My oldest child is starting preschool this year and if you’ve been a reader here very long you know that I’ve gone back and forth on the idea of homeschooling or sending her to school. I finally made the big decision to send her to school because she enjoys being around other kids her age, and I can always change my mind later if things don’t work out.
While we are exposing our daughter to several extracurriculars in our free time, a 30 or 60 minute class once a week just isn’t the same in these formative years as being in class day after day with the same individuals and forming relationships with them. With no homeschool co-ops operating more than one day a week near us, that sealed the deal for me.
When my little goes to school, I want her to have several daily reminders of how much we love her while she’s away from us during the day. That’s why we made friendship bracelets (link coming soon!), and another way I’ve decided to do this is by creating special lunches for her called Bento Box lunches to take with her to school each day. I even created a Pinterest board devoted to Bento Box Lunch Ideas for Kids for inspiration. Check it out.
The first question on your mind is probably, “What the heck is a Bento Box lunch anyway? How is it any different than a normal packed lunch?”
I am so glad you asked!
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What is a Bento Box Lunch for Kids?
Bento Box Lunches are single-portion home cooked or takeout meals from Japanese culture. Typically, Bento Box lunches contain rice or noodles, fish or meat, and pickled (yum!) or cooked veggies and served in special containers with dividers that keep each food item separated neatly. These lunches are nutritionally balanced, easy to pack, and pretty to look at. I love ’em!
The idea of Bento Box lunches for my girl appealed to me (& maybe you, too!) because:
- It gives me a creative outlet that is also very practical.
- A lunch created special just for her will bring a smile to her face and remind her of how loved and cherished she is by her family at home.
- The divided compartments makes creating a balanced lunch simple and fast during rushed mornings.
- Toddlers don’t ever finish large portions so there should be less waste (Check out my other posts on creating a zero-waste home.) nor do they like their food to touch.
- Let’s face it, it’ll make me look like the cool mom. 😉
Top 10 Bento Box Product Must-Haves for Kids’ Lunches
We chose a Pottery Barn Kids Bento Box lunch box, but here and here are similar options from Amazon that will be delivered just in time for back to school if you’re a Prime member (& who isn’t a Prime member by now?).
Silicone Cupcake Muffin Cups
The Bento Box we chose has dividers in it already, but I don’t want to be limited to larger portions and less food options. We all know toddlers can be finicky about what they are in the mood to eat from one day to the next so I decided to purchase these silicone muffin cups to use as food containers within the Bento Box lunch box.
These silicone muffin cups have so many uses so as a Minimalist they feel like a very worthwhile purchase. I can bake the foods I send to school with her inside the cups, I can keep her foods from touching or getting soggy, and they add a fun pop of color in the lunch box.
Smaller Bento Containers
I also chose to purchase a few smaller stainless steel containers similar to these from Pottery Barn Kids. I feel like these will be perfect for sending smaller portions of leftovers from dinner the night before and wet items like gelatin, pudding, or soups all while keeping the food the correct temperature and neatly packed away from everything else. It’ll be like Christmas opening up each little package to discover what’s inside. Excitement centering around food makes toddlers more likely to eat the food. Total mom win.
I seriously recommend trying packed Bento lunches for younger siblings still at home!
A must-have to have on hand for any school lunch is a well made thermos container. An insulated container like this will keep soups warm or yogurt cool until it’s time for your little to eat their lunch at school. Keeping food at the correct temperature is not only a safety concern, but makes food more appetizing for your little.
Now for the items that are going to make me the coolest mom in preschool. I mean- my kid the coolest kid at the lunch table. Okay, both. Win win, y’all. 😉
Bento Lunch Box Accessories
Fun Bento Box Accessories
We’re going to slowly build up our collection of lunch decorations as I get into the groove of this new routine of having a school kid in our home. That’s a skill I’ve had to learn as I’ve adopted a more extreme Minimalist lifestyle. I never want to limit the things that bring us joy- that defeats the point of being a Minimalist- but I also do not want to add unnecessary clutter to our home. I love these kitty cat Bento food forks! My girl is crazy for kitties and these are guaranteed to make her smile. 🙂
I actually noticed the Bento Box lunch food trend a few years ago before we became Minimalists and sorta zero-waste living. I toyed with the idea of creating at home Bento meals for my toddlers and I purchased this Hello Kitty egg mold back then.
Since then this egg mold has been used for its intended purpose around 5 times, and more often used as a favorite bath toy in our house. The kids love spooning water into the container then practicing attaching and removing the lid. I know I’ll be using it often now because my oldest loves boiled eggs. Either way you decide to go with it, it’s fun for kids!
Crazy Sandwich Shape Cutters
This entire post would be remiss if I failed to cover the cool sandwich shape cutters available on the market right now. As much as I image creating those cool Pinterest-worthy Bento Box lunches that I have saved on my Pinterest board, I know that as time goes by I’ll cling to standbys like sandwiches.
Fun sandwich shape cutters are a quick way to make your kid’s lunch smile-worthy without any added effort. Most kids don’t eat the crust anyway so you are doing yourself a favor.
ABC Cookie Cutters
The sandwich cutters I just mentioned are basically just cookie cutters. Some are made of metal and a little sharper than a regular cookie cutter to slice through bread more easily, but a cookie cutter still gets the job done. Mix learning and lunch with these alphabet cookie cutters to spell out your child’s name, sight words, or fun phrases inside your child’s lunch box.
Fruit and Veggie Shape Cutters
Want your kiddo to eat their veggies instead of eating everything around them? Grab a set of these fun fruit and veggie shape cutters to make eating healthy food fun. Even if nothing else in this post about Bento Box lunches appeals to you, get yourself a set of these vegetable shape cutters and see if you notice a change in how many vegetables or fruits your child eats. (Spoiler alert: I’m certain you will!)
Here’s a Bento Lunch box hack for you, mama. You can use any cake or cupcake decorations in your kiddo’s Bento Box for an extra punch of whimsy. There are unlimited themes for birthday party decorations so go crazy!
Just because something isn’t labeled “Bento” doesn’t mean it can’t be used and look awesome. Using cake or cupcake decorations is an easy way to add your child’s favorite TV cartoon characters to their Bento Box lunch. What kid wouldn’t love THAT?
Sauce containers. If your mama ever packed your lunch for you as a kid, you remember more than once opening your lunch box to find a huge mess of sauce all over everything. Or worse, NO SAUCE to dip your tasty chicken strips in! Where was your head, ma?
Don’t be that mom.
Order a set of these adorable sauce containers and you’ll never have to worry about spillage or forgetting the sauce. Except of course when we all get those #mombrain moments. With containers this cute, how often will that happen though? Never.
The Perfect Lunch Box for Back-to-School
The final must-have is a lunch box big enough to carry the Bento Box lunch container inside. Ease of access was most important to me so I chose a lunch box that looks very similar to this kid’s lunch box from Pottery Barn Kids. I wanted to be able to sit the container flat inside, and also have my little one easily be able to take the container out without dumping the Bento Box over.
All the food items will be contained in one Bento Box container for my girl on most days so I don’t worry that it will be too heavy for my tiny preschooler to carry. I love that this lunch box comes in several colors, has a middle zipper, and a long strap so your kiddo can throw it over her shoulder and march off to lunch.
What is your favorite Bento Lunch Box on Pinterest?
Share with me in the comment section.
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