I remember being really surprised when my son came home from school one day and announced that they weren’t allowed to trade at lunch anymore. It prompted me to ask some questions and apparently a number of kids didn’t want their own lunches and traded their food with their friends. I asked my son if he liked to trade and he said no because he wanted the snacks that he had packed for himself but some of the other kids had snacks their moms’ gave them.
Because the morning is such a busy and stressful part of the day, parents find themselves making their kids’ lunch. They say it’s faster this way. The problem is it robs the child of the opportunity to take responsibility for their own lunch, learn how to make choices, prepare food, and remember to bring the lunch to school. It also eliminates the whining over how the sandwich is cut, or what kind of fruit they have, and ensures more of the food will be eaten.
The short-term benefit of saving a few minutes does not exceed the long-term developmental opportunities. In the long run, as well, it saves the parent time, since the child is handling the lunch himself.
Here are a few tips for training your kids to prepare their own lunch:
- Consider making it the night before – ask yourself what’s more important – having a fresh sandwich or having a quiet morning?
- Prepare a system to succeed. You want this to be an easy process for your child. He needs to be able to open the refrigerator, quickly pick 2 or 3 things and put it in his lunch box. If he wants to eat pasta, you can boil it ahead of time and put it in small plastic containers, so the child just needs to grab the container.
- Teach him to pack a nutritious lunch that includes protein, fruits/vegetables.
- Even toddlers can help make their lunch. They can make choices, put food in zip lock bags, put in the ice pack, close the lunch box, etc.
Help your child in the beginning and train them in an encouraging way. Preparing lunch with your child can take 5 minutes. Consider making/finding the time.
The training period can take a few days or weeks. Whenever you do something for your child that he can do for himself, you’re sending him a discouraging message that he is not capable of doing things. Acquiring independence helps your child feel better about himself, and have better self esteem.