With 'Back to School' decisions looming we thought it was a great time to share a fabulous article written by one of Yumbox's founders Daniella on why a Bento style lunch is so great for kids.
What takes a lot of patience, strategic thinking and planning? Feeding your toddler! It’s tough enough at home, but what about the hours when they are in daycare and preschool where you are not monitoring their eating habits? Packing a bento will take most of the planning and strategy out of the equation...notice patience is still needed! This is a great age. Kids are asserting themselves more and they really want to demonstrate all of their new skills and accomplishments. You probably can’t count the number of times your toddler says “Look what I did” in a day. A bento gives them the autonomy they are seeking when it comes to their meals and choosing what to eat.
If you are new to bentos, you will catch on quickly.
Here are 10 reasons to give bentos a try! (In no particular order).
1. Offers Variety
Toddlers like to eat a variety of foods. They like to pick and choose. Sometimes they are picky because they are disinterested in their options and sometimes just because they feel like it. Opening a bento on their own and finding a variety of yummy treats is likely to bring a big smile to their faces. Compartmentalization means foods are nice and neat, not touching other foods and generally appealing to the eye. An organized lunch with a variety of foods makes food exploration for a toddler easier and a lot of fun.
2. Encourages Healthy Eating Habits
For parents, no matter the age, monitoring your child’s diet is a challenge. Bento lunch packing makes it easier to manage your toddler’s daily nutritional intake. It also helps kids to understand what eating healthy means. What I like about using a bento-style container is that you can pack it for use at home or on-the-go. At this age, kids have a tendency to snack their way through the day. Some may argue that that is not a bad thing as long as the options are healthy, while others will disagree. You know what works best for you on a given day! When at home, consider packing a bento at the start of your day. If you have a snacker, keep taking the same bento box out and offering those healthy foods. If your child is happy to sit and eat a full meal and you’ve already packed your bento, lunch just got a lot easier.
3. Easy to adjust for Just Right Portions
Getting portions right with snack packs or prepared “single servings” may not be right for your child. Snack packs often lead to unhealthy choices, food waste and potential over-feeding. What I like best about a bento is that the leftovers come back. You can see what was eaten and unwanted. You can also gauge how much is too much or too little. If you pack 8 carrots and notice that 3 carrots always come back but that the yogurt was licked clean, your child may be looking for a little more yogurt and fewer carrots. As we all know, their eating habits change all the time depending on preferences or abilities. Maybe your child isn’t the best with crunchy foods yet and would prefer a softer option? What comes back, really tells us a lot.
4. I Ate it all by Myself
Toddlers get frustrated easily. What could be more frustrating than being hungry and not being able to peel the top off your applesauce pack so that you can eat it? Again, snack packs that aren’t child friendly lead to frustration as well as waste. It is however, very satisfying to a toddler, who wants to do everything “all by myself”, to easily see everything that is being offered for lunch in a bento box, to pick up a spoon and to eat independently. I’m certain that caregivers like this feature too!
5. It makes food look Yummy
Let’s face it, food just doesn’t look appealing in a plastic baggie. Put those same healthy foods in a bento-style container and suddenly you have a lovely presentation of all the colorful fruits, vegetables and other goodies that you’ve packed for your toddler. There are a few things you can do to make lunch even more toddler-friendly, like creating bite size sandwiches and cubing cheese and fruit to make them easier to manage as finger foods. This next idea may seem like a bit much to the busy parent, but with a few bento tools at hand (see above), you can make “fancy” foods that will turn an ordinary lunch into the best lunch ever! There are many people that are much better at this than I am, but sometimes I’ll have fun with pinwheels and cute shapes too! The kids love it! Mini Veggie Wrap
6. It’s fun
The fun of eating out of a bento-style container should not be underestimated. Fun may mean that they finally gave green beans a try! Fun could help a shy toddler sit and eat with friends. Opening a bento is like opening a treasure of healthy treats!
7. It’s the Perfect On-the-Go Lunchbox
Bento ownership is a bit addictive. Once converted from traditional lunch packing, you will find lots of bento accessories and boxes that you love and that your kids love. This is a good thing, because it will be the most put to use item in your kitchen. Bentos are perfect for school, daycare, picnics, and travel. A well made bento will take you through a number of school years.
8. Kids can help Pack a Bento
This one will definitely slow you down with a toddler. However, when you do have time, laying out the various items that make up a healthy meal and allowing your child to fill up their bento box is fun and educational! It’s another “all by myself” task that they will be so proud to show off!
9. It’s Reusable
This goes for all ages, reusable products are more environmentally responsible. However, the practicality of reuseable is also important with toddlers. There’s less mess, less trash and nothing to distract from the meal.
10. Lets Kids Explore Foods
All children, and toddlers in particular, are still learning about new foods - smells, textures and tastes. Some kids just dig in to whatever is set in front of them, while others carefully examine everything that is offered. At this age, we also find that a toddler’s food preferences change regularly. A bento allows kids freedom to explore their foods. They may not like cucumbers, but there they are next to the crackers they love. Thankfully they are not touching the crackers - whew! The fact that the cucumbers are there is less of an annoyance because there’s plenty of “safe” food to eat. They may even pick up a cucumber spear one day and lick it! Guaranteed if those cucumbers were in a baggie, they would be tossed aside and never explored.