This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Tyson Foods, Inc. All opinions are entirely my own. This shop sharing tips on how to teach kids to pack lunches has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ReimagineYourRoutine #CollectiveBias
How to teach kids to pack lunches this school year. Free printable checklist and tips and tricks to get kids to learn independence and pack healthy school lunches they'll want to eat. Stop wasting food!

I’ve already started buying school supplies for next year. I’m not ready to give up on summer vacation yet, but we’re slowly switching gears and prepping for the start of the school year. Soon, bedtimes become earlier. We check to ensure school year clothes and shoes fit. And it’s time to start thinking about school lunches.

For a variety of reasons, the wee ones bring their lunches to school each day instead of buying them. Even if your kids only bring their lunches every once in awhile, I have great tips to help you teach kids to pack lunches. Packing lunches gives kids a sense of control and may open up their minds to eating and trying different kinds of foods. You avoid the issue of not packing enough food as they’re growing – or packing too much food and having it go to waste. When you teach kids to pack lunches, it’s another step into independence. They learn planning, responsibility, and decision-making. This is a great, low consequence, method to help move them forward towards learning to be a responsible and productive adult.

What do you need to pack for a school lunch

We don’t put just anything in a lunchbox, however. Set rules that work for you to ensure that your child packs the lunch you’re comfortable with him taking. For us, that means the wee ones choose a protein, a fruit, and a vegetable each day, as well as a drink. We choose to use reusable containers and lunchbag, as well. This saves money (and is good for the environment) in the long run, and it encourages the wee ones to bring home their leftovers so we can evaluate what they are and are not eating each day rather than throwing everything away and not knowing.

Lunch Packing Tips and Tricks

It’s about this time of year when I head to the store and bring the wee ones with me to choose the types of fruits and veggies they want for lunch. I don’t require a particular kind, but I do encourage ones I know they like. Every time I do this, they surprise me. This time around, Mister Man asked for bean sprouts and zucchini, as well as guava. We buy enough to get us through a week, and enough to sample the new foods without going overboard.

Choice is huge, and that includes for the protein component. While I try to cook enough dinner to have leftovers for the next day, that becomes more and more challenging each month as the wee ones’ appetites grow. I don’t rely just on leftovers, but my kids aren’t sandwich kids either. When we were in Walmart choosing our fruits and veggies, we also picked up some frozen protein options they can quickly heat up for lunch and pop in a thermos.

Tyson Anytizer honey bbq chicken

Not surprisingly, they went for the State Fair® Classic Corn Dogs and the Tyson® Any’tizer® Snacks in Honey BBQ. They cook quickly in the microwave while the wee ones eat breakfast, ready to pop into a thermos for lunch. I am not a morning person (even more reason  to put the wee ones in charge of packing lunches), and the low effort required suits me just fine! While not on the package yet when we bought it, Tyson products have an on the box sticker with a special offer. Stock up!

Tyson protein options at Walmart

How to Make a Pulled Pork Baked Potato

I don’t feel guilty about what they choose, and they have a convenient protein option for lunch. It’s a win all the way around. Little Miss is especially looking forward to her pulled pork baked potato lunches with the new Ball Park® Frozen Pulled Pork – yum! This is a super quick meal idea that again works great in a thermos.

Wash a russet potato and poke with a fork three to four times. Wrap in a paper towel and moisten. Microwave for 5-7 minutes, depending on the size of the potato. Ensure you have adult supervision when working with anything hot. Either do this part yourself or monitor your child closely to avoid burns. Carefully unwrap the potato on a plate using a potholder, and slice in half with a butter knife. Squeeze with the potholders to open the potato and scoop on some of the Ball Park® Pulled Pork. Top with some sprinkles of mozzarella if you choose. Return the potato to the microwave for another one to two minutes to heat the pulled pork and melt the cheese, then let rest a minute. Pop into a thermos for a delicious protein-packed lunch.

Can you tell we use a thermos often with lunches? Both the State Fair® Classic Corndogs and the Tyson® Any’tizers® Snacks heat up in the microwave, and we all want them still warm when lunch rolls around. The thermos by itself helps, but I have a great trick to ensure the lunch stays as hot as what we want it to be.

[bctt tweet=”It’s almost #BTS time. Check out these tips and tricks to teach kids to pack their own lunches + a free #printable checklist” username=”honestandtruly”]

How to Keep Lunch Warm in a Thermos

The key to keeping your lunch warm is to ensure that you have not just the insulation from the thermos but that the thermos starts at the right temperature, too. If your thermos is 70 degrees and your food is 160 degrees, the thermos will leach out a ton of heat before stabilizing. No one wants room temperature lunches, right?

The key is to get the thermos itself warm so that it insulates at a higher temperature. You can’t microwave a thermos (metal) or put it in the oven (plastic), but I have a great solution. Again, this uses hot water so an adult needs to be in charge. I now trust the wee ones enough to supervise them with this task, but know your child.

Add water to a teapot and bring it to a boil on the stove. I prefer a teapot because it has a spout to make pouring easier and splashing less likely. You can do this with a glass liquid measuring cup in the microwave if you aren’t already using it to heat your lunch. Once the water is boiling, pour it into your thermos up to the metal edge. Set a timer for five minutes to give it time to heat the thermos fully, then pour out the water and immediately add your hot food and seal. Easy peasy, but it works like a charm.

Tyson Anytizers for a school lunch protein

How to Teach Kids to Pack Lunches

Set the rules up front with your kids. Let them know your expectations. I allow treats ten times in a month (chips, crackers, cookies, etc), which averages to 2-3 times per week. If they choose to blow it all the first two weeks, the rest of the month is just the fruit, veggie, and protein. They make that choice, and it’s a great learning tool. Beyond that, they know they need a fruit, a veggie, and a protein each day – and they enjoy choosing what they’ll take.

Use reusable containers so you know how much food your child eats

Choice is key, and it doesn’t have to be traditional. I grew up eating bananas, grapes, and strawberries. Now? The wee ones choose those but so much more. Figure out what your kids like or want to try, and run with it. Sometimes we have dragonfruit, and sometimes we have peaches. Right now, the focus is guava, apples, plums, cherries, and strawberries. In winter when the fresh fruit isn’t as great, pack frozen cherries or mango or peaches.

Fruit options for school lunches

Veggies offer even more options. We choose whole carrots rather than prepped carrots. They taste better for one, and they’re cheaper. Additionally, we can choose to make carrot coins, carrot sticks, shaved carrots, and more because they aren’t already precut. Broccoli can be roasted or raw. Zucchini can be raw or sauteed the night before (or even that morning), depending on the wee ones’ moods. And who knew my kids liked bean sprouts until they asked to buy them?

Ideas for veggies to take in school lunches

Protein is the same way. Leftovers just don’t happen as often anymore. Jimmy Dean® Pancakes & Sausage make a fun option. There is a new frozen Ball Park® steakhouse burger in addition to the pulled pork. State Fair® Corn Dogs are always a hit, as are Tyson® Any’tizers® Snacks. Some days the wee ones are hungry for one corn dog, and sometimes they want two. They know themselves, and they figure out how much food they need to bring.

Tyson school lunch protein ideas

What Else Do They Need?

It’s easy to teach kids to pack lunches, but ensuring they remember everything can be frustrating. I can’t tell you how many times I heard complaints of having to eat lunch with a plastic spork. While they never forget food, they do forget the other essentials sometimes like an ice pack or a fork – or even the water bottle.

Don't forget the ice pack for your school lunch

I gave up on reminders because I got a, “Yeah, I have it.” When they arrive home, I discover that they just didn’t feel like checking. That’s why I created this free lunchbox printable checklist. Print if off and laminate it. Each morning they have to check off items as they put them into the lunch box or verify that it isn’t needed. Mom is the only one allowed to erase it; that way no one “forgets” that they’ve already used a treat for the month. This cut down on everyone’s frustration. A ton.

Free printable for kids learning to pack school lunches great checklist

Feel free to print this checklist and use it for your own kids as you teach kids to pack lunches. Feel free to add additional boxes if you are comfortable having treats more often. Add other requirements that fit your lifestyles, as well, but use it!

Never again do I want to hear a child complain about warm yogurt or hot fruit because Mister Man forgot to add the ice pack to the lunch box. I bet you don’t want to hear about that either! Instead, enjoy happy kids because you took the time to teach kids to pack lunches they’ll want to eat.

The perfect school lunch and how to teach kids to pack lunches

What are your best tips to teach kids to pack lunches?

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