As we said before, packing a lunch is a very useful and “real life” habit that will help your child develop responsibility, time management and confidence. It’s also a nice way to send the message that you trust your child with decisions that affect her life.
Here are 5 ways to help you make this process smooth and simple so that you can walk out of the kitchen and trust they can handle it.
1. EASY REACH: USE LOW STORAGE FOR SUPPLIES
The kitchen is where we keep all the necessities for packing lunches and making meals. Unfortunately, we often keep the clingwrap, napkins, bread and other essentials up high. Open your cabinets and open the low drawers- can your children use these items for making lunches? Or, is it stuff that can be put up high until it’s needed. You can even bring your dishes, bowls and cups to a lower height to make this easier for meals at home. In order to help your child’s independence, put anything and everything your child might need like straws, napkins, lunchbags, and so on. within easy reach.
2. GET YOUR LIDS & BOXES TOGETHER
Nothing says frustration like searching for containers and lids that don’t match. Stock one drawer, bin or cabinet and make sure that they can find matching lids and containers without needing you to “help” by digging through three buckets of plastic for them—it’s a pain. Set them up for success with matching storage containers / jars, etc. This includes drink bottles and screw tops as well!
3. PLAN AHEAD AND STOCK UP
If you have to, spend Sunday nights stocking the kitchen so the mornings are smooth and hands off. Stock one bottom drawer in the fridge with a week’s worth of juiceboxes, or other choices they can grab and pack themselves. Fill the other drawer with fruit or “healthy” options like yogurts, cheese, apple slices, premade “pbj” circle sandwiches, or applesauce, and so on. Stock the pantry or lower cabinet/drawer with a variety of snack, they can be crackers, graham crackers, or chips depending on what you’re committed to. Then tell the kids to choose one snack, one fruit and one dairy and they can choose the rest, or whatever your guildelines are. The most important part is to let THEM CHOOSE. If you’ve stocked it, it’s fair game!
4. MAKE THE SNACKS WIN-WIN
Yes, they will want cookies and junk over healthy stuff but you can set the tone for a healthy lunch by offering “treats” you can live with. This will get them excited to pack their lunches – even if you HATE those fruit rolly things they ask for every time—if they agree to pack and eat other healthy options as well, let them have some sort of “exciting” lunch food they’ve been asking for – just choose something you can live with, vs. something that will eventually make you step in and say no. Kids are willing to balance their own lunches if they can have some say in what goes in there! So, again, stock a space and set a limit (there are five days, five roll ups, and if they eat them all by Tuesday, well, then, they’re out and they’ll have to choose something else). But, if they want one everyday, they’ll have to pace themselves. The point is, your kids are practicing real life skills. You can’t expect a 13 year old to make skillful choices if they haven’t been making them for 10 years. So provide opportunities for the kids to learn.
5. AIM FOR 3 of 5 DAYS TO START
Don’t set out on this change in habit without setting some realistic goals. The first week might go great, but then everyone will fall off. Just know this will happen (it might not, but plan for it). Then, once you’ve gotten an idea of how you’d like to see the mornings go, aim for three days of the five. If you only hit two, well, it’s better than nothing. Keep going until your children trust you’re not even thinking about their lunches anymore! It takes time and it’ll never be perfect. Remember to invite them into the kitchen when you are preparing meals, this will help them feel more comfortable and practice outside of a morning or bedtime routine. Let yourself have a little room to make mistakes and it’ll be much easier to stick with it. [hr]