Ready for Kindergaten Day Eight: Surviving Lunchtime
Welcome back to Day Eight of our Ready for Kindergarten: 30 Days of Activities, Ideas, and Learning Fun series!
Today’s idea is one you might not give a lot of thought to, but if your child is in a full-day kindergarten program, these skills and tips will be essential. Today we are focusing on LUNCH.
Here are a few things to consider or help your child be ready for when it comes to having the skills/behaviors necessary to have a successful school lunch experience:
1. Limit Snacks
You may want to begin weaning your child off snacks, especially if he/she is a “grazer” by nature. While some schools have a snack time mid-late morning, many do not, and school lunch times vary greatly. Your child may be assigned to a lunch-time that is much different than what he/she is used to, and may be very hungry by the time lunch rolls around – especially if they are used to filling up on snacks throughout the morning.
My advice is to limit your child to one small snack in between breakfast and lunch. We do a 10:00 snack time at our house and options include a string cheese, an apple, carrot sticks, granola bar, etc. By limiting snacks now, you will help your child acclimate to their new eating schedule.
2. Get a Good Healthy Breakfast
I cannot stress how monumentally important this one is. I could always tell when one of my students had either gone without breakfast or had filled up on “junk” for breakfast.
If you think your family may qualify, sign up for the free/reduced school lunch program. In most states, kids who qualify for free or reduced lunch receive a free breakfast. They may not be as healthy as what you may prepare, but they are required to meet certain guidelines and each meal will contain protein.
I recommend a good healthy breakfast that is low in sugar like oatmeal, eggs, or whole wheat toast and fruit. A full tummy helps a child concentrate and gives them the sustained energy they need to learn!
3. Food Packaging
Speaking as a teacher who had a classroom full of kindergartners who ate lunch in the classroom, I cannot stress how important it is for your child to be an independent food opener. If your child eats in a lunchroom, it is ten times more important they can open their own food. In many school lunchrooms (at least all of schools I’ve worked in/subbed in), the lunchroom is a crazy place. Typically one to two grade levels eat at the same time, so anywhere from 75-200+ students are eating in the same room. Often, there are only 1 or 2 adults in the room to monitor the kids. The lunch aides often do not have the time to help every child open all of the items in their lunch. Towards this end, many items go uneaten, and kids don’t get enough food to fuel their bodies for the remainder of the day.
Here are a few of the packages/food items that typically cause kids the most difficulty:
- Milk cartons! (Buy a quart of milk from the grocery store and have your child practice! Most kids have never seen or had milk from a paper carton, and they can be tricky to open! You want your kiddo to get that calcium, so give them some practice!)
- String cheese
- Individual fruit cups or applesauces
- Capri Suns
If you know you will be sending the above items to school with your child, start letting them open them so they can get some good practice in!
4. What’s in the Lunchbox?
I try to keep parenting directives to an extreme minimum on the blog, but this is one I firmly believe: Always check the contents of your child’s lunchbox! While there are a few rare exceptions, most 5 year-olds are not responsible enough to pack a nutritious lunch.
Here are two examples I encountered while teaching kindergarten, when a student of mine had packed their own lunch:
Lunch 1 – 2 cans of Mt. Dew, 5 packages of Fruit Snacks, a Twinkie, a Ding-Dong, and a bag of Doritos
Lunch 2 – a tub of sour cream
The moral of the story is: If you are going to let your child pack his/her lunch, just make sure you check the contents before they walk out the door. =)
If you are going to be packing their lunch, keep a few things in mind:
- Kids only get between 15-20 minutes to eat, so plan accordingly. – (This can be shorter if their teacher gets to the lunchroom late and shorter if your child is in a long hot lunch line!)
- Try to limit the junk food. I am okay with giving kids a small treat in their lunchbox – I do it myself. However, I’ve had kids come to school with MULTIPLE packages of snack cakes, full-size candy bars, 5 Oreos, etc…Keep the amount of sugar reasonable.
- No soda. Please.
5. Set Your Own Rules
You are in charge of your child, and your expectations for them are what matter. If you care about them eating their sandwich first, tell them! (When I was a girl, the school secretary would come in and throw away the rest of your lunch if you were caught eating anything but your sandwich first! That rule has been engrained into my being.) If you want them to choose white milk instead of chocolate, make that clear. If you don’t want them to trade food, be explicit. Make your rules known!
Another rule we have at our house that I’ve found useful, is to leave any food you didn’t eat in your lunchbox. This helps me know what is not their favorite, or if I’m packing too much. (It also keeps good food out of the trash!)
Always pack PLASTIC silverware with your child….unless you are okay with your good silverware getting accidentally chucked in the trash.
Pack a napkin!
Again, if you think your family may qualify, there is no shame in signing up for the free/reduced lunch program. It is there to help families. Most school offices send home paperwork over the summer or at the start of the school year.
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