Skip to Content

Getting Your Kids to Pack Their Own Lunches: Mistakes I’ve Made and How I’ll be Doing it Differently This Year

Sharing is caring!

School lunches are the bane of many a parent’s life. Here’s how to get your kids to pack their own lunches so you don’t have to, including lessons I’ve learned from doing this with my own kids. 

Packed FoodMy kids go to a school where there is no cafeteria, so we have to pack lunches every. single. day. And while my husband is in charge of school day breakfasts, I still have the task of overseeing school lunches. Last year, when they were in 2nd and 4th grades, I decided that it was time for the boys to start packing their own lunches. There were definitely days when it didn’t go as planned, days when I threw up my hands and just packed the lunches because otherwise the boys never would have left on time, but for much of the year, they successfully pulled their own lunches together every day. And it was awesome.

So now that we have done it for a year in my house, I wanted to share the lessons that I have learned and thoughts on what I will do differently this year.

How to get your kids to pack their own lunches

Recipe for a Healthy LunchBe clear on expectations, then step back

Before the school year started, I sat down with my boys to talk about the goal of getting them to pack their own lunches and shared our Make-Your-Own-Lunch diagram with them so that they could see what would be expected. 

We then posted the diagram on the inside of our pantry door where our bento boxes are stored to make it easy for them to reference all year long.

Time after time, I would notice them referencing the sheet as they made their choices. For the most part, they did a tremendous job sticking to the guidelines.


Part way through the year, though, I noticed an occasional reluctance to add a vegetable, so we agreed that when there wasn’t a vegetable option that appealed to them, they could have two fruits instead.

This year, I will work with them to brainstorm some more vegetables they would be excited about and will also be more flexible with the fruit.

Homemade Ranch Dressing with Carrots and BroccoliPre-prep for easy grabbing

At the beginning of the year I was gung-ho about pre-chopping veggie sticks and keeping the freezer stocked with quick main dish options such as muffins (to go with cheeses or another protein), English muffin pizzas, and baked chimichangas.

As the year went on, though, I started to slip and the supplies weren’t as readily available. This meant that then there’d be a morning scramble to get lunches pulled together and I’d end up in the kitchen chopping up carrots, which then would somehow turn into my packing the whole lunch. Bad.

So this year, I am going to be more disciplined about stocking up the fridge and freezer each weekend so that we don’t fall back into that pattern.

Lunch Packing ToolsLeftovers are key

My eldest is not a big sandwich fan so for years, we have struggled to find good lunch box foods for him. Quesadillas are a staple, as are bread and cheese platters. But this year we also started doing a lot more leftovers. Some he’d heat up and put in a thermos and others he’d happily eat at room temperature.

This year, I will work to take advantage of this further by doubling recipes that I know he’ll want leftovers of when I cook dinner so that there is enough for lunch the next day.

Teach about leaks

After a few leakage incidents involving yogurt, I had to make sure to teach my youngest which containers could hold liquids and which might leak. After that, the lunch boxes came home much cleaner. For great lunchbox supplies, check out The Scramble Store for all of our favorite products!

Do your kids pack their school lunches? If so, what tricks have you discovered that help to make it a success?

Further Inspiration

Want more ideas for feeding your kids? Check out these other resources from The Scramble:

The Formula for a Healthy Lunch

30 Out-of-the-Box Ideas for Healthy School Lunches

How to Make Lunch Packing Easier

Navigating Treats & Snacks in School Lunches

Healthy Lunch Ideas for Teens

To help make lunches and dinners go smoother in your house, check out The Scramble’s family-friendly meal plans.

Preparing for Back to School in the Strangest School Year

Saturday 8th of August 2020

[…] Who will pack the lunches? […]

Navigating Treats and Snacks in School Lunches: Lessons I Have Learned

Thursday 23rd of July 2020

[…] and has made sure to pack them along with the rest of his lunch every day (check out how I get my kids to pack their own school lunches). Within a week or two, though, I have noticed that he loses interest. This morning I even asked if […]

5 Reasons to Try Family-Style Dining

Friday 3rd of July 2020

[…] will now have for a lifetime. (Side note: I have also noticed that since I got my kids to start packing their own lunches, they actually bring less food than I would probably pack for them, but now the lunchboxes come […]

How to Make Lunch Packing Easier & Italian Caprese Pasta Salad

Tuesday 13th of August 2019

[…] started to get the boys involved in the actual packing of their lunches (sign up for The Scramble now and not only will you get 25% off any membership with code BTS2019, […]


Monday 20th of August 2018

Hi, I tried downloading the free printable but got slow-cooker recipes (which are lovely -- thanks!), not lunch box ideas. How can I get the lunch box download? Thanks.

    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop