5 Preschool Lunch-Packing Tips for Busy Parents (and Picky Kids!)

Oct 11, 2018

The last thing a working parent needs in the morning is another thing to do.

These days, nearly a quarter of kids under five attend organized childcare, which amounts to millions of parents rushing to get their kids ready for a preschool program every morning. If you’re one of those many parents putting your child in daycare, or sending them to a daytime summer camp, chances are they’ll need a packed lunch.

To save yourself time, and to keep your little one fed and happy during daycare activities, here are a few efficient preschool lunch ideas:

Get Chopping!

Toddlers need smaller, bite-sized foods they can easily manage on their own. Lucky for you, this allows you to prep lunch foods in bulk at the beginning of the week. Choose fruit, vegetables, proteins, and carbs you know your child likes, and buy a lunch container with many divided sections.

A balanced and fun meal ideal for childhood development might include a chopped boiled egg, soft cubed cheese, small cucumber chunks, a handful raspberries and whole wheat pita split in chunks. Your toddler will enjoy using her hand to explore the different flavors and textures.

You can make prep easier by dicing a range of ingredients on Sunday night and keeping them in the fridge. When it’s time to pack lunch, just throw handfuls of each item in the divided sections, and you’re done!

Pack what they like!

A common daycare center nightmare for both parents and caretakers is a child who refuses to eat their lunch. Crankiness from hunger is sometimes unavoidable, but you can help limit pouting in daycare activities by planning a fun lunch your kiddo will love.

Pay attention to what they happily devour at home. Ask for feedback from daycare attendants about likes and dislikes. Additionally, keeping familiar foods in their lunches will help toddlers feel safe and relaxed in an unfamiliar environment. Their favorite bologna mini sandwiches are truly a little slice of home!

Toddlers can have leftovers, too!

If you’re a parent who makes extra-large during meals at night, you probably take leftovers to work, too! Why not send them with the little one as well? This can be a great way to save time in the mornings.

As a bonus, you’ll know from the night before if your child enjoyed the meal. Remember to avoid things that need reheating, since warming up food may not be an option at a busy daycare.

Good options might be pizza cut into chunks, leftover macaroni and cheese with apple slices and bell peppers on the side for midday nutrition, or even a cold casserole you know they’d like.

Take advantage of school lunch options

If you’re on a budget, brown-bagging it is always going to be the best option.  But for those times when you are in a time pinch or just need an occasional break from lunch-prep, ordering a school lunch for your child is a great option.

Many preschools offer flexible lunch ordering options for a small additional fee and will sometimes even provide small snacks at no charge. You’ll want to check with the preschool or childcare facility to learn about their menu options and whether you will have to order for an entire month or can pick and choose individual days.  Then, try out a few lunch selections with your little one to learn which ones they like best so you know you have a go-to option in your back pocket when needed!

Be mindful of allergies

If your preschooler or toddler has a food allergy, you are probably very much used to monitoring what they eat.  But for parents of children that do not have food allergies, it is important to become equally aware of allergies now that your child is in a setting with other children.

With such an increase in children’s food allergies, many preschools and daycare facilities have implemented rules regarding foods that are not permitted in their facility. Because the children are too young to manage their allergies themselves, banning those foods at a facility-wide level is often a necessary safety precaution.

Check with your preschool or daycare about their food policy to make sure you are up to date on what is not permitted.  In many cases, peanuts and tree nuts are going to be the most common banned food, but there may be others as well. The Safe Snack Guide by SnackSafely.com is a great resource for finding safe snack options for individuals with allergies and those around them.


Packing lunch for kids can be exhausting and tricky. By following these tips, you can make your mornings more efficient and their lunches more delicious, so your child can get back to daycare activities with a happy tummy.

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