Teach Your Kids to Make Their Own School Lunches

Having kids make their own school lunches teaches them responsibility, time management and how to make healthy eating choices. Plus, it saves you time. 

A boy making lunch independently

This post is sponsored by Upparent. All opinions stated are genuine and my own.

It was a dilemma I faced every morning.

“What do you want for lunch?” I’d ask my girls whose faces were down as they scooped another bite of cereal from their bowls.

“A peanut butter sandwich? Or how about ham? We also have hummus and pita chips.” I ran through the list of available foods hoping (praying) one would be a winner.


Somehow two lunches would come together before it was time to leave. But later in the day, after the return from school, the complaints would come: “Mom, don’t you know I hate those veggie sticks?” “Why didn’t you give me the cheese crackers I wanted?”

I couldn’t win.

Then one morning it dawned on me. There was an easier way.

At ages six and eight, my girls were perfectly capable of making their own lunches. Letting them take on this task by themselves wouldn’t just eliminate the complaints but would also help them develop responsibility and independence.

Having kids make their own school lunches teaches them responsibility, time management and how to make healthy eating choices. 

What kids learn from packing their own lunches:

Having kids make their own lunches doesn’t just eliminate the struggle of trying to guess at the perfect lunch. It can also teach kids a number of life skills:

  • Putting together a balanced meal
  • Making healthy food choices
  • Knowing which foods are the best for staying satisfied throughout the day
  • Using a knife, preparing a sandwich, popping popcorn, and other basic cooking skills
  • Managing time
  • Keeping track of supply levels and knowing what needs replenishment

How to make packing lunches a snap for kids:

Your kids won’t innately know or understand what’s required to make a healthy lunch, as nice as that would be. Your coaching and guidance are required. But a little help can easily set them up for success:

Make the right food available: Many parents believe their children would only pack junk food if they were to pack their own lunches. But if junk foods aren’t available in the house, kids can’t pack it. Before your kids pack their lunches for the first time, take them to the grocery store and work together to find healthy lunch options.

Teach kids what it means to eat a balanced meal: When your kids begin packing their own lunches, use the opportunity to teach them what it means to eat a balanced meal. For example, you could let kids know that their lunches should consist of one protein, one veggie or fruit, and one or two healthy snacks.

Have lunch packing supplies readily available to kids: It helps to dedicate a low drawer or cabinet in your kitchen to lunch-making supplies. This makes everything your kids need easy to access and lets them work more independently. Our drawer includes stainless steel containers, reusable lunch bags, cloth napkins, and of course, lunch bags and water bottles. Check out this list of suggested lunch packing supplies on Upparent. If you aren’t already familiar with Upparent, it’s a great new resource for parents containing helpful advice in the form of lists and polls created by parents, for parents.

Choose the best time of day for your kids’ schedules: Early-risers will have plenty of time to get their lunch ready in the morning. But if your children tend to sleep in every morning, have them pack their lunches the night before. Helping kids determine the right time to make lunch gets them thinking about the importance of time management.

Check kids’ bags before they leave: Like any new skill, there will be a growth curve to kids’ understanding of how to pack a well-balanced meal that will keep them satisfied throughout the school day. As your kids are preparing their lunches, ask them what they plan to pack, and offer suggestions. And take a look at the final product, just to make sure it turns out alright.

Give them some room to make their own choices: Even in the beginning, when they need a lot of help and direction, give your kids a little freedom in how they put their lunches together. Let them make the occasional mistake and bad choice, even. It’s part of the learning process. And once they’re able to do it on their own, remember that they’re going to make different choices than you would – and that’s OK (within reason).

Remember, dealing with school lunches can seem like a nuisance, and something to get through as quickly as possible in the morning. But it’s actually a great learning opportunity for your kids, and a chance for you to help them take another step towards the self-sufficiency that will benefit them, and you, in the long-run.

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Upparent.

Interested in getting your kids started on chores? My four-lesson course will teach you how to get started, avoid nagging & power struggles, and keep your kids motivated. Click here or the image below to learn more.

Get Your Kids Successfully Started Course

See also:

15 Life Skills Kids Need Before They Leave Home

Raise Kids Who Are Self-Starters and Put an End to Homework Fights

29 Eco-Friendly Back to School Supplies for Kids

Tracking Pixel

What to do next…

1. Subscribe to Self-Sufficient Kids’ email list.

Like what you read here and want to learn more? Every Thursday I’ll send you one parenting tip about raising self-sufficient kids and creating the peaceful relationship you yearn to have with your child. Click here to sign up.

2. Take one of my quizzes!

Find out if you’re raising a self-sufficient kid (click here) or if you’re doing too much for your kids (click here). At the end of each quiz, you’ll be asked to provide your email address to see the results.

3. Get your kids started on chores.

Learn how to get your child started on chores (& keep them motivated + avoid power struggles) by enrolling in my Get Your Kids Successfully Started on Chores course. Click here to learn more and sign up.

About Kerry Flatley

Hi! I’m Kerry, the mother of two girls and a certified parent educator. I believe it is possible for parents to have a supportive, loving, and warm relationship with their kids while raising them to be independent and ultimately self-sufficient. Over the years, I’ve read numerous books and articles that support this belief and I’ve put these ideas into practice with my own kids. Read more about me and Self-Sufficient Kids here.