In the bustle of preparing healthy lunches and getting your kids ready for school, it's not always easy to think of lunchbox surprises. But if your parents slipped a note or special treat in with your lunch when you were little, you probably remember how exciting it felt when you realized it was there. We all like nice surprises, especially ones that remind us how much we're loved.
Instead of scribbling a note in the morning before you've had coffee (which is fine, too, of course), prepare some lunchbox surprises during a quiet moment and keep them stashed in a shoebox in the pantry.
A Riddle a Day
Kids love riddles and knock-knock jokes so add a riddle to their lunchbox. Put the question in big letters and the answer in tiny print. Silly riddles like, "What did the 0 say to the 8? Nice belt"; or "'Knock, knock.' 'Who's there?' 'Wanda.' 'Wanda who?' 'Wanda where I put my sandwich!'" will have your child in stitches and give him something to do with his friends during lunch. There are dozens of online sites with good ideas for riddles.
Tape an open envelope to the top inside of your child's lunchbox and put a photo in it. Write a note on the back of the photo. Family pictures are nice or send a picture of your child doing something silly so he can show it to his friends.
Children love mazes and mazes are fun for even artistically challenged grown-ups to draw. So put a maze in tomorrow's lunchbox. Give it a silly title like "Help the Ice Cream Cone Get Back to the Child" or "Help the Cherry Find its Tree." If your child is a little older, you could also do a word find -- just write out the words you want to use, like a silly nickname or your child's favorite hobby, and then fill in the space around the words with random letters.
It's nice to be reminded that we're loved. Add a note to the lunchbox that says "I love you," and make it more special by being specific: "I really had fun going biking with you Saturday," or "I was so impressed with how neat you made your room yesterday." Psychologists tell us that compliments, especially specific ones, help reinforce desirable behavior so your note will make your child feel special -- and may even get the dishwasher emptied that night.
Adding a treat (like a candy bar in an envelope labeled "junk mail" on the outside) is only special if you don't allow your kid to eat gobs of candy every day. A candy treat is nice every once in awhile but the complaint most kids have about their lunches is "You always pack me the same thing." Here are some (healthy) ideas to add lunchbox variety.
- Cut up carrot sticks and include a little Tupperware of hummus, ranch dressing, or veggie dip.
- Make your child a nice sample tray by taking half an egg carton and lining each cup with aluminum foil (optional but this will keep the contents from spilling). Put a hardboiled egg in one, a handful of almonds in another, raisins in a third, crackers in the fourth, and so on.
- Instead of one boring sandwich, pack three half sandwiches.
- Draw a face on a banana with an indelible market, the stem is the hair.
- Put a taco shell and a few small containers of things like chopped tomatoes, cooked beans, cheese, or chopped spinach and let your child's lunch be make-your-own tacos.