kindergarten: the lunch

Is anyone else out there sending a Kindergartener out into the world this fall? I've been spending this summer trying to prepare Lo as best I can for her first year of elementary, and our biggest focus has been on independence. I admit it: she's my first kid, and I may be guilty of babying her a tiny bit. Opening containers for her, cleaning up after her ... I'm always there to help. And so I do. Probably too much. I'm trying to learn to step back and let her do her thing.

And then it hits me. OMG. She has to survive an entire school day without me.

Academically and socially, Lo is ready. But there were a few things I decided we might need to practice before she went off to school to ease any first-day stress.
One of those things is lunch. Yes, we're practicing how to do lunch. And that might sound silly, but stick with me here because we learned some good stuff. I'm super guilty of the whole 'let me help you with that' thing. And I plan on using a bunch of different plastic bento boxes to pack her lunches. I had no idea if she could open all of the lids without assistance, so this was our chance to practice. (Good thing we did, because I discovered that the containers in this awesome Skip Hop bento mealtime set are super hard to open. Even for me! Bummer.)
I made it into a game, because I figured she'd be down with playing 'school.' I prepare a lunch and water bottle for her, pack up her lunchbox and put everything inside her backpack. Then I pretend to be her teacher and ask her to find her lunch in her cubby and bring it to the table in our 'lunchroom.' And then, I'm totally hands-off. She has to unzip and open every container by herself, and when she's finished, I ask her to (neatly) pack up whatever is left over into her lunchbox and zip it into her backpack. I also set a timer for 30 minutes. My kid is a painfully slow eater, and at home we let her graze. It's time to learn about time management!  :)
This little lunch game also gives me a chance to check my portions. She ate everything today and said she was full. This is good. I plan to send her Klean Kanteen bottle with water every day this year. Occasionally, we'll do juice or milk, but water is great. I will fill the bottle with ice cubes in the morning so it will stay cold until lunch time.
This is also great lunch-prep practice for me. I learned my bento-packing skills from my friend Wendy. I've read her blog for years and have taken lots of mental notes. For instance, I know that you can fit quite a bit of food in a pretty small container, and it's good to pack it nice and full and use extra bits of food to fill in the spaces so food doesn't shift during transport.
My favorite boxes to use are the smallish ones that are sandwich-shaped, and sometimes I'll add in another smaller container of fruit or carrot sticks or cheese/crackers. I also really like the small-sized bento boxes with two hinged side clips, like this one. They're easy for kids to open and food doesn't spill or leak all over the place. And my new favorite ice pack is this Thermos ice cube mat. They're inexpensive, flexible, and contain only purified water – none of the blue goo.
So yeah, I'm getting pretty stoked about Kindergarten. So is Lo. This lunch thing is fun. If you're a rookie like me, check out this super comprehensive list of lunch-box ideas over at Wendolonia. (It's printable!)

17 comments:

  1. Love this! We are a year and a few months away from kindergarten, but I am like you and do pretty much everything for her...we might start working on independence at lunch now while she's still in the "I do it!" stage :)

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  2. This is great! Thanks so much for sharing. My kiddo doesn't start until next fall but I've already found myself buying bento type containers when I find them on sale. I think practicing opening containers, etc will be essential for us too, especially since she has mild CP and so has a bit of trouble with fine motor stuff. I'm also definitely guilty of the "let me help you with that" mentality so I need to start being more hands off as well.

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  3. Time management...I never thought of that. What a great idea. Mine are way past the kindergarten stage, but that is something we would have practiced, had I read your post back then!

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  4. I love the idea of running through this with her! Great idea.

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  5. Both my kids have been in school since age 3. They go to a Montessori school. My youngest starts 1st grade this year. I always get teary eyed on the first day. My youngest is a free sprit and loves school. My oldest who just turned 13 is another story. It's like pulling teeth to get her out of bed. I would much rather make lunches than have her eat the junk at school:)

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  6. Jen, I love this post so much! It brings back so many memories of when my kids started taking lunches to preschool. We did test runs too and I remember making W practice opening his Laptop Lunch box a dozen times to make sure he could do it before I'd let him take it to school with him. Kindergarten is so nerve-wracking but also completely awesome. Good luck to both you and Lo on the big change! (And thanks for the props...)

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  9. It's so funny for me to read this. My daugther is starting kindergarten this fall as well. I panicked about two weeks ago thinking she has no idea how to manager her lunch. So I have been packing her "practice" lunches for the sitters.

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  10. What a great idea to practice! This never would have occurred to me. I'm making a mental note for when I have kids. :)

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  11. Thanks so much for the IDEA! My son also starting school this fall and is a painfully slow eater too! Not sure if I will be as awesome as you and bento it everyday, but good to practice the time mgnt eating part. This is why the internet is awesome sauce!

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  12. hey you lady!!!! Lo is getting so big! How are you??

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  13. Hello, how are you? My name is Anna and recently began reading your blog. It Is so cute! If you are seeing traffic on it from Japan, that is me! ;)

    At his post reminded me of an article I read recently, then shared with my friends. Maybe you will enjoy it, http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2012/07/02/120702crbo_books_kolbert?currentPage=1

    The title is a bit misleading. I don't many children are spoiled. I think the point a parent can take away from this is exactly what you are doing, teaching them independence.

    Anyway, my friends with children took something from it.

    Take care!

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  14. this is awesome! i am so glad i found you. new follower. I was the one who commented about des moines on skunkboycreatures instagram. If you have a second, i would LOVE to chat with you a bit about places to visit in iowa. We are super excited to be living there and me and my hubby and baby girl want to jump in with both feet. I'd appreciate it sooooo much! Thanks!

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  15. I am a kindergarten/Grade 1 teacher and I LOVE the fact that you practiced lunch!! That is such a fabulous idea!! When I first started teaching young kids, I couldn't believe how much drama there was surrounding lunch time!! If these are the things you are thinking about now with your daughter, I am sure she will be completely fine at school!!

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  16. More and more, parents are taking in consideration material composition for their toddlers' lunch kits. I recommend the safest out there in the market and pack in snacks that are healthy to optimize their learning.

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