Inside: Teach your kids to make school lunches on their own so you don’t have to anymore. Use this free printable and 7 tips to teach kids how.
So, we all have Mom Chores we really despise.
All the chores need to get done, but some really end up rubbing me the wrong way.
For me, my most disliked mom chore is making school lunches.
I love everything about back to school, except for packing school lunches.
RELATED: 21 Back to School Tips to Make Returning to School Easier for You and for Your Kids
Maybe it’s because I have to make three of them.
Maybe it’s because everyone wants different things in their lunches.
Maybe it’s because my son has food allergies and can’t buy the school lunch, so I don’t get a break from it.
So this year, I’ve decided to teach my three kids how to make their own school lunches.
My youngest is not too young to learn, and my eldest is not too old to learn.
Psst: Our kids are never too young to learn or too old to learn how.
Why should our kids make school lunches on their own?
Listen, if you love making school lunches, then keep going for it. But I’m done.
Besides the fact that I can’t stand it, I’ve decided to teach my kids to make their own school lunches for several reasons:
1. It’ll save me time.
I am one person making three lunches.
We can cut the time this chore takes in thirds when each kid makes their own lunch.
2. It’ll save my patience.
Since I really can’t stand this chore, I get frustrated while I’m doing it. Taking this chore off my plate will leave me with more patience. Which I’ll need for more important things like finding their shoes and signing endless forms and making sure I’ve sprayed enough lice spray on their heads.
3. My kids will know how to make themselves lunch.
Seriously, this is the most underrated reason. I know high schoolers who don’t have to make themselves a meal. Ever.
These kids will head off to college and starve when the cafeteria is closed.
My six-year old’s sandwich might get mangled as she spreads her sun butter and jelly, but she can independently feed herself.
How to Teach Kids to Make School Lunches On Their Own:
Kids will not learn how to make their own school lunches overnight.
But when we spend the time to teach them how to do it, it will save us time in the long run.
It’ll make our kids more independent and able to care for themselves. Which is the main point of parenting: teaching our kids to be the best versions of themselves who don’t need us anymore.
So we practice.
And we set them up for success.
And we don’t let them know how much we hate making school lunches for them while we’re teaching them how to do it.
1. Practice How to Make School Lunches Over the Summer
The first time my daughter made a sandwich is looked inedible.
We can’t wake up one morning and expect them to figure it out on their own.
So I had to teach her how to properly spread jelly on bread without ripping it.
I had to teach her how to use two separate knives so jelly doesn’t end up in the sun butter jar and mustard doesn’t end up in the mayonnaise jar.
I had to teach her how to close Ziploc baggies full of snacks and fruit slices.
These are life skills we need to explicitly teach our kids.
2. Break it Up Into Little Chunks
If your kids are newer to kitchen chores or are younger, you may need to break the chore into smaller, more manageable chunks.
Instead of being in charge of their whole lunch right away, they can be in charge of gathering all the “extras:” juice box, fruit, dessert, and snack.
Or they can be in charge of getting out all the supplies to make their sandwich, but you make the sandwich until they practice more.
3. Use this Free Printable for a Visual Reminder to Make School Lunches
Print out this free printable so your kids have a visual reminder of what they need to include in their healthy lunches (get it down below).
You can also slip this printable into a pocket sheet protector or laminate it so your kids can check off what they’ve packed with a dry erase marker or simply hang it on the fridge or cabinet door.
4. Teach Your Kids to Use Teamwork
If your kids have siblings who also need to make school lunches, teach them how they can work smarter, not harder by helping each other.
RELATED: How to Raise Kids to Be Helpers
If they divide and conquer, they’ll pack their school lunches faster:
Instead of getting one juice box for themselves, get three juice boxes for all the kids.
Instead of grabbing one applesauce, grab three applesauce packets.
Instead of one orange, get three oranges.
Teamwork. Makes. The. Dream. Work.
5. Have School Lunch Choices They Love
My kids are more likely to eat food they love.
So to help them pack school lunches they want to eat, I keep things in my fridge and pantry I know they like.
Pretzel goldfish for my eldest, pretzel sticks for my son and honey pretzels for my youngest.
Three different bags of pretzels opened at once is worth it if avoids a fight and I know they’ll be eating it.
One way to keep your house stocked with the “right” kind of food, is to take your kids grocery shopping with you.
Have them help pick out healthy snacks, fruits, veggies, and jelly flavors they want to eat.
Because when they pack their own lunches, they get to eat exactly what they want.
6. Get them Kitchen Tools to Make School Lunches Easier
My daughter loves “Pocket Sandwiches” or uncrustables.
But since my son is allergic to peanut butter, we make our own with sun butter, jelly and this gem:
And since my daughter also wants the crust cut off her traditional sandwiches, we use safer, kid-friendly knives.
6. Purchase a Lunchbox with a Separate Snack Section
My kids often would eat all the food in their lunch boxes at snack time. They didn’t know what was for lunch and what was for their snack.
So we purchased lunchboxes that have a separate section for their snack. It helps them remember to save their lunch for lunchtime.
But it also helps our kids to know what to pack for lunch and for snack time.
7. Audit Their Work
For a while, we need to “audit” their lunch choices.
We need to make sure their school lunch has a main meal and an actual piece of fruit and more healthy foods than junk.
Kids who are given too much freedom with no check-ins will not pack a lunch you would hope they’d eat.
Bonus #1: Purchase a small thermos to reduce the boredom of sandwiches
To mix up what our kids eat for lunch, we’ve purchased these small thermoses and send our kids to school with a hot lunch.
We’ve sent in chicken nuggets, mini corndogs, corndogs, pizza, mac n cheese, and pasta.
But reheated pizza cut up is my kids’ favorite school lunch.
Bonus #2: Stick a picture of your family in your young student’s lunchbox
Long days at school can be overwhelming for our younger students.
We tape a family photo to the back wall of the inside of our kids’ lunchboxes so they see friendly faces in the middle of the day.
RELATED: More Back to School Tips to Make Going to School Easier for You and for Your Kids
Bonus #3: Stick a Note in their Lunch
My older kids love having notes in their lunches, but they especially love getting jokes.
We use these school lunch jokes that rip out easily:
Or I draw them a quick note on these awesome black magic notepads:
Or use these Kindness Lunchbox Notecards to remind them to include others.
All in the name of getting our kids to be more independent, learn how to care for themselves and save my sanity and patience.
Especially if teaching our kids to make their own school lunches gives me more time to search for their shoes… Why can we never find their shoes?
Get our FREE Printable to Help Make School Lunches Independently
I love this! I have three kids and making lunches is not my favorite either! I started this last year, and it went very well! My kids were K-7th. We make our lunches the night before, unless something needs to be heated in the morning. If we use leftovers from dinner, we just put them into individual containers for a quick reheat in the morning before transferring to a thermos. Making the night before leaves so much more time in the morning, especially if we’re scrambling. I love the idea of putting a photo in there! I’ll occasionally slip a little note or a Hershey kiss or some other single holiday leftover as a treat as a surprise. The kids love it!