Ideas for packing a little fun into your kid’s lunchbox

Amazon: Norpro Stainless Steel Mini TongsI will tell you right now that I am a lunch-packing hater. I want my kids' lunches to taste good, be nutritious, look appetizing, and (most of all) get eaten. But I do NOT want to hold myself to some crazy standard of the photo shoot-worthy lunch box still life.

I admire those who get creative with lunch packing…as long as they are doing it because they enjoy it. But it's not required. Many kids actually like lunchtime repetition. (When I was little I ate a peanut butter sandwich every day of the school year.)

THAT SAID, some kids appreciate variety, and it's fun to surprise them with a little novelty every now and then. I'll let Sandi in Ottawa kick off the ideas:

When making my 7 year-old son's lunch, I try to be creative and make it fun. To mix a caesar salad at school I send along tiny tongs that are normally used for serving meat or pickle appetizers.

I also put ketchup in a small container and send him with a syringe (recycled from the kids' antibiotic medication) to squirt onto his hot dog.

Other ideas:

  • Lunch box notes
  • Cheese or melon (or tofu!) cubes with toothpicks
  • A goofy straw
  • (Help me out here…like I said, lunch isn't my strong suit.)

What are your ideas for fun-but-not-fussy additions to kids' lunch boxes?

RelatedHow do I get my kid to eat more of her school lunch?


  1. Jade says

    Put anything on a stick! Fruit kebobs (watermelon, grapes, berries, kiwi etc.). . . chunks of bread, meat and cheese (deconstructed sandwich) . . . veggie kabobs (grape tomatoes, snap peas, carrot coins) – my daughter will eat anything if it’s on a stick! I buy bamboo skewers at the dollar store.

  2. Susan says

    I can’t wait for my 2-year-old son to go to elementary school so I can pack cute lunches! My favorite idea that I see online is using cookie cutters to make shapes out of sandwiches. Little duck or heart shaped pb&j bites…swoon.

  3. jenni says

    I use thin buns for sandwiches, then stick 4 pretzels on either side and 2 half pretzels stuck through the top of the bun for eyes. Evidently, it was the Best. Sandwich. Ever.

    I agree with any kind of kabob. We also sent taco’s (meat in a thermos) the other day and that was “probably the coolest lunch at the table, mom”.

    No snazzy utensil ideas – they only have 20 minutes to eat so there isn’t much time for fun and games at our school!

  4. Hillary says

    I bought cookie cutters at JoAnn’s and use them with sandwiches. If they are sharp enough (and small enough) you can cut cheese slices, fruit leather, cucumber slices with them.
    I also bought a medium size plastic container and place items inside it, separated with silicone muffin cups (also bought a JoAnn’s)

  5. Lauren says

    My daughter loves celery with peanut butter and raisins on top. I also have good luck with things that can be dipped (veggies with ranch, hot dogs with ketchup, pita with hummus). But it’s hard to pack them.

    Does anyone have great ideas for dip containers? I’m looking for something small, watertight enough not to spill, easy to dip into. Hopefully also washable and reusable.

  6. Jayme says

    For dip containers I love the Tupperware smidgets. There are tons on Ebay. A little pricey but they DO NOT spill so they are worth it. For at home lunches we tend to use old medicine cups for dip.

  7. says

    Oh gawd. I would be so embarrassed if I saw tiny tongs for a caesar salad in my lunch bag.

    My dad made my lunch every morning. And it consisted of the most amazing italian sandwich and a bottle of water and a napkin. Nothing fancy. But extremely quality. He put love into each bite.

    I sold my lunches for five dollars a pop sometimes, only because of the high demand.

  8. says

    WORD. I’m glad somebody likes making little Spiderman-shaped sushi, but it sure ain’t me. If the school lunches weren’t such utter garbage, I’d be more than happy to let the kids eat there.

  9. Vanessa says

    I don’t have any brilliant thoughts, since my kids are homeschooled (so we eat “snack trays” made in ice cube trays for lunch!) but I wanted to throw in my support for the tiny tongs idea, my kids would go NUTS for that and truth is I would love it too. I was just wishing I had a pair. Tongs are the coolest gadget in the kitchen!

  10. says

    Okay, this is more fun for me than my kids. I have a bin with single servings of all kinds of snacks from pretzels to high fiber bars, etc. In the fridge I have a bin with the single servings of things that need to be kept cool, like carrots and yogurt. In the morning, when I make lunches, I make a sandwich and then grab goodies from the bins!

    Oh, and another trick that my mom came up with…. I only give my kids water at school lunch. I try and keep away from sugary juices and now that they are older they need more fluids, so…. I have water plastic bottles that you can buy just about anywhere. I fill them halfway with purified water (we use Britta) and freeze them. When I make lunches in the morning, I fill it the rest of the way. It acts as an ice pack in their lunches and it is almost melted by the time they eat their lunches. Yummy ice cold purified water. They drink it to the last drop! And as you can guess, these tricks work for running errands and short road trips, etc. when a little snack is needed. My kids love that everything is at their fingertips. Even the frozen water bottles!

  11. jasi says

    Bento is bomb! Ham on wheat, press out a shape, toss some pretzel-fish in a snap top, punch out some flowers from last night’s pineapple and throw in a few little broccoli pieces. Really cute and way more nutritious than peanut butter every day. Peanut butter rots your teeth, man.

    If it’s not your thing, don’t do it. Love your kids, read to them, brush their teeth, bathe once in awhile. Low stress parenting = happy kids. Bento’s just creative fun.

  12. Kim says

    in response to the question about dipping items, one of the ‘throw-away dish’ makers has one that I use for my salads. The dressing bowl snaps onto the interior of the larger bowl’s lid. I think they are made by Ziploc, but I don’t really remember. Oh, and I never throw those away. LOL

    My kids are picky and have a limited palate so we don’t have cute lunches (although I do put cute notes in there from time to time). I have made the lunch-making process less stressful for me by pre-packaging everything except for the sandwich. I bought the little snack sized ziploc baggies and I have portioned out pretzels, chips, crackers, etc. and put them in a large bowl. One drawer in the fridge is for kid stuff: apple slices, jello, pudding, yogurt, juice boxes, string cheese, etc.

    They get two snacks baggies, two cold items, a drink and their sandwich each day. They both are allowed to carry water bottles to school as well so we fill those the night before.

    They have cold packs in their lunch boxes that they are responsible for putting in the freezer each night. If they don’t, then I don’t include any cold items in their lunch.

    We do use these same snacks baggies and cold snacks for after school, so it has served me well to take time and get all this stuff set up once a week or so.