If feeding toddlers wasn’t hard enough, now we have to come up with food to send with them to daycare? 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!
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.
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 picked 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, here is a collection of kid lunch box ideas for school.
What should I pack for toddler lunch at daycare?
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: School Label Packs from NameBubbles.
Packable lunch ideas for toddlers
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.
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).
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
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 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
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
- Turkey and cheese sandwiches
- Tea sandwiches
Fruit Sides Ideas
- Grapes (halved)
Vegetable Sides Ideas
You can likewise use fun Vegetable Cutter Shapes Set Mini Sizes Cookie Cutters Set Fruit Cookie Pastry Stamps Mold to cut up veggies to send with lunch to daycare or school.
- Baby Carrots
- Cherry tomatoes
- Avocado slices
- Zucchini slices
- Green beans
Protein Sides 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 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 Daycare or School Lunches from fellow bloggers
- 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 Lunch Ideas 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
Over to you – what are you putting in your kids’ daycare lunches?