By Sarah Bobbitt
Going back to school can be stressful enough and when you add what to pack for lunch or snack, the process can be daunting for many parents, but it does not have to be. I’ve found there are lots of easy ways to pack delicious and nutritious foods, and one of the first steps is to begin to involve your child in the process at any age.
When a child chooses their lunch or snack, the more likely they are to eat it. When involved in cooking food, children usually love it. In our house, my kids help me with weekday food preparation on the weekends, so that we have less to do during the week.
It can be overwhelming to involve children in kitchen tasks so start with just one suggestion and keep introducing new or even previously rejected foods, as taste buds are trained by trying things many times. Many tasks should still be conducted under adult supervision. Children may be able to complete tasks earlier or later depending on the individual.
Children ages 2 and 3 years old are capable to help in the kitchen, so give them tasks that engage all motor skills like carrying, rinsing, pouring.
- Tasks include rinsing fruits and vegetables, stirring, help locate ingredients in the store, refrigerator, or pantry. Use a child friendly knife with assistance to cut soft foods. I use hard plastic serated lettuce knives.
Between 4 and 6 years old, independence creates pride. Children will enjoy completing kitchen tasks they can manage with less assistance.
- Measure, crack eggs, use electric cooking utensils with assistance, use a child friendly knife, become involved in meal planning by choosing favorite meals for menus.
Children between age 7 and 10 can contribute to following multiple steps to cook a successful recipe practicing skills learned in school.
- Examples include writing and reading grocery lists and locating items in the store, refining sharp knife skills with supervision, find recipes in cookbooks and plan balanced meals.
For lunch, focus on food that fuels the brain for learning, which includes fruits, vegetables, protein and healthy fat.
Make foods easy to eat and appealing to the eye by using sandwich cutters to create fun shapes.
You can hide foods like carrots and zucchini in banana or pumpkin bread or greens like kale and spinach in fruit smoothies.
For a snack, cut up veggies for the week and preserve them with ice, saving time and deciding what to pack.
Cut up fruit preserved with lime or lemon juice. Most keep a day or two, but melons and grapes will last the week. Berries are best prepped right before eating.
Other snack ideas: granola mixed with plain yogurt and fruit and tiny bit of honey, trail mix, small crackers, cereal, cheese of veggies and dip.
Sarah Bobbitt is a Pre-K teacher and certified health coach and wellness consultant at High Meadows School in Roswell.