“I love coming up with creative ideas for my child’s lunch,” said almost no mom, ever. Whether they’ll be eating at home or taking a brown bag to daycare, toddlers can be tricky to feed. Coming up with new lunches every single day can leave you feeling uninspired.
Lunch ideas for picky toddlers are even harder to brainstorm, because you want to make something that’s both healthy and that your tot will actually consume. But sometimes, it’s less about the food itself, and all about how you present it. Fun shapes and cool packaging go a long way to making lunchtime more fun. Start with these ideas.
Cut It Right
Slicing a sandwich into squares is so old-school. Instead, appeal to your picky eater’s visual side with bread shaped into stars, circles, flowers and more. Dig out those cookie cutters that you stashed in the back of the pantry last holiday season and stamp a fun shape each day. Pro tip: Don’t overstuff your sammies or the filling will ooze out the crust. A thin layer of tuna or egg salad is best.
Nibble and Nosh
Some toddlers do well with a little of this, a little of that. Rather than one big lunch, portion out sampling-size amounts of food in colorful silicone baking cups and lay them out for your toddler to enjoy. (If you’re making lunch to go, cover the cups with clear wrap before packing.) Your child gets to taste a bit of everything. Some fillers to consider: Quartered grapes, small cubes of cheese, homemade wheat crackers, chickpeas with vinaigrette or mini meatballs with pesto.
Who doesn’t love dunking veggies and fruits into fun, healthy spreads? Toddlers especially enjoy a tactile relationship with food—they grip and grab with their hands all day long. For this easy toddler lunch idea, try a set of plastic baby blocks to separate each dip and its matching dipper. Ideas for a lunchtime pairing: yogurt with slices of peach or halved strawberries; mashed avocado with red pepper strips or cucumber rounds.
Roll, Baby, Roll
Tubular shapes are easy to hold and fun to devour. To begin, choose a thin wrapper as your base layer, such as sandwich bread that’s been flattened a bit (use a rolling pin), a crepe or tortilla. Next, spread with a thin layer of honey mustard or hummus, then top it with slices of turkey or ham, cheese and lettuce. Roll your creation tightly and secure it with a toothpick so it holds its shape (just be sure an adult is available to remove the pick for your toddler before eating.). Stash it in a lunch container for smush-free transportation to daycare.
Breakfast for Lunch
Sandwiches at midday are expected, so why not shake things up and surprise your picky eater with a creative toddler lunch idea that isn’t lunch at all—it’s breakfast. Some fun ways to do it: Toast with almond butter and banana slices, a yogurt parfait with granola and blueberries or a hardboiled egg and mini bagel with veggie cream cheese.
And there you have it: A week’s worth of easy toddler lunches that even picky eaters will love. Ready for some snack ideas? Check out these great ones to take on the road.