Go Bento! These Kids Lunch Box Ideas Will Inspire You
A is For Apple Lunch
We're starting with a favorite lunch box theme—apples! An apple-shaped hand pie mold makes an innovative stuffed sandwich. Soft fillings work best, but use anything you like: egg salad, tuna, or PB&J all work well. Decorate the top of the sandwich by cutting the word “Apple” from fruit leather using small letter cutters. Finish the bento box with red and green fish crackers and cucumber slices cut into apple shapes.
Smiley Lunch Bento
Nothing brightens a kid's day quite so much as opening their lunch box to find their meal smiling up at them. Draw eyes with a food-safe marker, then make wedge-shaped cuts in a hard-boiled egg and some rainbow carrots to start the gang off, add googly eye picks to grape tomatoes and a sandwich to complete the crew.
Hold Onto Summer Bento
Truly summer isn’t over yet! Start this summery lunch by packing a bento box with lots of delicious warm weather produce—nectarines, cucumbers, snap peas, and strawberries. Add some deli ham spirals and a slice of hearty bread topped with sunny cheese cut-outs.
A Box of Many Bites
A little bit of this plus a little bit of that equals a fun snack bento for lunch. We start with a multi-compartment bento box, then add soppressata salami, crunchy veggies, pretzel crackers, berries, and crispy dried mango strips.
Bento boxes aren’t just for lunch. This box—packed for a preschooler—includes a couple of pancakes cut in half and stacked on top of each other, a small container of syrup, chicken apple sausage chunks and a big handful of blueberries in a heart-shaped silicone cup. For an older child, increase the size of the bento box and add larger portions.
A Monster of a Lunch!
These spooky-cute monsters will delight your kids when they open their lunches and all it takes to make them are some icing googly eyes and a few quick cuts with a paring knife. Make the red monster by cutting a big chunk of apple to fit the lunch box. Cut the apple chunk into pieces using a zigzag pattern and then “glue” the eyes on with cream cheese, peanut butter or a dab of honey. The meatballs are even easier—add the eyes and you’re all set.
Garden of Bento
Lighten up tuna salad by preparing it with lemon juice and chopped cucumber, then pack it into a flower-shaped silicone cup with some pretty whole wheat crackers on the side. Spear ladybug and bumblebee picks into grapes and sugar snap peas to complete the garden scene.
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.
Autumn Leaves Bento
Celebrate the colors and flavors of fall with this bento box. Cut red, orange, and yellow bell peppers with a small leaf cutters and place them in a lunch box with a handful of mini-meatballs. Pumpkin-spiced pumpkin seeds add a bit of extra fall flavor, as does a serving of applesauce with leaf sprinkles on top.
Beep! Boop! Beep! This hotdog robot is here to make lunch special and he’s easy to assemble. Cut a pre-cooked hotdog into three sections, then cut one of the sections into quarters lengthwise. Use small pieces of dried spaghetti to build your bot: one piece for the head, another for the torso and the quarters for the arms and legs. Remind your child to remove the spaghetti before eating the hotdog.
This bento box will make your child LOL at the lunch table! Emoji cupcake toppers are a quick addition that you can tuck into servings of fruits and veggies. If you have more 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!
A Caesar salad is a delicious bento box option that’s fun to pack. Pack lettuce, cheese, and croutons in the largest section of the lunch box and put the dressing in a sealed container on the side to add at lunch time. (This lunch box has a self-sealing leak-resistant lid, but you can use a small container if your lunch box doesn’t have this feature.) Add a serving of sliced rotisserie chicken for additional protein. Some unsweetened yogurt with a dollop of jam is a nice treat to round out lunch.
A sweet breakfast sandwich (for breakfast or for lunch) will entice a picky eater. Defrost a leftover waffle (make a batch of our favorite waffles on the weekend and freeze the leftovers), Cut the waffle into quarters, spread with cream cheese and add strawberry slices. Fruit and veggies finish the lunch off in this stacked bento box.
Tacos and Trucks Bento
Combine two kid favorites—tacos and trucks—to make a cute but speedy lunch on a weekday morning. Pull four mini-tacos from the freezer, defrost them and arrange them in the lunch box. Small picks decorated with different types of trucks keep the tacos closed on the journey to school. Fill the rest of the bento box with fruits and veggies and a few more trucks for good measure.
Some Like it Hot!
A bento box with an integrated thermos opens up lunch choices significantly; you can include hot foods as well as cold ones. Layer refried beans, ground beef leftover from taco night and a little cheese in the thermal area. Pack a drink, chopped tomatoes for a topper and some chips to dip into the meat mixture in the rest of the lunch box compartments.
Starring Cheese and Crackers
When you make cheese and crackers lunches instead of purchasing them premade 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.
Pay tribute to the beautiful game with this lunch. 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 (I used one leftover from Easter), 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.
A Knotty Lunch
Add some tasty street food style to a bento lunch with soft pretzel knots. Use pretzels purchased in the freezer section at the grocery store, along with sliced cucumbers, melon wrapped with prosciutto (regular ham works too) and a few gummies for a treat.
Beary Cute Bento
Your little one will adore this adorable bento lunch. A bear-shaped sandwich cut-out is extra sweet with a thin radish heart accent and cauliflower bites are cuter held together with pink jewel picks. A little pot of beet hummus for dipping adds a splash of pink.
Wrap It Up For Lunch
Drizzle roast beef slices and veggies with a little ranch dressing, then wrap them up in a large flour tortilla. Decorative wax paper and a strip of washi tape wrapped around the tortilla keep the sandwich rolled tight until lunch time. Add potato salad and berry-applesauce in air-tight side containers.
Taco Tuesday Bento
Kids and teens will love assembling their own tacos at lunch time. Fill the lunch box with street taco tortillas, roasted chicken tossed with a little salsa and sides of sour cream, chopped tomato and shredded lettuce to top it all off.
Darth Vadar Sandwiches!
A bento box loaded up with a kid’s favorite characters is always a fun lunchtime surprise. Use a stamping cookie cutter to make Darth Vadar sandwiches and a cupcake decoration in the shape of a Storm Trooper to decorate ham and pretzel sticks. Blueberries with a light saber pick, orange slices, and cucumbers finish things off.
Pizza, Hold the Crust!
Thread chunks of kid-pleasing string cheese, slices of salami and cherry tomatoes onto skewers to make “pizza” sticks. Fill the rest of the lunch box with carrots, fresh figs and cucumber slices.
To the South of France for Lunch
Upgrade your usual sandwich offering with this pan bagnat wrap. Gently toss sliced hard-boiled egg, black olives, and chopped cherry tomatoes with a vinaigrette, then wrap with lettuce leaves and a tortilla. Add sweet, sliced nectarines and a few crackers with cheese on the side.
Fast From the Freezer Bento
Having a stash of lunch box friendly foods in the freezer makes packing on weekday mornings a breeze. Here we paired a homemade pumpkin muffin with store-bought dumplings and fresh fruit for a speedy and delicious lunch.
All Rolled Up
Tortilla roll-ups are fun to make and fun to eat. To prepare them, spread refried beans on a medium tortilla then top with shredded cheddar and chopped tomato. Roll up the tortilla, then slice it into even sections before packing into a stainless steel bento lunch box.
Picnic Ready Bento Lunch
Sandwich cutters are easy to find in stores and take an everyday sandwich from blah to something special in just a few seconds (like this cute cat). Use a flower punch cutter to embellish cubes of watermelon and decorate some hummus with an olive “ant” to make the bento box picnic perfect (that's perfect for picnicking at the lunch table!).