Easy Lunch Ideas Kids Can Make Themselves
Making lunch for the kids doesn’t have to be a chore. Make meals more collaborative with these easy lunch ideas kids can make themselves! Whether your family is packing lunch to-go or making lunch at home, these healthy, hands-on recipes and tips are a perfect way to invite kids into the kitchen. From preschoolers to pre-teens, our Packable Tortilla Pizzas are always a hit, and Uncrustables appeal to even the pickiest eaters. But don’t stop there! Set them up for a lifetime of healthy habits by teaching them age-appropriate cooking skills. Starting with everything they need to know to set up their own DIY Kids Lunch Prep Station.
Calling all kids to the kitchen: Roll up your sleeves and lay out your ingredients. It’s time for lunch!
Packable Tortilla Pizzas
Our tortilla pizzas boast all the fun of pre-packaged, make-it-yourself pizza boxes but use much healthier ingredients. On top of our sprouted whole grain tortillas, kids can spread marinara sauce, plant-based cheese, and all their favourite veggie toppings.
No bento box for the tortilla pizza? No problem! Simply pack these into 3 to 4 small containers instead.
- 4 Silver Hills Sprouted Power™ Organic Whole Grain Tortillas
- ½ cup marinara sauce
- ½ cup plant-based cheese shreds
- 1 – 2 cups kid-friendly toppings (we suggest diced bell peppers, pineapple, and tomato or shredded spinach)
- Thoroughly wash veggie toppings, slice or dice into bite-sized pieces, and combine*.
- In a bento box, pack whole grain tortillas, diced toppings, marinara sauce and plant-based cheese shreds into different compartments.
- Enjoy immediately or seal and store in the fridge or lunch bag until mealtime!
* If your kid has a thing about foods not touching, pack toppings in smaller containers, or use silicone muffin liners to keep toppings separate until lunchtime
Try our very uncomplicated Uncrustables. These simple sandwiches skip the crust and make fun shapes using cookie cutters. After making a sandwich on our organic soft wheat bread (or your family’s house favourite), kids can cut off the crusts using a large cookie-cutter and then use a smaller cutter to create a seal that transforms a traditional sandwich into a magic pocket full of yum!
Uncrustables work for any type of sandwich! Encourage the kids to make their favourite sandwich by providing options like nut-butter and jam, hummus and spiralized veggies, or whatever fixings they like between two slices of bread. If you don’t have cookie cutters on hand, two different sized cups work just as well.
- 4 slices Organic Sprouted Power™ Soft Wheat bread
- 2 tablespoons nut-free butter
- 2 tablespoons jam
- Slather nut-free butter and jam across two slices of bread and place together in a sandwich**.
- To make the sandwich an Uncrustable, use two cookie cutters of the same shape, one slightly smaller than the other. Cut the crusts off with the largest cutter or cup. Then, use the smaller cutter or cup to create a seal without cutting all the way through.
- Enjoy immediately or place in container and store in the fridge or lunch bag until mealtime!
** Uncrustables seal a little more easily when the filling isn’t extra gooey under the seam. Don’t worry—you don’t have to go all the way to precision spreading to make these work. Just use a lighter hand near the edges. Or cut out the large shape first to make spreading within the lines a little easier for enthusiastic kids.
- Have a little seasonal fun with your choice of shapes. You don’t need a drawerful of fancy cookie cutters for every occasion. A simple circle can become anything from a fall pumpkin to a wintery snowman, or whatever else your little one can dream up!
Healthy DIY Lunch Packing Station for Kids
Empowering kids to make their own meals supports independence, boosts confidence, and provides opportunities to learn life skills. As a family, you can help build healthy eating habits by making a selection of healthy food options accessible. Simple things, like including kids in food prep routines, and storing healthy snacks and packable, lunch-worthy foods at kid-level in the fridge or pantry are excellent places to start. But building healthy habits for life isn’t the only benefit to setting up a self-serve station for easy lunch prep.The best part? When kids choose and prepare their own foods, they’re more likely to eat more of their lunch¹. That means fewer bounce-backs and less wasted food—so the more healthy options they choose and prepare themselves, the more everyone wins!
Here’s how to set up an easy DIY lunch prep station with your kids:
Kitchen Items You’ll Need:
- Reusable containers
- Dish towel
- Cutting board
- Labels and markers (optional)
Food for Prepping:
We recommend using veggies that can last in the fridge for the week like carrots, celery, cucumber, and bell peppers.
Consider using fruits that can be stored in the fridge without getting mushy by mid-week. Apples, melon, grapes, and oranges are good options.
- Whole Grains:
Tortillas, bread, bagels, buns, or cooked brown rice.
- Snacks and Treats:
Pretzels, crackers, raisins, popcorn, or smaller portions of special treats.
- Start with veggies. Invite young kids to thoroughly wash and dry the vegetables. Older kids can peel and cut the vegetables into bite-sized pieces, and everyone can help portion them into separate containers. Store in the fridge. (Find sanity-saving tips for this below).
- Next, fruit. Wash well, using the colander when needed (grapes), and dry. Cut fruit like apples and oranges into slices, and cube melons into bite-sized pieces. Portion into single-serving containers. Store in the fridge.
- For whole grains, have the kids divide the portions they’ll need for the week from the bread bags into containers to make day-of/night-before sandwich making easier. (Although nut-free butter and jam holds better than other fillings, we don’t recommend making sandwiches more than a day ahead. Because bread tends to dry out in the fridge, store sandwich-making portions on the counter, or freeze. (Go ahead and make sandwiches from frozen bread in the morning. They’ll be soft by lunch).
- For snacks and treats, portion crackers, pretzels, raisins, or popcorn for the week. Store in the pantry.
- Make space on the bottom shelf of the fridge and pantry for kids to store their prepared foods. These kid-level shelves will help encourage their independence with lunch packing. (Portion out extra helpings to encourage healthy, self-serve snacking throughout the week, too).
- Stock up on a selection of small, reusable containers that hold portions that match your kids’ typical lunchtime appetite. Unless your kid likes the same thing day after day, you don’t need one portion of every fruit, veggie, or snack option on the menu for every day of the week. Two or three small containers per fruit, veggie, or snack variety (per kid) should give them plenty of mix-and-match choices to keep lunch fun all week long. Same goes for sandwich-sized containers, too.
- To keep the bottom shelf from getting out of hand, use shallow boxes or bins to corral small containers. Have the kids group them by type on prep day to save time and spare yourself the “I-can’t-find-any-_____!” interventions.
- Keep apples from going brown by spritzing a small amount of lemon juice on the apple slices. Use a travel-sized mister bottle filled with lemon juice to mist freshly cut slices before storing for the week. (To keep the tube clear, use bottled lemon juice or strain the pulp out of freshly squeezed lemon juice). This method brings a little science to lunch, making healthy snacks more enjoyable without overdoing it with the sour lemon on tender tastebuds.
- To tame some of the chaos in larger families, use labels for each child’s collection—or sort by kid using the bin tip above. (Masking tape and markers works just as well as dishwasher-proof school labels).
Age-Appropriate Kids’ Cooking Skills for DIY Lunches
Healthy habits start young. By getting kids involved with cooking and food preparation, they start developing a healthy relationship with food. Learning to cook and understanding food as a child is directly connected to healthy food choices as an adult².
In the kitchen, there are age-appropriate tasks for everyone, so don’t hesitate to get the kids involved. There are plenty of online resources and articles that share detailed lists of age-appropriate cooking skills. Every child is different, but as a general guideline, here’s a list of several lunch-related kitchen tasks for kids of different ages:
- Washing and drying fruits and vegetables
- Assembling sandwiches
- Measuring or portioning ingredients
- Using cookie cutters
Primary (K – Grade 3):
- Peeling, grating, or spiralizing vegetables
- Cutting softer fruit (closely supervised)
- Food safety rules (washing, safety around sharp tools and heat in the kitchen)
- Making toast
- Opening cans
Intermediate (Grades 4 – 7)
- Cutting vegetables (sharp knife skills and safety, while supervised)
- Reading recipes
- Meal planning and shopping (Developing lists and determining what ingredients they need to make their own easy lunch ideas for the week)
What easy lunch ideas work for your family? We’d love to see your little chefs getting creative in the kitchen! Post a picture of your kids cooking or share your kid-friendly lunch packing tips and tricks with us on our Facebook page or tag @silverhillsbakery on Instagram.
¹ DeJesus, J.M., Gelman, S.A., Herold, I., Lumeng, J.C., Children Eat More Food When They Prepare it Themselves. Appetite, 2019 February 01; 133: 305–312. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6768385/, accessed August 4, 2020.
² Lavelle, F., Spence, M., Hollywood, L. et al., Learning Cooking Skills at Different Ages: a Cross-sectional Study. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, (2016) 13:119. Available from: https://ijbnpa.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12966-016-0446-y, accessed September 3, 2020.