If you’re the parent of an infant or toddler in daycare and preschool, packing their lunch can be challenging. You want them to eat something healthy and nutritious, but it also needs to be easy to eat without spilling on their clothes or making a mess with crumbs. These bento box ideas will make packing your child’s lunch easy and fun.
You might be preparing your kids’ lunches for school. Check-in with the school first before you bring it. Choose a preschool and daycare center that works best for your child and family and an institute that would even encourage kids to consume nothing but healthy and fun meals. Make sure that you and your family are comfortable with the daycare’s policies and routines, as well as its location.
Are they okay with you dropping off lunches? And will your kids eat their meals at home or school? A good rule of thumb is to make an unannounced visit once or twice before making a decision and discuss preferences. While some centers provide food, some will ask you to provide their own meals — and a bento box can be a good option for that.
What Is a Bento Box?
A bento box is a Japanese food container commonly used to store rice and other foods, as well as small toys or figurines. It is often made of plastic and shaped like an hourglass. In Japanese cuisine, a proper meal requires all five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. A good bento box combines several elements into one convenient package. For example, it should make your child smile at what’s inside — not just because it’s cute but also because he knows there’s something delicious in there waiting for him.
But what makes a great bento box?
- Include fun activities: This can be something as simple as including a puzzle, jigsaw puzzle, or stickers with your child’s lunch. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be something that adds some extra engagement with his meal and breaks up any monotony he might feel from sitting in daycare all day without much change of scenery.
- Get creative when choosing food items: While many parents still pack plain rice in their bento boxes, consider serving something that reflects your child’s tastes and personality as well—it will be more exciting for him. Make sure you also include foods that are easy to eat with chopsticks since some daycare centers will have them available.
- Make use of vertical space when packing your bento box: While you should pack foods that will fill most of your child’s bento box, consider adding one or two items that are shorter than in width. That way, you can fit some fun treats at the top and bottom without taking up too much room—like candies shaped like animals or small juice boxes.
How to Design A Cute Bento Box
Take a small lunch box, and decorate it with cutouts of your child’s favorite cartoon characters. They will love it and look forward to seeing their favorite characters at lunchtime. As a bonus, your child will be less likely to trade lunches if they were involved in packing their own. It may take some time to find an appropriate character-shaped silicone mold; however, you can always make your own by cutting out shapes from baking parchment. You can also try wrapping their bento box in a handkerchief or fabric napkin that has been decorated with comic-book designs.
What Food Should I Pack?
As a parent, you want your children to be full and healthy. But with lunchtime costs rising, keeping your kids fed can be challenging. Make lunchtime easier by filling your children’s bento boxes with delicious, nutritious foods that won’t break your bank.
You don’t need to go out and buy everything at once if you don’t have a lot of money or live in an area where special ingredients aren’t easily available. Rather than buying meatloaf mix or burger patties at exorbitant prices, try making your own ground beef from scraps. If you can get a big box of chicken legs for under $10, that will produce enough ground chicken for three batches — about a week’s worth of lunches.
And veggies are always cheap. Stir-fries are great because you can use up any veggies that may be going bad by adding them toward the end with whatever seasoning/oil mixture has been used already.
What Equipment Is Needed?
To make a delicious, filling bento box, you need some specialized gear. You’ll need containers that can be packed tightly without getting crushed and leak-proof Tupperware containers so that you don’t end up with food on your clothes.
Take a good look at storage systems like kitchen drawers or cabinets to figure out how best to keep all of your supplies together in one place. Don’t forget reusable condiment packets. You can get them from most grocery stores these days — ask where they are located near the other utensils or condiments.
The key to packing bento boxes that are nutritious and delicious is variety. Just as you would at home, include fruits, vegetables, proteins, and grains in each lunch — and don’t forget dessert. Your kids will thank you when they discover how tasty lunch can be.