15 Super-Cool Kids' Bento-Box Lunches You Can Actually Make
Every parent wants to put a smile on their child's face during the school day but coming up with creative ways to do so can be a challenge. Packing a unique lunch filled with eye-catching designs, goofy characters and colorful ingredients is an great way to get kids excited to eat (even if all you're packing is a classic PB&J sandwich, some raw fruits and vegetables, and cheese and crackers on the side).
Wendy Copley is a mother, writer, and blogger who just so happens to be a pro at packing fun bento box lunches for her family. And she should be: She's the author of Everyday Bento: 50 Cute and Yummy Lunches to Go. With her help, you can become an expert, too. Here, she shares some of her favorite ideas for creative school lunches for kids. When her son was obsessed with cars and trucks in preschool, she stamped the shape of a school bus on his sandwich bread. If mornings get busy (which they often do), she keeps it simple by cutting out cucumbers or cheese in the shape of stars, hearts, and more. It's a quick, yet thoughtful way to let your kids know just how much you love them.
Sometimes her kids request certain designs, such as a Star Wars-themed bento. Of course, Wendy delivers. Talk to your little ones to find out what they'd love to bite into and maybe get them to help in the kitchen, too. And let the ingredients speak for themselves (salami shaped to look like a rose takes no time at all but offers a big wow factor).
Read on for her delicious tips, tricks, and inspiration for packing extra-cute school lunches. Soon enough, you'll be the coolest parent in the schoolyard.
I made this lunch when the roses in my backyard were in full bloom. The ham roll-ups looked like rosebuds to me, so I added a few decorative picks with leaves on them and some silicone dividers that looked like leaves to give this lunch a garden feel.
Teddy Bear Bento
I started with a shoyu egg—one that's been marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, and a little sugar—then used an egg shaper to mold it into a bear shape. Once my bear was ready for his picnic, he needed a checkered tablecloth (an apple), some hummus with an olive "ant" on top, snap pea "grass," pretzel butterflies, and a pretty white nectarine.
My older son prefers creepy over cute, so I made him this lunch with homemade tortilla-chip gravestones, black bean dip "dirt," veggies with a spider pick, berries, and a "pumpkin" made with turkey spirals. The most gruesome part is a pumpkin muffin that I stabbed with a cookie knife. I made it "bleed" by adding a little bit of red gel icing.
Winter Wonderland Bento
We don't get snow in the San Francisco Bay area, but sometimes I like to pretend we do with a snowflake lunch. This lunch had tomatoes on a snowflake pick, snowflake crackers, clementine wedges with snowflake sprinkles, a couple of tiny snowflake sandwiches, and a chunk of apple with a snowflake carved into the skin.
Hold Onto Summer Bento
A Box of Many Bites Bento
Snack Supreme Bento
Though it's fun to pull out cookie cutters and other bento tools, you don't need a lot of gear to pack a pretty lunch box. The key to a beautiful bento? Lots of color! For this fancier version of a grocery store snack box, we packed neat fans of crackers, salami and gouda cheese slices, bright rainbow carrot coins, two kinds of berries, and some small cookies.
Sandwiches don't always have to be packed on sliced bread—shake things up with a bagel sandwich. We kept the fillings vegetarian with simple cucumber and cream cheese, but you could add a little lox or sliced deli roast beef, too. Multi-colored pepper strips and fruit add a lot of bright colors to this lunch (and pretzels add some crunch).
This bento box will make your child laugh out loud at the lunch table! Emoji cupcake toppers are a quick addition that you can tuck into servings of fruits and vegetables. If you have time, add a cheese quote bubble and some text speak cut from a slice of turkey to the top of a sandwich. Carving an thumbs up into a chunk of apple will put it over the top and earn you—you guessed it!—a thumbs up.
Hail Caesar Bento
Cheese and Crackers Bento
When you make cheese and cracker lunches instead of purchasing them pre-made at the grocery store, you can take control of portion sizes and the quality of the ingredients. Try wrapping strips of deli-sliced ham around whole wheat pretzels and cutting cheese slices into star shapes for an appealing presentation. Pump up the nutrition by adding two servings of fresh fruit.
Greek Isle Bento
Pretend you're lunching on a Mediterranean island with this pretty snack bento box. We started with a creamy dill-yogurt dip then added pita chips and lots of veggies to dunk into it. A few kalamata olives add a savory punch and a small tangerine contributes sweetness.
Decorate a circular PB&J with black food-safe markers so it looks like a soccer ball, then pair it with salami slices packed into a silicone cupcake holder, cheese crackers tucked into a soccer ball container, and apple slices speared onto a soccer cupcake pick. For dessert, wrap a graham cracker sandwich filled with cookie butter and banana slices in an extra-long piece of sushi grass.