Choosing a lunch box for your child means more than just picking out a box emblazoned with a favorite cartoon character. Kids need lunch boxes that store food at safe temperatures or that will fit well into a refrigerator if one is available. Stain-resistant fabrics and washable materials not only make lunchtime more appealing, they also make your clean-up job easier.
Hard Lunch Boxes
Hard-sided cases protect soft foods like sandwiches and fruits from getting squashed. The newest models feature high-impact plastic that won't rust or corrode as older metal lunch boxes did. Choose a design based on what you usually send with your child for lunch; a kid who loves soup will need an insulated container to keep it warm, while a child who eats a lot of sandwiches with the crusts cut off will get the most use from a sealed sandwich case that keeps the food fresh. Check with the school or day camp to ensure that they permit hard-sided lunch boxes, as some facilities prefer fabric or vinyl.
Soft Lunch Boxes and Bags
Colorful, flexible fabric lunch boxes and bags save space in your kitchen when your child isn't using them at school. While bulky boxes take up space in a child's cubby or locker, a soft lunch box folds into a compact roll once it's empty. Soft-sided cases for younger kids feature easy-access velcro closures or large simple snaps. Toddlers tend to be forgetful, so designs that incorporate shoulder straps keep the lunch attached to the diner.
Both soft-sided and hard-sided lunch boxes incorporate insulation to keep food properly chilled once you place it in the bag. These cases are especially important if your child is attending camp or going on a field trip outdoors, as warm sun and a long wait between breakfast and lunch could contribute to unsafe food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends storing food below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and with an insulated lunch box, you can keep your child's lunch refrigerator-cool.
Bento boxes divide a larger lunch box into separate sections, each of which you then fill with a favorite food shaped into an appealing design. Lunches in bento boxes look as adorable as they are tasty. Molded rice cakes and lunch meats shaped into stylized animal faces or figures are part of the fun of bento lunches. Some bento boxes include reusable, resealable containers that nest perfectly into a larger box, making lunch a fun puzzle as well as a meal. Insulated bento boxes come with a reusable freezer pack that attaches to the top of the case.
Once you have the lunch box, you'll need to fill it with tasty goodies that your child won't want to trade away. Learn a few simple knife tricks for cutting carrots into roses and turning boiled eggs into cartoon characters to entice a picky eater to eat a wholesome meal. Frozen grapes not only taste good enough to act as a dessert, they also help keep the lunch box's contents cool. Try tiny sandwich wraps that fit small hands instead of large, bulky sandwiches.
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