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It’s time for the kiddos to go back to school, and you’re committed to packing their lunches this year.  For those who haven’t packed lunches before or are getting tired of the same old stuff, it may seem a bit daunting to think about planning yet another meal each day.  I’d love to help, but since my wife packs even my lunches (yes, spoiled and blessed) I’m going to just pass this off to her expert skills, and let her share some lunch packing tips that are simple, healthy, and kid-friendly.

To get started, packing lunches is much easier when you have the right tools.  Having a variety of containers makes it easy to always have the right thing for what you are serving (yogurt in a non-sealing bowl just doesn’t work.)  We like the following for function and all are BPA, and PVC free, are safe in the microwave, dishwasher, and freezer:

  • Sistema Klip-It Lunch Collection 3 Pack – $11
  • Fit & Fresh Kids’ Lunch Container Kit – $11
  • Cool Gear Bento Boxes – $19
  • Rubbermaid Lunch Blox – $8 (a little trickier for smaller fingers)
  • Reusable silicone cupcake liners, Norpro or Kinderville silicone smoothie pop molds – $1.50 /
  • Thermos food jars – nice for packing warm lunches – $15

Now you’ve got some cool tools, and it’s time to fill them up. When you’re prepping 5 boxes each day you find ways to save time, save money, and have a little fun.  Try this:

Prep in bulk.  Homemade muffins, breads and bars, healthier cookies, and turkey meatballs all freeze beautifully.  Make huge batches and freeze them up.

Think outside the box.Move over sandwich, soup or salad…some of my kids’ favorite lunches are a mish-mash of random things.  (We call them pick-pick lunches, because mommy just keeps picking things out of the freezer.) As long as they have a protein, some produce, and one or two things to round it out, they’re good.

Presentation.  Food appeal can make a big difference in getting kids to eat something.  Cutting veggies or cheese with little cookie cutters is effective, albeit time consuming.  If all else fails, the old saying is true…people love food on a stick.  Recognize that sometimes you are going to pack something and they aren’t going to like it.  It’s ok.  They won’t starve.

Now let’s fill those boxes with good stuff!  Here are some of our family faves.

Whole grain muffin or granola
Fruit and cheese skewers
Yogurt and fruit smoothie (sneak in spinach!) or frozen smoothie pop
Healthy crackers with a variety of toppings
Veggie sticks with yogurt dip or hummus
Apple disk and nut butter sandwiches
Quesadillas or pizzadillas
Turkey meatballs with marinara or barbecue sauce
Yogurt parfaits
Hard boiled eggs
Leftover grilled chicken breasts cut into sticks or nuggets with a favorite dip
Tortilla rollups (slice them into pinwheels for fun)
Chicken, Egg, Tuna or Salmon salad in pitas

Packing lunches doesn’t need to be complicated.  If you need more inspiration, our old friend Google is always full of ideas.  A few of our favorite sources are “Momables”, 100 Days of Real Food, Against All Grain, Super Healthy Kids, One Hungry Mama, and Once a Month Meals.  All are great resources for offering your child excellent fuel to excel in school.

Now get packing and have a great start to the school year.

Pokémon GO is crazy!  Kids who aren’t generally drawn to physical activity are outside, walking around town with their devices, playing this game that makes no sense to me.  But see what I just wrote?  Kids are WALKING around town – outside, being active instead of sitting inside, playing video games – and that makes Pokémon GO a big deal.  I talk to parents all the time who are hungry for ways to help their sedentary children be more active: for them, this is a win!

Normally, I wouldn’t call encouraging the relationship between children and a device “a win.”  However, your device is a tool. And, in this case, it can be a tool to help your kids become more active. And, in the age of ever-increasing screen-time, I think we can all agree that’s a victory.

This opportunity for extra activity is great, but will it end as soon as the novelty of Pokémon GO wears off? Will the next big game be active as well, so that children will continue to get outside and move?We don’t know that.

But here’s what we do know: as parents, we can use this opportunity to instill an appreciation of movement in our kids so that, when the game loses its appeal,the physical activity doesn’t go with it.

Here’s what I did.

  1. I downloaded the game and started playing to gain an understanding of it. When in Germany, it helps to speak German.
  2. I invited my son to play with me. He accepted with gusto!
  3. I set a time limit of 30 minutes (our normal limit for gaming), and, with my phone in his hand, we set off to search for Pokémon.
  4. We walked, strategized, ran, and captured.All we talked about for the 30 minutes was Pokémon! It was great!
  5. Once the 30 minutes ended, we turned off the phone. We were about 30 minutes away from our home (hmm, mysterious), so we started to walk back.
  6. The walk home was full of Pokémon talk, but we also talked about cool things we saw along the way. Oh, and it only took 15 minutes to get back home since we weren’t focused on the phone.
  7. When we got home, with my son raved to Mom about how much fun we had, and couldn’t wait to go again.

My goal is that he will appreciate more about our walks than just the Pokémon. This way, if the game loses its appeal,the walks will maintain theirs.  And who knows what that appeal may be: it could be the search for something and adventure of what we may find, the conversation and camaraderie, or just the sensations and stimulus of being outside.In the meantime, I am making an investment in our relationship.  Wins all around!

In my experience, some children aren’t internally motivated to be physically active. That’s okay! They don’t need to love to exercise – they just need to appreciate it as part of what they do love.

Pokemon Go is just one of many unique opportunities you have as a parent to help your child become more active.  Good luck as you try to “Catch them all!”