Fun School Lunch Surprises

School lunch box surprises

Now that you have a waste-free lunch box, what will you put in it? Keep your child interested in a healthy lunch with monster sandwiches and smiling, pink-cheeked rice balls.

Happy Faces & Funny Monsters

When we see a smiling face, we smile. We see that with babies all of the time. When your child is away from you, you can still have a similar effect with happy food. When she opens up her lunch box and sees a happy salad or rice ball with a big toothy grin, she is likely to smile. You can add cut-out veggie shapes or even use food paints to create the faces.

A funny monster sandwich or a Mr. Fruit Head dessert will be the talk of the lunch room. A kid with a monster in his lunch box will definitely want to show and tell.

The Element of Surprise

Food can be a way to communicate with your child when you are separated. The more experience you have putting together fun school lunches, the more your own personalities will come into play. I like to get a laugh from my children by giving them something unexpected. I use the element of surprise.

Animals. Little animals lurking in the lunch box can be great fun. To make an octopus hot dog—an octodog—you can cut eight legs into one end of a hot dog up to about an inch and a half from the other end. Strawberry mice make a great dessert crawling through the lunch box. If you child develops a favorite, this could become a character in an ongoing story. The octopus could venture through salad one week and rice the next.

Shape. Different shapes can be a surprise. Collect cookie cutters in big shapes for sandwiches, medium sizes for rice, or small sizes for vegetables. A carrot that looks like a garden of a dozen flowers is fun to eat.

Color. Painting an old favorite a new color can be fun. We sometimes add beets to potato salad to get a shocking pink salad. Beet juice, turmeric, spinach, and even squid ink are great foods to add color by painting bread, dyeing rice, or drawing faces.

Switcharoo. Using unusual ingredients to create familiar shapes can surprise a child—the first time. A banana dog with peanut butter, banana, honey, and fruit relish on a whole wheat bun is a healthy lunch that looks familiar and tastes sweet.

The Inspired Food Artist

If you are feeling really ambitious, look at amazing photos of Japanese children’s lunches for inspiration. The everyday gorgeous lunches from Anna the Red’s Bento Factory also give me a lot of fun new lunch ideas.

Put the Children in Charge

Sometimes my husband and I still make lunches for our children when they have a day out, but they are getting old enough that we ask them to be in charge a lot of the time.

If a child makes his own lunch, I have found that he is more likely to not only eat it but like it. Once my daughter was in charge of her own lunches, she stopped having sandwiches (Daddy’s choice) and random pub lunch (Mama’s choice), and she began making pasta salads with different ingredients each day. Her own tastes and personality showed through more in her lunches, and she ate her lunch every day.

Especially if your child brings food home or says she doesn’t like what you gave her, it helps to encourage her to be responsible for her own food. Fun lunch ideas don’t have to be about surprising her. You could use the same ideas to have fun making the lunch together.

Extra Treats

No, not sweets but notes, drawings, or a joke a day. One of my friends has included a note in his son’s lunch box every school day for that past eight years. They have a box of great keepsakes, and his son and all of his friends look forward to seeing what dad has said or drawn each day.

Food, including a fun school lunch, can one of the ways we connect with our children as they find their own way into the world.

Image © Mark Butler |

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