Art + Culture Beauty Food Home Life + Style Parenthood Travel Wellness Work

How to Convince Your Kids to Pack Their Own Lunches

The struggle is real, and every mom knows exactly what I’m talking about. Getting lunches ready every morning for your child is HARD work.Every once in awhile you get in a groove that works for you like laying out everything the night before or preparing it all on Sunday, but then you get off track over spring break and it’s a sudden return to the a.m. chaos all over again.

It’s a much better idea, I believe, to have the little humans do it for themselves. I think it’s a pretty fair statement to say that if they’re old enough to go to school, they’re old enough to make their own sandwich.

While convincing your kids to pack their own lunches may seem like an insurmountable task at the moment, after you read these tried and true methods I’ve gone through with my kids, I hope you’ll be inspired to at least attempt to get the littles to take the lunch-packing scramble off of your to-do list and onto theirs. Trust me, you’ll soon be in a joyful yet surreal state of “Is this real life?”

When dealing with wah-wa, wah-wa syndrome

When you try to talk your kids into doing something, it often just goes in one ear and out the other or simply sounds something like Charlie Brown’s teacher to them.

But when another outside influence, preferably someone slightly older but way cooler than them, says the same words, it’s like an amazing revelation befalls upon them. I recommend finding a cool, hip teenager to come over and casually mention how they always make their own lunch. It will suddenly be the cool thing to do, and they’ll probably actually ASK to do it on their own.

Make it easy for them

Packing their own lunch will seem like an overwhelming task if they have to dig and scramble to find the items to put in it. Make a list of ideas for them and hang it on the fridge for easy access and inspiration, then be sure to always have the pantry and refrigerator stocked with supplies like their favorite fruits, cut up veggies like carrots, cucumbers and peppers, single-serving chips, bread and a variety of Hillshire Farm® Farm Classics® deli meats. Put everything they would typically need close together and on a shelf they can easily reach.

Give them incentive

Some may call it bribing. I don’t. I know I personally am much more eager to do a difficult task when I know I will be rewarded for my efforts in the future. When I go to work, I get paid for it. When I am disciplined and exercise, I get a hot bod (in theory that is – I’ve never actually gotten that far!). When my kids pack their own lunches consistently for the month, we go to the movies to celebrate! In the mornings, I just remind them of their incentive, and since we all love a good flick and bucket of popcorn, they get their lunch boxes filled and fast.


Kids aren’t typically the only ones that need a lunch packed for the day. Mom and dad, especially if they work outside the home, need one too! Since it may be too much to ask your child to ALSO make yours for you, do the whole sandwich-making routine together as a family. You can make it a fun assembly line and assign each person a job, or just do your own alongside each other at the same time. Everything’s more fun when there is a team involved! Another option for groupthink would be to have other parents bring their kids and supplies over to have a lunch prep party.

Do most of it on Sunday-Lunchday

If getting them to do it all just before the bus pulls up is too tricky, you can have them do the brunt of the lunch-making labor on Sunday. Sandwiches can be made for the week ahead as long there are no condiments or moist toppings included. Have them put the deli meat and cheese on the bread and then just add to-go packets of mayonnaise and mustard to be added day-of. Veggies and other snacks can be placed into individual baggies and put in the fridge as well. In fact, you can have them prepare all five paper sacks filled with everything they need and put them in the fridge for a quick a.m. grab.

Threaten them with the school lunch

When it’s pizza or chicken nugget day, this is a losing battle in my house, but when I see that there is something on the school menu that they won’t like, I give them the option to make their own lunch or just go ahead and eat that salmon and brussel sprouts at the cafeteria. Chef Mama is off duty, so those are their only two options. They won’t starve to death if you don’t make it for them – you’re giving them an alternative! But if they don’t just love sloppy joes, they’ll be willing to make their own ham sandwich!

Let them come up with how to do it on their own

We all love a good challenge, even kids. If they feel empowered to make the decisions of how and when to make their own lunch, they are more willing to be fully on board. Maybe they will have their own routine and methodology, some of which may be a bit unorthodox, but at least they’re getting lunch made! You can suggest some of the options above or have them come up with their own ideas, but let them choose. You may be surprised with what they come up with and how radiantly happy you feel to have this task off your shoulders, however it gets done!