If feeding toddlers wasn’t hard enough, now we have to come up with food to send with them to daycare? I mean, finding easy ideas for toddler meals for lunch or to take to daycare seems so daunting! What do you send for daycare lunch for toddlers? Look I get it, feeding toddlers is hard! Toddlers are picky eaters and sometimes they outright refuse to eat! I got some great toddler lunch ideas for daycare for you right here! You’re going to love some of these easy toddler lunches you can pack for daycare.
Sending food to school or daycare is a challenge because you have to consider food allergies, and many schools are nut-free environments. I don’t know about you, but my son at age 2 would only eat peanut butter crackers. So, sending food to daycare with him was not something I wanted to deal with. So how do you come up with healthy toddler lunches and daycare lunch ideas for your 2-year-old?
Thankfully, our center had food brought in specifically for their kids. And peer pressure convinced my kid to eat what everyone else was eating. And when we moved, I selected a pre-school with a similar program (actually they had a chef preparing kid-friendly, healthy, and allergy-safe meals). But if you have a daycare center that does not have a special food program or choose to bring your food from home, and are wondering – what do you give a 1 year old for lunch at daycare? Here is a collection of kid lunch box ideas for school.
What should I pack for toddler lunch at daycare? Toddler daycare lunch ideas
One important note to remember about daycare is things can get mixed up between the kids. So it helps to have labels on everything! Just like you would write your child’s name on your diaper bag, changes of clothes, bottles, etc., lunch boxes need to have labels too.
Our pick for the best stamps: Name Stamp and use Coupon Code FABMOM for 10% off
Our pick for the best name stickers: School Label Packs from NameBubbles.
Packable lunch ideas for toddlers at daycare
Wondering how do I pack my toddler for lunch in daycare? When packing portable toddler lunches, the food should be such that it can be eaten cold. There will not likely be a way to warm up all the individual food items for the kids, and since you’ll be dropping off your child hours before lunchtime, any prepared food will be room temperature.
So it is good to consider foods that taste good at room temperature and are easy for little hands. Planning cold toddler lunches for daycare and easy kid cold lunches for school, it is also necessary to consider kids’ lunch ideas for picky eaters. You will also need to pack lunches that toddlers can eat independently. You’ll love some of these picky toddler lunch ideas for daycare.
However, if you really want to send food that is warm (chicken nuggets anyone?) you can preheat the lunch in the morning and place it in one of these great LunchBot thermoses to keep it warm until lunch (these thermoses keep food hot for over 6 hours).
Some of the best toddler lunches are set up in a bento box style, to allow for a variety of foods. Toddlers love colors and the more colorful the plate, the healthier. “Eat the rainbow” is a great reminder on how to eat healthy, and it appeases toddlers with a fun visual lunch.
Bento Boxes for Packing Toddler Lunch
Start with a fun bento box (or get several to meal prep once for the entire week ahead). These are great to include your different daily daycare meal ideas.
Our pick:Bentgo Kids Childrens Lunch Box – Bento-Styled Lunch Solution Offers Durable, Leak-Proof, On-the-Go Meal and Snack Packing
Easy Toddler Lunch ideas for Daycare or Preschool
Here is a huge list of fun ideas for toddler lunches to take to daycare. Mix and match and make a great bento meal collection with these daycare lunch ideas.
Each meal should have the main course which is usually a starch and a protein, fruits, veggies, a drink – milk usually, and a snack if you like.
Check out these great resources:
- USDA – Healthy Eating for Preschoolers – this chart includes food group checklists and how much of your plate should be from each category.
- USDA – Child and Adult Care Food Program – Meal Pattern (as of Oct 1, 2017) – contains the final rule, and best practices summaries/charts
- CACFP – Meal Pattern Cards – a great resource for healthy food amounts by age
Lunches for Toddlers – Main Meal Ideas
- Tortilla wraps/roll-ups/pinwheels with something inside (just cheese, cheese & deli meat, veggies)
- Mac and Cheese
- Pasta salad – spiral pasta with dressing
- Cucumber Sandwiches
- Bagel with jelly and/or cream cheese
- Turkey and cheese sandwiches
- Tea sandwiches
Fruit Sides toddler lunch idea
Always chop fruit into small bite-size pieces to avoid any choking risks. You can also cut fruit into fun shapes using these cookie cutters.
- Grapes (halved)
Vegetable Sides daycare lunches Ideas
You can likewise use fun Vegetable Cutter Shapes Set Mini Sizes Cookie Cutters to cut up veggies to send with lunch to daycare or school.
- Baby Carrots
- Cherry tomatoes
- Avocado slices
- Zucchini slices
- Green beans
Protein Sides healthy toddler lunches Ideas
- Cheese sticks sliced
- Sliced cheeses cut into shapes (ie cheddar, provolone)
- Shredded cheese
- Chicken nuggets
- Turkey/Ham lunch meat rolled up or slices
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Yogurt tube
- Sausage links/slices
Carbs/Starch Sides Lunch Ideas
Toddlers love carbs, bread is always a favorite, right? So here are some ideas for the carb pocket of your bento box. Choose whole grains whenever possible for ultimate nutrition.
- Cooked pasta
- Crackers (Graham, Wheat Thins, Goldfish, Animal)
- Granola bar (if nut-free)
- Pita bread
Some fun Toddler Meals for Daycare or School Lunches from fellow bloggers
You’ll love these toddler daycare meal ideas I have collected.
- 10 Bread-free lunch ideas and even easy lunches kids can help make from Kitchen Stewardship
- Mini Fruit Pizza is a fun idea from The Coffee Mom
- Here are quite a few ideas 40+ Toddler Meals from Picky Eaters from Little Sprouts Learning
- Muffin Tin Pizza from Hello Yummy
- Easy to pack lunches for Toddlers and Preschoolers from Really Are You Serious?
- Cute Valentine’s Bento Lunchbox Ideas for Kids from Grace Giggles and Naptime
- Healthy Veggie Pinwheels and Apple Muffins from In The Kids Kitchen
- Star-Shaped Mini Ham Sandwiches and Sandwich Lollipops from The Soccer Mom Blog
- Zucchini Slice from KidGredients
- Another great collection of 50 Easy School Lunch Ideas for Kindergarten as well as their 15 Toddler Lunches for Daycare from Yummy Toddler Food
- Back to School Kids Lunch Ideas from Modern Honey
- Fun Lunch Ideas for Kids from Two Peas and Their Pod
- This one is epic – 300+ simple & healthy toddler meal ideas from Leslie W Blog
Suggestions for your toddler lunch box for daycare
Toddler Lunch with Avocado Ideas
- Avocado Toast (quarter the toast and add thinly sliced avocado)
- Guacamole Tortilla roll-ups (spread guac on a tortilla, roll up, and slice into wheels)
- Avocado slices by themselves as a bento item (with other sides)
But first, how do you pack an avocado for daycare? Slice the avocado into small grabbable slices and add a bit of olive oil or lemon juice. Store in a small container with a lid (like this one) in the lunch box.
Toddler Lunch Box Ideas with Hummus
- Hummus Quesadillas (spread hummus on a tortilla, fold in half, and slice into triangles)
- Hummus and veggies for dipping (hummus as a side dipping sauce in a small container with sliced vegetables of choice – carrots, cucumbers)
- Hummus Sandwiches (cut into 4 or more slices, don’t forget your fun mini cookie cutters)
Toddler School Lunch Ideas with Egg
- Hardboiled eggs with cheese slices (slice the hardboiled eggs and layer sliced cheese)
- Scrambled eggs (you can even cook some veggies into it like scrambled egg with spinach)
- Egg and veggie muffins (so many various options, just make them mini-sized)
Toddler Lunch Box Ideas with Rice
- Veggie fried rice (again so many great options and easy to make in bulk and separate into containers to send to daycare as a lunch)
- Bake rice cups (bake like muffins, make them mini-sized)
- Plain white rice as a side with a protein (add sauce only if the child likes sauce, mine doesn’t)
Toddler Lunch for Daycare with Ground Beef
- Mini sliders (tiny burgers are always a favorite finger food – include as few ingredients as your kid allows, mine only wants the bun, hamburger patty, and cheese)
- Tater tot casserole with ground beef (a great casserole to make and package small portions in mini containers to send for lunch)
- Hamburger casserole with mac and cheese (gotta be a fan favorite everywhere)
Toddler School Lunch Ideas with Chicken
- Chicken nuggets (can’t go wrong with these – and they’re OK at room temperature too)
- Chicken fried rice (small slices of chicken added to the veggie fried rice idea)
- Chicken and Cheese Quesadillas (thinly sliced chicken and cheese on a tortilla, cover with another tortilla, fry/flip, and cut into triangle slices)
Daycare Lunch ideas with Turkey
- Make mini pizzas using English muffins or mini bagels, add tomato sauce, shredded cheese, and add toppings such as veggies and sliced turkey.
- Turkey and cheese and hummus pinwheel wraps/rollups are a great option for healthy turkey lunch ideas
- Turkey and Cheese square kabobs (make sure the toothpick ends are not sharp and your toddler knows how to pull the food off)
- Turkey lettuce cups (if your kiddo doesn’t reject lettuce like mine does)
Toddler Lunch Ideas Frequently Asked Questions:
How do I bring my toddler to daycare for lunch?
What should I put in my child’s packed lunch?
What should I feed my baby for lunch at daycare?
Your sweet little one is learning how to enjoy solid foods, so sending a variety of options in small quantities helps them explore foods. Cut everything into small sizes and package them in little containers for easy grabbing.
What can I pack for kids lunch other than sandwiches?
Are you tired of packing the same old PB&J for your toddler’s lunch every day? Do you find yourself wondering what else you can pack that won’t be rejected by your picky eater? Here are some creative and healthy lunch ideas for your 3-year-old that go beyond the standard sandwich.
- Mini pizzas
- Pasta salad
- Pinwheels rollups
More ideas for Daycare Lunch and toddler lunch box ideas
toddler lunch ideas 1 year old
As a parent or caregiver of a 1-year-old toddler, it can be challenging to come up with healthy and delicious lunch ideas that appeal to their taste buds. Luckily, there are several easy and tasty options for daycare lunch ideas for your 1-year-old toddler.
One-year-olds love to feed themselves and finger foods make it easy for them to do so. Try sliced fruit like berries, bananas or avocado, cooked vegetables like sweet potatoes or broccoli florets, cheese slices or cubes and soft cooked pasta.
toddler lunch ideas 2 year old
When it comes to feeding a 2-year-old toddler, parents need to be prepared with nutritious and delicious lunch ideas that their little ones will love. This is especially important for parents who have children in daycare.
One simple way to make sure your toddler gets all the nutrients they need is by packing them a colorful bento box filled with different food groups. You can include sliced fruits like strawberries or watermelon along with cherry tomatoes or baby carrots as snacks. For the main course, you could pack some homemade chicken nuggets made from lean protein or macaroni and cheese made from whole grain pasta mixed with low-fat cheese.
toddler lunch ideas 3-year old
If you have a picky eater on your hands, coming up with toddler lunch ideas can be a challenge. But rest assured, there are plenty of options out there that will satisfy even the fussiest 3-year-old. Consider packing a bento box-style lunch with small portions of different foods, such as sliced fruit, cheese cubes, crackers, and turkey or ham roll-ups.
Another great option for daycare lunch ideas for 4-year-olds is homemade “lunchables.” Simply slice some deli meat and cheese into bite-sized pieces and add some crackers or rice cakes on the side.
One of the best ways to ensure your little one is getting all the nutrients they need is by offering them a balanced meal consisting of protein, carbohydrates, and vegetables. Some great protein sources include cheese cubes, hummus, turkey slices or chicken nuggets (baked not fried). Carbohydrate options could consist of whole grain breads, crackers or pasta salad. For veggies try steamed carrots, green beans or sweet potato fries.
Over to you – what are you putting in your kids’ daycare lunches? What are your favorite toddler meals for daycare?
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