Sending your kindergartener or elementary child off to school can be stressful enough without having to consider snack and lunch planning. In our house we are managing multiple life-threatening food allergies and are generally particular about the foods our children eat (think focus on non-GMO and organic). When my older son began preschool I enlisted a few strategies that we still use today in order to make eating outside of the home less stressful for mommy and fun for the boys.
Start with a shopping list. Young children are more likely to try new foods and become invested in their meals when they are included in the planning process. Give your child a list of two or three items they can find on their own in the grocery store. For non-readers use either hand drawn pictures or photos of packaging (a helpful trick is coupon photos). Depending on your child's age and listening skills you can also allow them to wheel a small cart or basket in the store as they collect their food items.
Create a school snack/lunch list. Let's face it, last minute planning is never a good thing especially when it comes to school snack or lunch. In our house we have a list that includes a handful of 'go to' choices that I know the boys will be excited to see in their lunchbox and are easy to pull together. These choices include ingredients I tend to have readily available for those nights (or mornings) when there is a bit of a last minute scramble.
Our Go To List of Vegan (no dairy/no egg)
Allergy Friendly Snack
Apple Slices + Graham Crackers
Pretzels + Grapes
Blueberries + O's
Carrots + Raisins
Pita Chips + Hummus
(*Tahini Free Hummus to Avoid Sesame*)
Bananas + Rice Cakes
Chips + Salsa
Popcorn + Raisins
Graham Crackers + Strawberries
Enlist your "sous chef" to assist with meal preparation. Getting the boys involved in the kitchen is a strategy that really gets them excited about any meal. Their involvement ranges from simply standing with me while everything comes together (my "special kitchen supervisor") to adding ingredients and helping with setup and cleanup. Oftentimes the simple act of packing their snack or lunch into a small Ziplock bag (a great motor and hand/eye coordination task) or putting the various elements in their lunch box on their own provides a powerful sense of ownership over what they will bring to school the next day.
As hectic as it can be to plan and prepare for school snacks and meals I always try and use this time as another activity with the boys. Finding opportunities to laugh and get creative together undoubtably makes even a simple (and somewhat mundane) part of the school routine a whole lot more fun for everyone!