For families with school-aged children in the Seattle area, Labor Day is symbolically observed as the last day of summer and the beginning of a new school year.  Anxious kids and parents go over their school supplies list one last time making sure each and every item is packed away in the student’s back pack including “sharpened” pencils.  My girls, 3rd and 5th graders, are excited for school to finally start, although a little nervous about who their teachers will be.

Weeks ago, I made clear my expectations that they will be packing their own lunches and choosing what they will eat under my guidance.  The girls have accepted this new responsibility as a sign of trust between the three of us.  We’ve been discussing the types of foods that will make a great lunch and the types of food that don’t.  They are ready to move beyond last year’s fare of turkey and peanut butter sandwiches. 

This is the year the girls want to try bringing Bento style lunches, a popular Japanese way of bringing a home-packed lunches.  I have discovered over the years how my kids and their friends love small bite-size varieties of food.  When packed into small compartments or grouped together, my kids will eat more food than if each small dish was plated together.

Recently I discovered a blog called Happy Little Bento written by stay-at-home mom, Sherimiya.  She has two young children and packs them the most colorful, whimsical, and healthy lunches with I’ve become very smitten with.   I love browsing through her site for fun lunch ideas including the sandwich bento pictured above.  Bento Zen is another bento dedicated blog parents and their children can find inspiration for school lunches.

Bento containers can be a simple plastic container or you can purchase containers with built in compartments or containers.  Grouping different types of food enhances the visual appeal for young students making lunch time fun. 

With a new school year starting, I would love to hear what either you or your child will be packing for lunches each day in the comment section below.  I have a feeling both my girls, as well as some others, could use some inspiration to add options and variety to their lunchtimes.  Eating the same thing over and over for lunched can get old very early in the school year.

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  • http://www.thescramble.com Aviva Goldfarb

    Our kids’ favorite lunch is fresh mozzarella and pesto on a baguette. This week I’m going to try packing homemade burritos, too. We always pack fruit, yogurt, cheese and water, too.

  • http://www.4evermom.blogspot.com Mom24@4evermom

    Tomorrow my kids are having rainbow pasta tossed with a little butter, and a side of parmesan to sprinkle on at school; defrosted peas, carrot sticks or fruit (depending on child), and a small treat. Whole grain pita pizzas–no sauce (they can be odd, lol), just brush whole grain pita w/olive oil, sprinkle with granulated garlic, top with mozz and parm and bake until bubbly. Let cool 5 minutes of so, then slice and pack. Serve w/fruit or veggie.

  • http://www.4evermom.blogspot.com Mom24@4evermom

    Homemade pasta salad: cooked pasta, lowfat Caesar salad dressing, feta, garbanzo beans, and corn. Breakfast for lunch is sometimes a winner as well: a container of yogurt, some fruit, and a mini-box (because they’re more fun!) of Mini Wheats. I love the idea of Bentos, I just can never see doing that much work every day.

  • http://www.MOMables.com Laura @MOMables

    This year is all about variety for us. No more “default” PB&J or ham sandwiches. We have menus planned out, shopping list ready and I make sure I sneak in a treat. On the favorites list: anything with cream cheese, mini pizzas, make your own anything… kids love being involved during lunch.

  • http://savorysweetlife.com Alice

    Aviva: I imagine your kids pack their own lunches now, right?

    Mom24: I couldn’t do bentos everyday but I think the kids would love to be surprised by them occasionally.

    Laura: Hmm.. you are convicting me of my default lunch ways.

  • La Tisha Kirkland

    today, she had a trky& cheese on ww bread( hummus instead of mayo)& baby carrots( in kindergarten & is a very slow eater). also will be trying fondue type lunches,& small easy salads.

  • http://www.thescramble.com Aviva Goldfarb

    Alice, I also just posted 30 ideas for healthy school lunches on my site, that I thought you and our readers might want to peek at if they’re seeking inspiration:http://members.thescramble.com/healthymenuplanning/2011/09/30-out-of-the-box-ideas-for-healthy-school-lunches/

  • La Tisha Kirkland

    today was mini pepperoni pizzas on ww bagels with grapes. used queso fresco for the cheese.

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  • Suz

    Looks fun!

  • JulieM.

    Actually me and my family have been doing bento lunches for my oldest or a year. There is sooo many easy ideas you could do and some of it the night before! I would try to surprise my daughter just once a week at her school. If you work maybe shedule a lunch once in a great while. The surprise on their face is priceless!! Just google easy bento lunch ideas and get inspired!! Bentos are an amazly fun and healthy thing to do with the family =)

    • Alice Currah

      Great to know Julie, thanks!

  • http://www.anotherlunch.com Melissa

    We love bento! I’ve been playing with bento since my oldest son started Kindergarten and I began blogging about it a couple years ago. It is a creative outlet for me and fun for the kids to boot! Win win. :)

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  • http://hanamachi-lights.org Faith

    I’m a long-time bento fanatic! It’s so cool to see it on PBS. I think people are put off by bento when they see how small the containers are, and don’t realize how very easy they are to pack and how filling the contents can be. :)