Lunch Ideas for Toddlers at Preschool - Is your toddler starting preschool or daycare? I remember the first time my son started going to preschool when he was about two and a half year old. I worried about whether he would eat well in his new environment. I searched for all the ideas out there on what to pack him for lunch. If you are looking for toddler lunch ideas, then this post is for you.
Whether your toddler goes to preschool or daycare and you are looking for lunch ideas for toddlers at preschool, or preschool lunch ideas, I’ve got you covered.
One word of warning though.
Every kid is different. Every kid will have a preference on what he/she likes for lunch.
So you have to build that into consideration when packing toddler lunches.
My son who is 6 years old now tells me exactly what he likes. And he hates ‘sandwiches’ for lunch and prefers warm meals. So I have to always think about lunch ideas that are not sandwiches and hot lunch options for my kid, which I have also listed below.
So, I have included all lunch ideas for toddlers - bento box style lunches and hot lunches.
And I’m all about easy. I really don’t have time to cut sandwiches into cute star shapes...sorry I’m already short on time to make sure I pack all the things I need for my kiddo in the morning!
So enjoy the lunch boxes ideas for toddlers….healthy lunch ideas for toddlers that are easy to make!!
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Before we dive in, if you are wondering what to use as your toddler’s first lunch box for their preschool or daycare, these are few options you have:
BEST TODDLER LUNCH BOXES
Because it has many compartments, they are great in providing a variety of options to your kid! They also don’t leak, so food won’t get mixed up between compartments.
Definitely a huge relief since we all know kids will be throwing their lunch bags around however they like at the preschool!
One great thing about this bento box is that you can pack both cold and hot lunch in the same bento box. Your kid can just open one box, which will have their hot meal and snacks so they can choose to eat them together if they like. I haven’t try this myself as I’ve always loved using thermos that are well insulated, but a good option to try if you know your kid will eat better when all food is presented in one place and they get to decide what they want.
A great affordable option to have, especially if your child’s bento box wasn’t washed in time, or left at the daycare/preschool. These may not be as toddler friendly, since the lid is a little bit difficult to close and oftentimes go missing. However, I do like having these as an option because they are so affordable, it comes in multiples, and also it provides compartments that fit in main food and snacks!
And here are some tips for bringing lunch to preschool/daycare.
HOW TO PACK EASY TODDLER LUNCHES
- Pack something that can be easily eaten with hands. I have found that if you pack something that requires utensils, they don’t get eaten as much as the ones that are easily grabbable and eaten with hands (ie, tomato sauce pasta vs chicken nuggets)
- Pack something your child is familiar with rather than something new. Familiar food will get eaten more than something your child has never tried before
- Pack a variety of food, even if you know your child won’t eat all of them. You have to teach your kid to eat a meal in a balanced manner - protein, carbs, and veggies. So even when you know your kid won’t eat all of the cucumber slices, pack them anyway. They may eat one slice, but hey, it’s better than nothing!
- Always follow the school guidance on nuts. Many preschools are nut-free. I’ve packed my kid some chestnuts packet I bought from Costco thinking they don’t really count as nuts (they are soft!!) and they got sent back with a note. So know whether your school is nut free or not
- Nut free schools allow sunflower seeds butter instead of peanut butter!!! If your kid likes peanut butter sandwiches, you can substitute peanut butter with sunflower seeds butter. They are not exactly the same but tastes pretty similar!
- Don’t worry if your child eats well one day and doesn’t eat much the next! Their appetite will vary. And remember to not give your child a hard time just because they didn’t finish their lunch!
Toddler lunch ideas for daycare
Main Lunch Ideas For Toddlers at Preschool or Daycare
- PB&J (or sunflower seed butter and jam) sandwich
- Ham and cheese sandwich
- Homemade muffins
- Cheese and Crackers (home made lunchables)
- Bagel and Cream Cheese
- Hummus and pita dips
- Alphabet Soup
- Chicken Nuggets (Dino Nuggets Are Always a Huge Hit)
- Mac and Cheese
- Pesto Pasta
- Hot Dog
- Pizzas (hot or cold)
- Finger Carrots
- Cucumber Slices
- Steamed Broccolis
- Bell Pepper Sticks
- Mini Tomatoes
- Steamed Edamame
- Anything your kid likes!!!
- Strawberries, blueberries, plums, apples, cuties, watermelon, grapes, pineapples, mangoes,
Other Healthy Snack Idea For Toddlers
- Dried Mangoes
- Nuts (if allowed)
- Pretzel sticks
- Veggies sticks
- String Cheese
- Laughing Cow Cheese (sticks)
Lunch ideas for toddlers - Examples
I’ve broken down school lunch ideas for toddlers into two different categories - cold lunches vs hot lunches. Cold lunches are great as finger foods that can be put into lunch boxes.
Hot lunches are great if your toddler doesn’t like sandwiches or anything cold (like my older son) and prefers somewhat warm food as their meals.
1. Bento Box lunch ideas for toddlers: Sunflower Seed Butter and Jam Sandwich with Fruits & Veggies
Source: Yummy Toddler Food
2. packed lunch ideas for toddlers: BLUEBERRY ZUCCHINI MUFFIN WITH CARROTS AND APPLESAUCE
Source: Yummy Toddler Food
3. Toddler Lunch Box Ideas: English muffin pizza
Source: Urban Mom Tales
4. Preschool Lunch Ideas: Ham Wraps
Source: Kid Activities Blog
Source: The Toasted Pine Nut
5. Easy toddler lunches: Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Source: Eat This, Not That!
6. Toddlers lunch ideas for daycare: Hummus and Pita Dippers
Source: One Lovely Life
7. Lunch for toddlers: Corndog Muffins
Source: Iowa Girl Eats
8. Lunches for toddlers: Bagel and Cream cheese
Source: Peas and Crayons
9. Daycare lunch ideas for toddlers: Waffles or Pancakes
Source: One Lovely Life
Hot Lunch Ideas For Toddlers
If you have a kid like mine who doesn’t really enjoy sandwiches for lunch and prefers warm meals as lunch, then these options will work great!
Before we dive in, I want to introduce you to the thermos that we use that has worked well for years.
They certainly are popular. We’ve used these for years and they do keep food warm for a few hours. But over time, I have noticed that it doesn’t keep food warm that well after months of using these. We have since then switched to Hydroflask ones which we love as water bottles and also food warmer.
We are a huge fan of hydroflask since it has amazing insulation! It keeps food warm for hours. We’ve been a fan of their water bottle which keeps cold water in piping hot summer or warm water in cold winter time. So we decided to use their lunch thermos jar a try and they haven’t disappointed us since!
1. Lunch ideas for kids not sandwiches: Alphabet Soup
Source: Kitchen Counter Chronicle
2. Toddler meal ideas: Mac and Cheese
Source: The Organized Housewife
3. Healthy toddler lunches: Chicken Noodle Soup
Source: High Chair Chronicles
4. Healthy lunch ideas for toddlers: Chicken Nuggets
Source: Create Kids Club
5. Easy toddler lunches: Hot Dogs
Source: Practical Mama
6. Toddler lunch: Teriyaki Chicken Bowls
7. Lunch for toddlers: Pesto Pasta
As long as these are not pesto pasta salads, they work great when you put them in a thermos (affiliate link). I also use raviolis, instead of regular pastas and my son loves them!
Source: Peas and Crayons
I hope this list helps you in packing easy and healthy lunches for your toddler that are actually practical! If you have any more lunch ideas for preschool, then do share in the comment below!