Bento Box Ideas for Kids

Bento Box Ideas for Kids | Mama Papa Bubba

Oh, school lunches. I want them to be super nutritious and at least little bit different each day…  And it’s a definite bonus if they’re simple and quick to make!  But most of all, I just want to know that Miss G is going to like them and eat them and not come home at the end of the day staaaaarrrving. {Please say it’s not just me.}

The biggest game changer when it comes to making lunches that are simple, full of variety, and *easy* has undoubtedly been BENTO BOXES for us.  I started using them even before Grae went to Kindergarten for outings and meals-on-the-go, and I don’t think I could ever switch over to packing traditional bagged lunches.  I know I’ve said it before, but here’s the thing about bento boxes – filling several little compartments with bits of different foods feels so much easier and so much less intimidating than creating a packed lunch from scratch {and then having to find bags and containers to hold it all}.  Thankfully Grae and Sam love snack-style meals (I find that most kids do), so that’s a bonus!  Plus bentos make it super easy to pack zero-waste meals, so they’re a win all around in my opinion.

Bento Box Ideas for Kids | Mama.Papa.Bubba.
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First off – the bento boxes themselves…  We’ve tried many over the years (too many), and hands down our favourite bento boxes are Yumboxes {the colourful ones you see above}.  They’re great quality, they’ve lasted us YEARS, the inserts pop out for easy washing, they fit inside a regular insulated lunch bag, and most importantly – the compartments are individually sealed off and leak-proof when it comes to things like yogurt and fruit sauces.  If we could have just one, I’d definitely choose the Yumbox Original which is the green 6-compartment box.  This is our go-to and the bento we use most often and I love it because although it’s not massive or heavy, I can cram a really good amount of food into it.  That being said, I do love our other Yumboxes too…  Our aqua Yumbox Panino is fantastic when I want to send a larger item to school (especially something like a bagel or sandwich} and our Yumbox Tapas is perfect for days when a particularly big lunch is required as it’s a significantly larger.  You can see a size comparison in this Instagram post {which also includes the MiniSnack size}.  The last bento box in the photos, the stainless steel one, is our other go-to…  It’s just a basic stainless steel bento put out by President’s Choice (our grocery store’s brand) and it’s crazy affordable (we’re talking in the range of $9 to $15 range – the price fluctuates) and great for packing really simple lunches.  Unfortunately it can’t be purchased online as far as I can tell, but you can see it here and do watch the seasonal shelves of Superstore around back to school time as they’ve brought it out the last two years.  I usually use a little stainless steel sauce cup in ours just to add an extra compartment, which works great.

So what to put in your little one’s bento box once you have one…

My go-to formula is a whole grain + a protein source + plenty of fruits and veggies + a little sweet or treat

I also try to include a source of good fat, but at the same time, I remind myself to look at what my kids are eating over the course of a day or a week and to not stress too much about what they’re getting in a single meal.

Here are some of my go-to bento box ideas for kids…

Bento Box Ideas for Kids | Mama.Papa.Bubba.(Yumbox Panino | mexican pasta salad, apple blueberry sauce, kale chips with nutritional yeast and hemp hearts, oatmeal chocolate chip almond butter ball made with agave instead of honey)

Pasta salad – Making pasta for dinner?  Reserve some plain noodles for tomorrow’s lunch!  Mix up a whole grain or veggie pasta with some black beans, corn, and peppers, a little drizzle of olive oil and some garlic, cumin, oregano, and chilli powder for a Mexican inspired pasta, or try a more Greek-inspired version with pasta, chickpeas, cucumbers, peppers, olive oil, and some oregano, garlic powder, and onion powder.

Bento Box Ideas for Kids | Mama.Papa.Bubba.(Yumbox Original | grape skewers, rainbow veggies, all-natural black liquorice, vanilla chia pudding, homemade granola made with almond butter and agave instead of honey) 

Breakfast for lunch – Leftover breakfast?  Turn it into lunch!  Anything goes here…  Try chia pudding paired with your favourite granola or pancakes turned into sammies with the addition of pumpkin seed butter, a little pure maple syrup, and some hemp hearts and chia seeds. Things like leftover breakfast burritos usually pack up great, as do bagels!

Bento Box Ideas for Kids | Mama.Papa.Bubba.(President’s Choice Stainless Steel Bento Box | berry fruit salad, cucumber lettuce cream cheese roll-ups on Silver Hills Bakery Turmeric Wraps, medjool dates stuffed with almond butter and mini dark chocolate chips, popcorn with vegan butter, nutritional yeast, and pink salt)

Roll-ups – Grab your favourite wrap or flat bread, fill it up, roll it, and then slice it into sushi-style chunks.  Try pairing seed butter with chia jam, hummus with carrot matchsticks, or mini cucumbers and lettuce with a vegan cream cheese. Sprinkle the chunks with hemp hearts, sesame seeds, or a touch of sea salt and you’re done.

Bento Box Ideas for Kids | Mama.Papa.Bubba.(Yumbox Tapas | watermelon hearts, cantaloupe hearts, chunky salad, strawberry apple chia kind fruit bar cut into bites, mini whole grain bagel pizzas)

Quick pizza – Turn a mini bagel, a sprouted grain english muffin, or a whole grain pita into pizza with the addition some tomato sauce, your favourite vegan cheese, some veggies, and a sprinkling of oregano.  Broil it in the oven for just a couple of minutes to get the cheese bubbly and golden and you’ve got lunch!

Bento Box Ideas for Kids | Mama.Papa.Bubba.(President’s Choice Stainless Steel Bento Box | peppers, carrots, cucumber, and pita bread with homemade hummus, rainbow fruit, pretzel / dried cranberry / mini dark chocolate chip mix)

Dip & dippers – Probably the most popular ‘main’ in our school bentos…  Miss G LOVES hummus, so that’s our go-to, but a white bean dip, pesto, or seed butter with cinnamon are great options too. Pack your dip alongside whole grain pita bread, sprouted grain flatbread, pretzels, carrot and cucumber sticks, or apple slices and let your kiddo dip away.

Okay, now for fruits and veggies! Obviously you can pack all kinds of fruits and veggies just as is – washed and chopped – and they’re perfect just like that, but if you’re looking to switch things up a little, here are some ideas…

Fun Ways to Pack Fruit

Fruit salad – Chop up a little assortment of favourite fruits, mix it up, and you’ve got fruit salad.

Skewers – Everything is more fun on a stick!  Thread berries and grapes onto reusable mini skewers to switch things up.

Sauce – Simmer seasonal fruit in a covered pot with just a touch of water and blend once soft.  Apples and pears make a great fruit sauce base and you can even add spinach to them without changing the flavour…  We call it hulk sauce!

Rainbow fruit – Arrange some freshly chopped fruit in rainbow order, and voila – rainbow fruit!

Fruit shapes – A little more finicky, but if you’ve got an extra couple of minutes, use a mini cookie cutter to chop things like watermelon, cantaloupe, and pineapple into fun shapes. (We have several of the mini Wilton cutter sets and they work great.)

Fun Ways to Pack Veggies

Chunky salad – Chop up your kiddos’ favourite veggies, drizzle them with a little olive oil and a sprinkling of Herbamare, and top with sesame seeds or hemp hearts.

Sticks & dip – A classic combo.  Chop some veggies into sticks and pair them with a little pot of hummus or dip.

Chips – Turn kale, carrots, beets, turnips, and other thinly sliced veggies into crispy chips by tossing them in a tiny amount of avocado oil, sprinkling them with a little garlic powder and sea salt, and roasting them in a 400 degree oven until crisp. You’ll want to watch these closely and remove the chips as they become ready.

Rainbow veggies – As simple as arranging freshly chopped veggies in rainbow order in your kiddo’s bento box!

Veggie shapes – If you’ve got time, take a mini cookie cutter to your peppers, cucumbers, and carrot slices to switch things up.

Happy lunch making!  For more easy bento ideas, you can follow our hashtag #bentosbympb and you can see all of our favourite reusable food containers and accessories in the ‘Feeding Kiddos’ section of our amazon shop.

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6 thoughts on “Bento Box Ideas for Kids

  1. Great ideas! Our school offers free breakfast and lunch for every child, so my son stopped taking lunch to school. But I’ll save these ideas for the summer.

  2. I heard a lot about these, but never managed to get one of these. They look very convenient and I guess I’ll finally get them for both kids of mine. Thanks!

  3. I’d love to know what lunch bag fits the PC stainless steel bento! We have the Roots lunch bags and I find it a very tight fit.

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