This post has been sponsored by Kleenex®, Horizon Organic, and NABISCO. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
There’s one thing I didn’t anticipate when my son started kindergarten last year: how much work it would be to make his lunch every day.
Especially since I wrote him a little note every day the first week of school, and he expected something special in his lunchbox every day after! Now I’ve been challenged to come up with some creative surprises to keep him on his toes.
I forgot to write him a note once, and he still brings it up to this day.
I haven’t forgot to send something extra since. Some days, it’s more exciting things—like these lunchbox activity sheets—and other days, it’s just a note.
Luckily for me, my husband quit his full-time job at the beginning of this year. So now, school lunches are something we do together—which makes it a whole easier. And we’ve come up with a little system that has made it even easier!
Now, packing lunch in the morning for my almost 1st grader isn’t something I dread—it’s a fun family activity.
Most days at least.
Here are a couple of tips for making school lunches more fun—both the packing itself and the actual lunches!
How to Make School Lunch More Fun
If you’re one of those moms or dads who dread making school lunch, these ideas are for you! Check out even more back-to-school lunch packing ideas at www.backtolunch.com.
1 – Get everyone involved
One of the best things I ever did was get my son involved in the lunch packing process.
From picking out his favorite snacks at Target—like the NABISCO Cookie Multipack with Mini OREO® Cookies, NUTTER BUTTER® Bites, and Mini CHIPS AHOY!® Cookies—to actually picking out which snack ends up his lunchbox each day, he’s involved in every step of the process.
My husband typically makes the main dish, I get the extras like fruit and veggies, and my son picks out his snack and drink for the day.
my son’s favorite part of the week is going to Target with me and looking at the snack and drink aisle for that week’s snacks! Save up to 10% on select snacks and essentials in the Target app with Cartwheel through 9/2!
And I’m always down for a Target run because I can get things for school lunches as well as other things I need like diapers, clothes, and bath bombs for relaxing after a long week!
Plus, all the things I didn’t know I needed for whatever party I’m currently planning! You can get everything I mention in this post at Target right here!
2 – Make lunches simple but still special
No need to go all bento box crazy with school lunches, but you can still add some fun touches in seconds by doing something as simple as using a cookie cutter to make a sandwich a bit more exciting.
You can use the recipe below to make a sandwich that’s ideal for cookie cutting!
- 2 slices whole wheat bread
- 1 slice American cheese
- 3 slices turkey deli meat
- 1 TBS garden garden vegetable cream cheese (helps keep the sandwich together when cutting)
Add it with 1/2 cup fresh raspberries, carrot sticks, a package of Mini OREO® Cookies, and a Horizon® Organic Single Serve Milk Box to wash it all down!
If you’re having your kids help make sandwiches or pack fresh fruits and veggies, keep Kleenex® Wet Wipes Gentle Clean nearby so they can quickly clean off their hands from any sandwich or raspberry remnants before school. Those suckers stain!
3 – Make multiple lunches at once
Set up a little lunch making station with all of the things you need and make multiple lunches at once. It’s way easier to make lunches quickly when it’s all out and organized.
No more walking back and forth to the pantry or refrigerator when it’s all out and ready to go.
4 – Change things up
One thing I noticed the most about school lunch was that if we gave my son the same thing every day or something similar, he’d stop eating his main entree and only eat the snacks. When we changed things up (or did something fun with it like the cookie cutter sandwiches), he was much more likely to eat the main dish.
Switch things up at least every day during the week. Try a sandwich one day, cheese and crackers another day, pizza another, etc. You don’t like to eat the same thing every day (or at least I don’t), so why would your kids?
It’s one of the reasons I love getting the NABISCO Cookie Multipack; my son always has at least three snacks to choose from for lunch or even other snack times at home!
If If your kids like messy foods (aka pizza) like my son, try sending Kleenex® Wet Wipes Gentle Clean in their backpack to use for cleaning hands at lunchtime. I know at our elementary school, they have time to wash hands before lunch but after lunch, it’s right back to class and regular napkins don’t always cut it!
Just make sure they know the wet wipes are for cleaning hands and faces only—not the lunchroom table!
5 – Get single-serve snacks and drinks specifically for lunches
Remember those NABISCO Cookie Multipacks and Horizon Organic Single Serve Milk Boxes that I picked up at Target? Those immediately go into a school lunch bucket that my son knows is only for school lunches.
We have other snacks and drinks in the pantry (the variety of the NABISCO multipacks are perfect for lunches and stocking the pantry), but the lunch bucket is off-limits for anything other than lunch.
Not only does it make it simple for my son to pick out a snack and drink each morning for his lunch, it also makes it easy for me to know when I’m running low on snacks! I just look at the bucket and see if I need to make a Target run to refill the lunch bucket.
Or if there are enough packs of NUTTER BUTTER® Bites left that I can sneak one for myself without him knowing.
6 – Go the extra mile with lunch box notes
Okay, so here’s where I got myself in trouble with kindergarten. I hand wrote or drew pictures for my son.
Now I’m going to be balancing getting my son ready for 1st grade while also taking care of my infant, so I’m getting smarter this year.
This year, I created an entire month’s worth of lunch box notes that I can just print, cut, and have on hand to toss in his lunch box each day.
And I’m sharing these free printable lunch box notes with you!
Some of the notes have encouraging sayings like, “shine bright,” others have jokes, and others have positive reinforcement like “you’re a champion.”
There are 25 different note cards AND 25 fun ideas of little extras and food ideas to go with each of the note cards.
Just to give a few examples:
- Shine Bright card could go with a little star maze and “moon” cheese sandwiches
- You’re a champion could go with a little bouncy ball basketball and a football helmet cut-out sandwich
- “Why are fish so smart?” joke card could go with fish stickers and a version of these ocean blue snacks
A Month of Fun School Lunch Ideas
Get the free printable with the PDF of free printable lunch box notes, lunch box jokes, and little ways to make them a bit more special through the form below.
You can totally just send the cards, but I like to be a bit extra and send things like stickers, themed treats, etc. —especially right now when my son is in that transition from only child to older brother and missing my attention!
Enter your first name and email address below to get the file. You’ll be sent directly to the PDF to download and receive a copy to your email. The PDF includes five pages of printable notes – five themed weeks worth – and ideas for each of the weeks.
If you do not see the form below, click here to get to it.
More School Lunch Ideas
Want to switch it up from sandwiches? Any of these would make a great alternative!
- Broccoli cheese bites (these make a great main dish)
- Ham and cheese empanadas
- Balsamic chicken sliders (the slider size is great for lunches!)
- Meat lover pizza sliders