It’s happening – your baby is no longer a baby and its time to get ready for her first day of preschool! This is a huge step for both you as a parent and your little one. So, if you’re having mixed emotions, it’s totally normal!
From one mom to another, I can say I am excited but also nervous for my three-year-old to start preschool this fall. I am excited for him to interact with other kids his age, learn, and play, but interested to see how he will behave and also adjust to eating lunch in a different place other than home.
Whether your son or daughter goes to preschool part time or full time, there will most likely be lunch or at the least snack time.
Here are some ways to help you and your child have a successful lunch during preschool. You’ll also find a few ideas for incorporating healthy lunch items that will fuel your child with the energy he needs to thrive at preschool.
There’s nothing wrong with planning ahead and being prepared! In fact, being prepared can save you a lot of time and unnecessary stress in the future. Preparing for lunch time for when your child enters preschool might include getting a lunchbox she loves, trips to the grocery store the previous day (or days before) and making meals the night before so the morning runs more smoothly. Whatever this looks like for you, being prepared can make life easier. Also, allowing her to choose what goes in her lunchbox at the grocery store or at home can help her feel involved and part of the process. So when she opens her lunchbox the next day, she will see what he picked out!
Choose foods he will eat
If this is the first time your child eats a meal away from home or with family, he’ll want to see familiar foods in his lunchbox. Your child will be busy learning and playing at preschool so he will be hungry when lunch time rolls around. It might be best to include one or two of his favorite food items to ensure that he does eat. However, don’t let this discourage you from helping him try new things. You could be surprised that while he’s being adventurous at preschool, he might be adventurous in choosing to eat something new too!
Try to include the major food groups
Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and dairy should be the focus when making your child’s lunch. This can be challenging – I understand! The most important thing here is that you try your best to provide what your child needs. Our kids will only be exposed and have the opportunity to eat healthily if we (as the parent) give them a chance. Finger foods can be a great choice and easy for your toddler to eat by himself as she explores more independence:
- Apple slices, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, and peeled oranges
- Whole grain breads, pastas, and crackers
- Plain Greek yogurt, string cheese, and cubed cheese
- Edamame, sliced or cooked carrots, green beans, peas, and sweet potato
- Nut butters, hard boiled egg, slices of deli turkey
Be creative and have fun
Expressing creativity when making your child’s lunch can look differently for each of us. That’s the beauty of being creative, it isn’t a “one shoe fits all”. For example, if your child likes the star shape, you could use a star cookie cutter to cut out his peanut butter and jelly sandwich into the shape of a star. Or, you can use fun, unique eating utensils to help make the meal more enjoyable. Being creative and thinking outside the box also comes into play when trying to include healthier options for your child to eat.
My son really likes dipping things into other things. Meaning, if there is some sort of interactive activity during his mealtime it makes everything more fun. Examples of this are:
- Apple slices dipped in peanut butter
- Carrots dipped in ranch or hummus
- Chicken nuggets (whole grain/white meat) dipped in ketchup
Practice eating out of his lunch box
Children like to know what to expect, and they thrive off of routine. Getting them used to eating out of a lunch box at home might seem like a silly idea, but it can help lunch time go much more smoothly when they’re in a new environment.