I'm here to tell you it is entirely possible to teach your preschooler how to pack their own lunch. They just need to be taught how. This chart will help.
Before we get to the chart though, let me just ask.... Who has a picky eater in the house? [raises two hands] Yep, I have two picky eaters. If you have none, lucky you! Skip down to the printable chart. If you have picky eaters or need help teaching kids younger than four about eating balanced meals, then read on...
Frustrations with not being able to get my two kids to eat a balanced meal led me to create this chart initially. I laminated it and checked off the boxes when they ate each of the types of foods on the list. It worked really well and it wasn't until they grew older, that I realized it could also serve as a tool to help my kids pack their own lunch. And not just pack their own lunch, pack their own balanced lunch.
Here's how it works for Toddlers who are picky eaters:
- Download the printable chart [.pdf]
- Print and laminate the chart. (Try these no-heat pouches)
- Explain to your child that you want them to eat a balance meal and that each of the 4 rows is a different food group. Each group will be represented on their plate.
- Once they eat something from each group, put a check mark in that box with a thin dry-erase marker.
- When your kid(s) fill up their chart for a full week, they earn a prize!
This chart works well as a placement or you can post it on the fridge. Our kids loved them and we even brought them with us to restaurants per their request! The charts taught them which foods were in each food group and reminded them that they needed to eat something from each group (even if it's just a bite).
Here's how it works to teach kids how to pack their own lunch:
At the beginning of the school year, bring out the chart to serve as a guide for lunch packing. Have them use it for reference or if they're struggling, help them check off each box as they pack an item. After each of my kids used the chart to pack their lunch for the first few weeks of school, my kids started packing their own balanced lunches every morning! This works best with preschoolers 4 and up. Yes, a 4-year old can pack their own lunch!
Download the printable chart [.pdf]
Here's what it looks like:
Download chart [.pdf]