Make & Take: Realistic School Lunch Ideas (& the Gear!) for Toddlers

image source: thinkstock
image source: thinkstock

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One of the biggest challenges I’ve had with Wyndham beginning kindergarten has been lunch. Not so much in making his lunch, because yes. Foodie mom, right here.

It has more been in getting him to eat it. I’m walking a fine line between catering to my child with over-the-top, time-consuming lunches and making creative, bright, tasty, healthy food options. Anyone with toddlers knows that getting them to eat when they are in your company produces enough of a challenge.

Never mind when they aren’t in our care. I’m pretty passionate about making food fun, delicious, and healthy for my kids, so. Naturally I have some tips and ideas to share with y’all. Because making food for toddlers does require a little bit more effort, a little bit more pizazz. If, you know, you’re not a chef at a 5 star restaurant.

My school lunch ideas for toddlers are straight from my kitchen. Not recreating the wheel or anything here, just hoping to inspire. Simple yet creative enough food ideas that you can have packed in your little one’s knapsack in under 10 minutes. Let’s have those containers coming back empty!

1. The Gear

Image source: Selena Mills

I ordered gear from Lunch Bots and Bentology after doing some research based on reviews and price. As a long-time tupperware hoarder, I knew these would bring a smile to my face every morning (this is important, especially when caffeinated). I also knew that they would last, loved the double insulated snack containers and insulated thermal vessels for hot lunch action. The complete breakdown of what I use is below!

2. Mabel’s Labels For Life

Image source: Selena Mills

These suckers right here. These last through endless dishwasher runs and washing machine cycles. You can get sweet deals on packages with enough labels to do your kids’ clothes, food containers, and shoes. I ordered these last spring and we’re still going strong. You really want to label all of the everything that steps foot in daycare, preschool, or kindergarten. Or it goes missing. I learned that a little late in the game.

3. Healthy Mac & Cheese

Image source: Selena Mills

When I don’t make Mac & Cheese from scratch, like you know – at 7 in the morning, I whip up a box of Annie’s Organic Mac & Cheese. I toss in some chopped carrots from the garden with the noodles while they are cooking and minced spinach at the end when I stir in the powdered cheese, butter and milk. I add some fresh grated cheese too, whatever’s on hand. Strawberries and grapes are two of Wyndham’s favorite snacks, as is anything from the organic snack line for toddlers from President’s Choice.

4. Mix Things Up!

Image source: Selena Mills

I’m a big fan of leftovers for lunch. Especially when it’s something so healthy as quinoa salad with tons of fruits and vegetables in it that my toddler will eat. Raspberries and cubed cantaloupe are also popular snack choices around here.

5. Presentation is Everything

Image source: Selena Mills

Nothing foreign here. It’s all in the presentation, which yes is important when trying to get your toddler to eat their lunch on their own at school. Just is. I can’t be alone in that! Carrot sticks (fresh from the garden, which means my toddler eats them up with pride because that really works I’ve found…grow food with your kids and they’ll be more inclined to eat it), banana slices, and granola bar. Sliced ham (leftovers from crock-pot ham) and cheddar cheese wrap rolls. This is where those panda bear food picks come in handy. Lifting up sandwiches and wraps can get tricky for chubby little fingers. This makes it easier AND cute. Wyndham is highly amused by those little picks. Also shown: halved dried prunes and apricots.

6. Embrace the Sandwich

Image source: Selena Mills

Sandwiches need to be celebrated and embraced. They are easy and yummy. The end. The one shown above is made on sprouted 12 grain spelt bread with leftover roast chicken, avocado mayo, tomatoes (from our garden – yep) and cheddar. Cucumber and red pepper sticks (again from our garden). I won’t stop testifying to the fact that growing a vegetable garden this summer has been one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. Also shown: simple chunks of juicy sweet orange, dried apple slices, and raspberries in those awesome snack containers listed previously.

7. All Hail Hard Boiled Eggs & Kielbasa

Image source: Selena Mills

Offering a wide variety of tastes, colors and textures is key when feeding one’s toddler – especially when you’re not around to cajole them into eating just a bit more! Oh, please more than two bites! I don’t always use those little metal fruit and veg cutters, but when I do I feel like a supermom. It’s in the little things.

As shown:
Farmer’s market kielbasa
Cantaloupe and dried cranberries
Cream cheese on toasted spelt grain bagels, cubed
Hard-boiled egg
Cucumber, pepper, and carrot sticks with hummus

8. Snackage

Image source: Selena Mills

Sistema containers are another favourite brand choice around here as they are BPA-free and leak-proof and fun to look at. Yes, that last thing is important to me. Just being honest. I’m trying to get into the habit of doing some baking on the weekend to give Wyndham low carb, (refined) sugar-free, and package-free snack options. Cookies and muffins are always on my list, but I don’t always get to it (as the granola bars and other snacks from PC will attest to, which is fine…goals are fine too). Last week, it was banana bread as shown above. WIN.

9. My Panda Bear Food Picks Bring All the Toddlers to the Yard

Image source: Selena Mills

Seriously. Abby tries to get into the cupboard to swipe them and hide them under her pillow, and Wyndham cups them into his hands and talks to them like they are babies. The ECE teacher in Wyndham’s class asked where I got them because she wants to get them for her kids and she told me Wyndham gets ooo’s and ahh’s from other kids at lunch. That’s got to count for something, right? I mean, FOOD PICKS. Who knew? (Just in case you thought them to be a silly purchase. Maybe, maybe not.)

10. Leftovers FTW

Image source: Selena Mills

A most popular, obvious hot lunch idea would be spaghetti, right? Bison Bolognese as shown above with lots of grated asiago cheese. Tru Roots ancient grain pasta if you’re wondering. Homemade muffins. I did it once! Grapes. Red Pepper and carrot sticks. And scene.

11. Fruit Cutters in Action

Image source: Selena Mills

Time consuming, maybe. Adorable? Damn straight. Well received? Indubitably. Wasteful? Not if you use the scraps for your morning smoothie, which I do. Speaking of which, I just ordered these to give Wyndham smoothies at school!

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