One issue that every parent of a Primary One child will probably lose some sleep over is whether or not her child can order her own food and drink for recess, pay for it, and finish it before the bell rings. This is why many parents resort to packing a lunchbox for their children – to guarantee they at least have the option of something fairly healthy and instant to soothe those hunger pangs from their hours in school.

Tips for making Bento Lunch Box For Kids

A fun way of ensuring your child has a happy meal is to add a twist to your lunchbox look by arranging the food in interesting combinations, patterns and shapes. Commonly referred to as bento (a Japanese term), these mini meals are not just tasty and nutritious, but pretty to look at, and they are not as difficult to assemble as one might imagine.

Photo credit: Mum in the Making

We recognize that many parents don’t have the time or energy to whip up gourmet meals for their child’s school break, so here are five tips for packing a happy and healthy bento in a jiffy!

Tip #1: Stock up on supplies at Daiso

Almost every lunchbox-preparing mama has shopped for the basics at Daiso. Besides scoring a cute lunchbox, you’ll get a wide range of bento-making tools to satisfy your imagination.

Food picks

bento making tools

They come in many colours and themes, and are great for spearing fruit, making little kebabs, or simply dressing up an otherwise boring sandwich.

Food cutters

Food cutters bento basics

Use cookie cutters to make interesting shapes with your bread, ham, cheese, vegetables and fruit! You can also grab some food punches to make smaller shapes out of seaweed, like eyes, mouths, hearts and musical notes. (Or just cut with a food scissors)

Silicone, plastic or foil cups

These are great for compartmentalizing your food if you have more than one dish, so that the dry stuff (like vegetable sticks) and wet stuff (like dip) are separated. Also, they just make the box look pretty!

Fake ‘grass’ dividers

You often see these in Japanese restaurants or at the sushi counter in supermarkets. Another way of separating the food items in your bento, similar to the cups.

Rice molds

If your child likes rice, he’ll beam for joy to see a homemade riceball in his bento box! These molds are so quick and easy to use, but remember to use Japanese rice if you’re planning to make some of these! Daiso stocks these in the onigiri size and the typical sushi roll size.

Lunch bags and straps

If keeping the food warm isn’t much of a concern, you can stow away the box in your child’s backpack with an elastic strap to secure it tightly, or in a little hand-carry lunch tote. If you want to keep the meal warm, investing in a thermos flask is your best bet. However, you won’t be able to find this in Daiso – check out the household section in your nearest department store, like Isetan, Robinsons or Metro.

Tip #2: Make a little bit of everything

bento box ideas

Photo credit: Mum in the Making

Remember that the lunchbox is actually pretty small, and recess isn’t meant to be a proper full meal anyway (unless your child skips breakfast or lunch), so small portions of each item work best, and look better. Restrain yourself from doing the baby-food thing – cooking in bulk and freezing food portions to be doled out over the week ahead. Bento boxes are all about variety, and freshly prepared food is always best. Which is why…

Tip #3: Simple is best!

bento recipe ideas

Photo credit: Sakura Haruka

Save the beef stews and apple pie for dinner. Bento preparation shouldn’t be robbing you of precious time with your family! Choose simple and easy recipes if cooking, or go the no-cook route some days with sandwiches and fresh fruit. You can even involve your child in the preparation process if time allows, and it can be a fun parent-child activity to do together.

Tip #4: Go with your child’s interest

Sure, you might like the adorable heart-shaped food picks, but your son likes dinosaurs and dragons. Create a bento box that appeals to his likes by printing out little dinosaurs which you can tape to your heart picks. Or find a dinosaur cookie cutter that will transform his sandwiches into a Tyrannosaurus Rex! The sky’s the limit, really. It’s time to get creative!

Bento box ideas for kids

Photo credit: Mum in the Making

Tip #5: Get ideas from other mums

With so many parents posting photos from their children’s lunchboxes, inspiration is just a few clicks away. Adapt interesting ideas to suit your child’s food preferences and try some new combinations once in a while. Sometimes, comparing your bento creations with other mum’s lunchboxes may be rather discouraging, but always take heart remembering that your child notices and values your hard work.

Healthy food

Photo credit: Mum in the Making

how to make a bento box for kids

Photo credit: Sakura Haruka

Here’s to some beautiful bento meals, homemade and handmade with love!

For more ideas, check out Mum in the Making and Sakura Haruka.

By Dorothea Chow

This was first published in Parenting with Love: Preparing your child for Primary School

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