Fun and Healthy Bento Box Lunch Ideas for Kids

Posted by Sarah Meyer on

There’s no better time to revamp your school lunch prep game than Back To School time. If you’re tired of packing, cleaning and keeping up with multiple lunch containers every day, it’s time to think inside the box when it comes to how you send your kiddo’s lunch. 

Enter … The Bento Box! 

Bento boxes are a great way to set up a quick and easy school lunch routine without falling into the rut of sending the same turkey sandwich and bag of chips every day. They check everything off the list of school lunch musts: fun, easy, and healthy!

Keep reading to find out why bento boxes are the ideal school lunch solution and to check out some easy lunch ideas your kid will love (and actually eat!)

2 children at picnic table with bento box

What Is A Bento Box?

You’ve probably seen those ornate bento box lunches with pandas made out of rice. But trust me, you don’t have to wake up at 4 a.m. and create a work of art to get the most out of your bento box.

Bento boxes are basically a lunch box that lets you pack an entire meal in one container while keeping food separate, like this one. That means you may not even need a traditional lunch box because the “containers” are built in. And fewer containers means less to clean, less to keep track of, less to carry and less to lose!

Not to mention all the squashed sandwiches, crushed chips, and lids put on halfway you’ll avoid.

Using a bento box also cuts back on single-use containers, if that’s your thing. 

And they make it easy to save money by buying in bulk instead of single-serving pre-packaged foods — and saving money is everyone’s thing!

Child at counter eating out of kids bento box

6 Tips & Tricks To Get The Most Out Of Your Bento Box

If you decide to go the bento box route, you’re already going to reap the rewards of having your entire meal in one container. But these 6 tips & tricks will make the lunch prep process even easier …

1. Prep Lunch Ahead of Time

Bento boxes are ideal for prepping lunch the night before to grab and go in the morning! You may even want to consider grabbing multiple bento boxes & prepping lunch for the whole week if the ingredients will stay fresh in the fridge.

2. Grab Leakproof Dip Containers

Grab some leakproof dip containers designed to fit in bento boxes like these to liven up their meal with dips, spreads, cream cheese, condiments, sauces, seasoning and more!

3. Pack a Variety of Colors

Not only will your child have a more varied diet, but including fun, bright colors with healthy foods like cherry tomatoes, snap peas, carrots and apple slices really can make a huge difference when it comes to getting your picky eater to actually eat their healthy foods!

4. Pack a Well-Rounded Meal

The original idea behind the bento box was to pack a well-rounded meal — and this is still a perk of the bento box today! Use each section as a guide to pack a well-rounded meal every day. For example, you could designate one section for veg, one for fruit, one for carbs, and one for protein.

5. Let It Double As a Lunch Box & Snack Box

Purchase a larger bento box and pack both their lunch box and snack box for the day. Pack an assortment of foods that can be interchangeable between snack and lunch time, or designate different sections for different times of the day. Either way, you cut back on the number of containers you’ll need to wash and keep up with!

6. Always Follow Safety Guidelines

Use ice packs and an insulated bag to keep food fresh if you’re packing food that must be kept cold for safety reasons. Always follow safety guidelines to keep your child's food safe when prepping your child’s meal!

Person eating carrots and ranch dressing out of stainless steel bento box dip container

Kid-Friendly Bento Box Lunch Ideas

The Themed Lunch

Creating themed bento boxes is a great way to get your kid excited for lunch, particularly if you have a picky eater on your hands. 

Check out this Minions themed bento box for some inspo! Surprising your little with whatever they’re into at the moment is an easy way to make them smile and brighten their day! This is particularly great for picky eaters. Who can resist a banana that looks like a minion?

Or, check out this Under the Sea themed bento box. It can be as simple as slicing a couple hot dogs to make them look like an octopus.

This is also a great opportunity to let your little help out with packing their lunch because it doubles as a creative task you can bond over together while fostering responsibility!

The Cookie Cutter Lunch

One easy way to liven up your little’s lunch is using cookie cutters to transform a boring sandwich and other foods into fun shapes.

Use large cookie cutters for sandwiches and mini cookie cutters to slice cheese and vegetables like cucumber. 

You can use random cookie cutters or themed cookie cutters for special occasions like the holidays.   

A pb&j sandwich shaped like a heart is definitely more fun than pb&j sandwich shaped like a square!

The Do-It-Yourself Lunch

Think homemade lunchables where each ingredient is in its own compartment - this is fun for your child and helps keep ingredients fresh until lunch time. Try cheese and crackers or a pita bread pizza kit like this one.

The Repurposed Leftovers Lunch 

Throw leftover pasta in your kids bento box, make a sandwich out of last night’s roast, or let them make kabobs out of last night’s chicken & vegetables! It doesn’t get easier than that. Just remember to follow safety guidelines when it comes to food temperature!

Bento boxes lunches in refrigerator

Check Out These Bento Box FAQs to Get Started!

What should I avoid putting in my child's bento box?

Avoid putting liquids and runnier foods directly in your kids bento box to prevent liquids from spilling into the other sections — instead, liven up your little’s lunch with bento box dip containers like these if you want to send some ranch dressing or apple sauce!

How can I make Bento Box Lunches ahead of time?

If the ingredients you use store well, consider prepping your child’s lunch the night before. You can even buy multiple bento boxes and pack lunch for the entire week and store it in the fridge if the meal stores well. Just make sure to follow temperature and storage safety guidelines!

Where can I buy a bento box?

When it comes to bento boxes, it really depends on your individual needs. Consider a smaller bento box like this one if you have a younger child. The kid-proof stainless steel means you can use it year after year.

It may be a good idea to consider grabbing one with a skid-proof sleeve like this if you do have a younger child.

Or grab a larger one like this if you have an older child or want to pack both lunch and snack in the same box.

Whatever bento box you choose, lunch prep is about to get much easier. Let us know of any tips or tricks you've learned if you've already started using a bento box!

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