The new school year is almost here so it feels like a good time to share some lunch box tips for Montessori families and those attending Montessori schools. Please know that we are not perfect, these are things that we strive towards:
- allow the child to participate in the making and packing of lunches - young children can slice vegetables or peel eggs or simply put the ingredients into their lunch box. Montessori from the Start recommends children from five years start to prepare their own lunch. This allows the child to have some input into and ownership over their lunch box.
- use whole foods - as much as possible. Avoid processed foods that contain excessive additives.
- make the foods easy to eat - sandwiches, salads and chopped fruit/veg are in almost all of our lunch boxes as they are so easy to eat, we avoid wet foods including those with drippy sauces as they are more difficult for young children to manage.
- make the lunch waste-free - many schools have waste-free lunch box policies. This means avoiding or removing packaging from the lunch box. With snacks (like crackers or cheese) it's often cheaper to buy a large packet and put a few in the child's lunch box each day and when compared to small individual packages can help reduce waste.
- provide a balanced nutritious lunch box - we aim to have our lunch boxes contain a range of protein, vegetables, fruit, grains, with some dairy. Remember that nutritionally, children don't need sweets or processed treats at school. Many schools don't encourage or allow crisps, sweet biscuits, chocolates, and candy. All of our schools are nut-free and we also avoid dried fruits as they can be sticky (and sugary) on little teeth.
- use easy to open (and close) containers - for a young child at school (from 3yrs+) it is important for them to be able to open (and close) their lunch containers independently. It's a good idea to practice opening all containers (and wraps) at home. Observe the child and adjust as necessary. I like to take my children shopping for their own lunch boxes, so they try them out in-store, I have linked to a few online recommendations below. Opening their own lunch containers is important for independence and it frees up the teachers and guides to help elsewhere. If the child is starting school for the first time it really helps to have them use and practice with their lunch box weeks in advance.
- think durable & BPA free containers - while stainless steel lunch boxes can feel super expensive they may be worth it on a cost per use basis, my thirteen-year-old is still using the same lunch box he used when he was three (the LunchBots Cinco). Children don't need a new lunch box every year, if you find one that is durable it will last for many years.
- name everything - even if your child isn't attending school right now it's a good idea to name all lunch boxes, lids, lunch bags, and water bottles. This can help avoid lost items, avoid confusion if someone nearby has items similar, and allows the child to quickly and easily identify which items are theirs.
- bake with the child - while we don't always have time for this, if we are baking for lunch boxes it's a good idea to involve the child in the process, so they can make a real contribution and have a greater understanding of how food is made. We like to bake muffins, banana bread, quiche, focaccia and frittatas for lunch boxes.
- shop with the child - it can helpful to discuss lunch box ideas with the child and and pick out food when shopping with the child at the market or store (or online). Older children can learn to read nutritional panels of packaged food at the store or at home.
So what do our lunch boxes look like and which ones do we use?
This is the LunchBots Large Cinco (AU here). These are the lunch boxes Sara used when she meal prepped for a week! Some of our LunchBots are more than ten years old. We also have at least one smaller LunchBots container that the children use for recess. The sections of this one are large and the lid is super easy to get on and off.
This is the Planetbox Rover (AU here). The lid is connected to the base so it all stays together. The lid secures with a latch that is easy for my three year old to open and close. Our Planetbox came with two leak proof dippers with silicone lids, these are good for containing wet foods, dips and sauces.
This is the Seed & Sprout CrunchBox which Otto is using in the top two images. This is our new favourite, it is similar to the PlanetBox Rover but is made by an Australian company. The lid is attached to the base and the lid closes with a latch that is totally friendly for preschoolers, my three year old manages it easily. Our CrunchBox came with two leak proof pots with silicone lids for wet foods.
We also use the Yumbox Original (AU here) which is the most affordable out of all our lunch boxes. The lid is connected to the base and closes with a latch. My three year old also uses this easily but only after a bit of practice, the latch is firm. I am not sure how durable this is because we haven't had it for long. The compartments are on the smaller side too, so it works for my three year old but wouldn't be big enough for my older children (9 & 13yrs). The clear plastic insert comes out and can be washed separately.
I usually pack a bamboo fork for the children to use, this makes it easy for them to eat salads or pasta and it's not too much of a problem if it gets lost.
Please let me know if you have any lunch box tips to share especially if you are a teacher!
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