test of patience, we highly recommend taking your kiddo shopping so they can test out different types of lunchbox gear and determine what’s most user-friendly and suitable for them.  

Do you need assistance in selecting lunchbox gear? Our Lunchbox Course offers guidance on choosing the right gear for you and your child, including a handy Lunchbox Gear Checklist for when you hit the shops! 

Tip 4: Plan the food  

Children consume about one-third of their total daily food intake at school, so it’s important to pack a lunchbox with enough food to provide the energy they need for concentration, learning, and play. Ideally, a lunchbox should include at least one item from each of the five core food groups: 

Grains
Vegetables
Fruit
Dairy and alternatives
Protein foods

Think about the types of food your child likes to eat and translate these into lunchbox-friendly options. Starting school can be an overwhelming experience for your little one. So, begin by packing familiar and well-liked foods to help ease your kiddo into their new school routine. As they settle, you can gradually introduce new items to broaden the variety. Kids also have limited time to eat and are eager to play with their friends, so foods that are quick and easy for young kids to eat are best.   

Do you want more guidance and inspiration about lunchbox food? Our Lunchbox Course provides an overview of the food groups, recommended intakes, and addresses common parental concerns such as food safety, choking hazards, common food allergens, fussy eating, and variety. We’ll help you troubleshoot common lunchbox complaints like brown apples, soggy sandwiches, and squashed fruit. You’ll also get access to a photographic gallery of 33 example lunchboxes to ignite your creativity, along with three downloadable resources – Lunchbox Gear Checklist, Weekly Lunchbox Planner, and Lunchbox Ideas eBook.  

Tip 5: Practice at home 

Prepare your kiddo for lunchtime by practicing at home a few weeks or days in advance. Align their meals and snacks with school timings, and let your child practice: 

Opening their school bag 
Retrieving and opening their insulated cooler bag 
Removing and opening their lunchbox, water bottle, and additional containers
Unwrapping foods and opening packets
Saving food for second lunch and put uneaten items back into their lunchbox 
Closing their lunchbox and water bottle 
Packing their lunchbox and water bottle back into their insulated cooler bag and school bag 

Practicing these steps at home will help your little one develop the skills and confidence to independently use their lunchbox gear at lunchtime.   

We hope these five tips help you get ready for lunchboxes. All the best for your child’s first day of ‘big school’!

Zest Food and Feeding would like to thank Clare Inslay, one of our student interns, for her contribution to writing this blog.  

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