Why Your Children Should Pack Their Own Lunches


If there’s anything in your child’s life that she has an opinion on, it’s what she eats.  Despite this, millions of parents pack lunches for their kids years after kids are fully able to pack them on their own.  If you are still packing your child’s lunch after Kindergarten, it’s time to rethink your approach.

But how can I ensure that they make good choices?

You’ll first need to decide on your family’s rules for lunch.  Our kids, for example, know that a lunch includes one fruit, one vegetable, a main dish (protein), a drink, and one to three snacks.  Post your family’s lunch list or rules right on your fridge so they’re easy to reference

When your child is new to making his or her lunch, you’ll want to prepare the choices ahead of time.  For our family, this would mean that we’d work with the kids on Sundays, filling the fridge with small take-and-toss containers of fruits and vegetables.  We’d stock snack-sized bags of pretzels and goldfish in the pantry that they could easily grab and toss in their lunch boxes.

You’ll also want to decide if there is any portion of the lunch your child is not currently responsible for.  For us, our son isn’t quite ready to make his own sandwiches.  That means that when he makes his lunch, he adds everything but the sandwich, which his dad makes and adds for him.

“Encouraging your child to make her own lunch is a powerful way to demonstrate your respect and support of  her growth and maturity.”

One important (and often overlooked) question is when is the best time to make lunches? For us, the only time that works is the evenings.  Mornings are simply too rushed.  As they’re clearing and cleaning up their dinner dishes, they also make their lunches and stick them in the fridge.

What if your child doesn’t make his or her lunches in that time frame?  Easy!  You’ll simply make it for them without a word.  The only catch is that you, the parent, gets to decide what they get.  My husband and I won’t try to make their lunch into something they dislike, but we often don’t have much of a sense of what they’d truly enjoy.  I’m likely to put in a vegetable choice that isn’t a current favorite or leave out a favorite snack.

At first, you’ll want to give lots of support during the lunch making process.  Over time, however, you can do less and less pre-packing, staying further and further away as lunch preparations are happening. Oh, and if that unearned mom-guilt sneaks in… remember this: encouraging your child to make her own lunch is a powerful way to demonstrate your respect and support of  her growth and maturity.  You can always sneak a little note into her bag to remind her of your love in the middle of the day!