It was late Sunday night when I realized I hadn’t made my son’s lunch for camp on Monday. Dragging myself out from my comfy couch (and treasured American Dad TV time), I wondered if it wasn’t about time for my 8-year-old to start making his own lunches. After all, I thought, he’ll be entering third grade this fall, and if he is smart enough for cursive and multiplication tables, he is smart enough to put together a ham and cheese sandwich.
There are certain criteria that indicate a child’s readiness to make his own meals. Beyond being physically capable of acquiring ingredients and properly sealing containers and sandwich bags, there are a few other considerations that indicate readiness. And your child might be already telling you in some not-so-subtle ways.
Craving a creative solution
Is your child becoming more finicky in what she will eat? Does she not like surprises? Are you finding lunchboxes coming home with only a small part of your carefully planned lunch eaten? She may be telling you that she isn’t crazy about what you are packing and wants to try on her own.
Another sign that your grade-schooler might be ready to make his own lunches is complaining about the portion sizes you are providing (either too much or too little food). He knows better than anyone how much he will eat of any given item on any given day.
It’s easy for a busy parent to get caught in a lunchbox rut, always packing the same “safe” foods. Not only will kids come up with new ideas, they are much more likely to eat the food they pack on their own.
Making good choices
What will probably be the deciding factor for many parents is if their child can make good food choices. When I asked my 8-year-old son if he wanted to make his own lunches this fall, he smiled hugely and blurted out, “I’ll pack as much snack food as I want!” (Read: junk food.) That told me he might not be ready for a complete takeover of the lunchbox but could definitely work within certain guiding parameters.
Did you Know..?
ZisBoomBah’s online game Pick Chow! is a great tool to teach your child how to make healthy choices. Kids love to create their own meals and watch the Add It Up! meters go from red to green, indicating they picked the right foods. Watch this short video to learn how your child can play with his food and learn with Pick Chow!
The rewards for a child making good choices for her own lunches are palpable. You are rewarding your child with skills in decision making, time management and financial planning (if they forget their lunch and need to buy one at school). Sure, there will be mistakes at first as they test their judgmental abilities, and it does require a time commitment at the beginning to get kids off to a good, healthy start.
But, you are giving your child the message “I trust you to make good decisions and stick with them.” And that is a huge reward in of itself.