Is this a familiar scenario in your house: the school bus will arrive at the corner any minute, your first grader canâ€™t find her shoe, your sixth grader needs a permission slip signed, the phone is ringing, the dog is barking, you realize that you havenâ€™t packed lunches, and that you have no cash in your purse to give the kids to buy lunch at school?Â Â Â
You decide to drive them to school and stop by the gas station convenience mart to â€œmake lunches.â€ÂÂ Could there be a better way?Â
If your children are at least seven years old, assign them the chore of planning and making daily lunches.Â When children are involved in meal planning and preparation, they have a stake in what they are eating.Â They are less likely to refuse or waste food.Â Asking kids to think deliberately about the food they will eat creates opportunities for them to expand their repertoires of tastes by inviting them to create change when they feel ready.Â And, most importantly, kidsâ€”from fifth graders to twelfth gradersâ€”will gain a sense of responsibility by taking on an important family chore.
Kids as Lunch Makers
Begin by explaining to your kids that they will be assuming responsibility for making their lunches sometime in the near future.Â Start by setting lunch rules together.Â For example, each lunch must have a fruit and a vegetable.Â Now, think about foods that you currently pack for lunch.Â Do your kids eat them, trade them, or toss them?Â Everyone needs to be realistic and honest.Â Next, brainstorm a list of foods that are acceptable according to your rules.Â Your list should be as comprehensive and exhaustive as possible.Â Check out the Lunch Box Inventory, which lists all kinds of foods that work well in school (and work, too, for moms and dads) lunches. Then, ask kids to plan their lunches for the week.Â This is an activity that they will do each week, and the items can be included in weekly shopping (or, if kids are old enough, they can shop for these items themselves while you are grocery shopping for other items).Â Keep the kidsâ€™ lunch plans displayed on the refrigerator.
Set aside a place in your kitchen or pantry as a designated lunch area with easy access for kids.Â Keep lunch boxes, bags, plastic wrap, and wax paper there, along with dry goods for lunches like boxes of raisins, granola bars, and juice boxes.Â Set aside a place in the refrigerator (a drawer is a good place) to keep cold lunch items for easy access.
Making lunches should become a regular routine.Â A great time for making lunches is during dinner preparation or dinner clean up.Â Parents can oversee children, and children can feel like they are working with some degree of independence.Â Parental oversight is important, though, as kids need to stick to their lunch plans and cannot stuff their lunch boxes with candy bars.Â Â Kids also need parental guidance on issues like food handling, safety, and storage.Â Remind kids to follow the rules of your kitchen (for example, knives may be off-limits), wash hands carefully, and keep foods cold if needed, and so on.Â Â
An investment of parental time and effort in the art of lunch making will teach kids good eating habits.Â Making lunches is not just about tossing ready-made foods in a lunchbox.Â Through planning in advance and sharing responsibility, kids can cook foods that they love to take in their lunches.Â This is a great weekend activity and will allow kids to practice their culinary skills.Â Kids can make cookies or muffins or granola bars to take along in their lunches, but they can think creatively, too.Â Younger kids can make a batch of dip to eat with fruit, and older kids can make falafel to tuck into mini pita pocket sandwiches. Challenge older kids to find recipes and practice them.Â Maybe once they master these, they will take on dinner next!
Parents can make lunches even more special by adding a treat, cartoon or note to lunches.Â Check out these lunchbox notes with knock-knock jokes on them.Â
Try out this recipe for falafels!
This is a recipe suitable for kids 12 and up.Â Parents can assist with chopping the onion and frying on the stovetop.
serves 4 (makes 8)
You will need: Cutting board Sharp knife Dish towel Garlic press Colander Large bowl Fork or food processor Wooden spoon Frying pan Spatula Paper towels Â Ingredients: 1 medium onion small bunch flat-leaf parsley 2 cloves garlic 28 oz canned chickpeas 2 tablespoons all-prupose flour 1 teaspoon ground coriander 1 teaspoon ground cumin Vegetable oil for frying Â
What to do
- Chop the onion finely. Wash, dry, and chop the parsley.Â Peel and crush the garlic and rinse and drain the chickpeas.
- Mash the chickpeas with a fork or in a food processor.Â Mix in the onion, garlic, flour, parsley, coriander, and cumin.
- With floured hands, roll the mixture into balls about the size of golf balls, then flatten them to make small patties.
- Heat the oil and fry the falafel for a few minutes on each side until golden brown.Â Drain them on paper towels.
Add chopped mint and a dash of cayenne pepper to plain yogurt and serve it with the falafel.
Serve the falafel in warm pita bread with sliced cucumber and tomato.
Recipe from The Childrenâ€™s Quick & Easy Cookbook by Angela Wilkes from DK Publishing.
Fishy Fruit Dip
This recipe is great for younger kids who are not yet school age.Â By preparing the recipe together, parents teach children that making a healthy lunch is worth the effort.
Serve this dip with skewers of your favorite fruit.Â
You will need: 1 mango (or 1 peach) 2/3 cup plain yogurt a few chocolate chips mandarin segments kiwi and apple slices 1 teaspoon honey Â How to make itâ€¦
- First cut up the mango by slicing it in half and cutting the flesh into cubes.Â Gently turn the skin inside out and cut off the cubes.
- Mash the mango in a bowl.Â Use a fork or potato masher to make the mango into a smooth pulp.
- Mix the mango with the yogurt and add honey to sweeten.
- Decorate the dip with a mandarin mouth, chocolate chip eye, and kiwi fruit and apple fins and tail.
- Make fruity dip sticks by threading chunks of your favorite fruits onto skewers.Â Then get dipping!
Recipe from Mom and Me Cookbook by Annabel Karmel from DK Publishing
What are your kids packing for lunch this fall?Â Do they help decide what will be in their lunchbox?
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