Search “lunch ideas for kids” on Pinterest, and you might be led to believe that there’s a world of kindergarteners happily munching on bunny-shaped cucumbers at school. In reality, packing a nutritious lunch that actually gets eaten (that part is key) is much more difficult than mastering a heart-shaped sesame seed cracker. To battle the “I forgot to eat” or “my baby carrots were wet” or “my sandwich touched the blueberries” excuses, opt for compartmentalized lunch kits that help kids exercise choice and control over their school meals which hopefully translate to them eating at break time.
SNACK STORAGE SOLUTIONS FOR PRE-SCHOOL TO GRADE 3
The first few weeks of preschool can be pretty nerve-wracking for small kids (and their caregivers), but allowing them to select a couple of their favourite snacks and pack them away in this small and manageable Sistemo To Go (ideal for half-days when a full lunch isn’t required) could help them feel very independent and grown-up.
For little ones who don’t like eating with their hands and prefer items like pasta or salad to a sandwich or wrap, this Munchkin Lunch Bento Box has 5 separate compartments and built-in cutlery that snaps to the inside of a lid so you can be sure that they always have a fork and spoon on hand without having to pack it separately.
If variety is the best way to get them to eat, this 6-compartment Yumbox is like a mini buffet—there’s room for fresh fruit and veg, a dip, a sweet treat and crackers and cheese. It’s also meant for younger kids, so the portion sizes aren’t overwhelming or wasteful, and they can easily open/close the container themselves.
Little Lunch Box Co Bento Boxes are great for small kids who warm up their food and like a variety of snacks. The simple design makes it easy for little fingers to open/close it, and there are no containers to fuss with, and dry/wet snacks can go in separate slots without fear of leakage. These are ideal for both selective eaters and small-portion grazers (with room for a bigger sandwich or wrap) with different configurations. The two-section container has a divider that can be removed, ideal for those who only need a half day’s worth of food or a single big-ticket meal (like a sandwich) and one snack.
For those who aren’t into one main meal but prefer a mini buffet of snacks, there’s a 5-section Little Lunch Box Co set with more space to fill with tiny goodies like crackers, fruit, veggies, and dips. It comes in many graphic themes, including ninjas, dinosaurs and kittens or a simple pink or mint.
SNACK STORAGE SOLUTIONS FOR ELEMENTARY-AGE CHILDREN
The Thermos Freestyle Kit Lunch Box is really sturdy; the multiple compartments are great for mixing and matching an entire day’s worth of food. The insert has four separate sections with removable pieces: two round containers (one medium and one small - ideal for condiments or dips) and two rectangular inserts (perfectly sized for sandwiches or carrot sticks). The snap lid has rubber dividers, so there’s no spillage or leaks between compartments. (The blue is sold out, but purple is still available here.)
If going plastic-free is a priority, this Bentgo Kids Stainless Steel Leak-Resistant Lunch Box is both sturdy and safe. Its claim to fame is that it was the first leak-proof stainless steel bento box on the market and has a 5-year warranty (pretty handy for a product that gets carted around so much). There are three containers with a removable silicone divider, so they can be turned into 4 sections if need be. The outside is rubber-coated, and it is double latched for maximum protection in the backpack.
SNACK STORAGE SOLUTIONS FOR ALL AGES
If compartments are too constraining, this PackIt FLEX Bento Box is easy to adjust into different configurations. The removable dividers are flexible enough to bend, creating different sizes and shapes for compartments - corner off a section for grapes or split it right down the middle for a sandwich.
A STACKABLE KIT THAT'S VERY GROWN-UP
For kids that can handle a more sophisticated set-up, there's the Original Bento Box bundle, which comprises two separate rectangle containers and a cutlery compartment, all held together but a thick elastic band. This is great for those who prefer an organized eating space and don't want to risk their food getting mixed. The lunch box containers are microwavable (but the partitions between them are not).
SNACK STORAGE SOLUTIONS FOR THE FORGETFUL
Bento boxes are convenient, but they are also an investment (most go for $30+). If lost items are an issue for a school-age child or teen, a BPA-free Ziploc Divided Rectangle container can be reused until it is ready to be recycled. If instead they get left behind on a field trip or at the library or who-knows-where, at 2 for under $6, it’s a manageable loss.