Here's a big list of parent-suggested kids lunch ideas for school, filled with easy inspiration for adding a little variety to the lunch box without creating a whole lot of extra work for yourself.
These are quick and creative ways to refuel your kids at school and keep them going until snack time. You'll love that many can even be prepared the night before.
Add your favorite lunch box ideas for kids below to help us grow our list!
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Rainbow Hummus Wraps
Vanessa M.: Spread hummus over a whole grain tortilla, then top with sliced rainbow colored veggies for a yummy lunch that will be envy of all the kids NOT eating a rainbow for lunch. Feel free to customize your rainbow to whatever vegetables your children like or what you happen to have on hand. From Tastythin
Mini Corn Dog Muffins
Vanessa M.: This fun hot dog recipe is baked - not fried like its counterparts on a stick! Their size makes them equally cute and kid-friendly. These are easy to pack for lunch box food, and also freeze well! Make a huge batch, then thaw and pack as needed. From Iowa Girl Eats
Meat & Cheese Kebabs
Vanessa M.: Thread foods your kids love onto skewers: turkey cubes, colby cheese cubes, mozzarella cheese cubes, cherry tomatoes, etc. To make cubes out of a slice of turkey, roll and cut it into cube-sized pieces before skewering. Have the kids help put them together the night before, and they will be excited to eat them for lunch the next day!
Quesadillas are the perfect kid-food for lunch, as they're totally versatile and hold up well in a lunch box. Throw in beans, dinner leftovers, eggs, vegetables of all sorts, even fruit (think apples and brie), melt it quickly on the stove-top or microwave, and you've got a portable main entree option that kids will love.
Nutella and Banana Sushi
Vanessa M.: Spread a tortilla with Nutella, place a whole peeled banana at the edge of the tortilla, and roll it up tightly. Slice crosswise into rounds, and serve facing up like sushi. This is an excellent recipe for kids to help make! Older children could easily put these together on their own. A good tip is to first heat the tortilla up for a few seconds in the microwave to make it pliable.
Charcuterie Style Lunch
Vanessa M.: Fill a bento or other lunch container with an assortment of turkey cubes, cheese pieces, hard boiled egg, apples, grapes, raw veggies and pretzel chips to create a good balance of protein, produce, and snacks that will fill even an older child's tummy. You can even pack a week's worth of lunches at one time!
Ham and Cheese Pinwheels
Kelly R.: These 3-ingredient pinwheels are frequently requested in my house for school lunches, and couldn't be easier to throw together. The filling can be customized to whatever your kids prefer, or whatever needs to get used up in the fridge! Mine love them with turkey and cheese, and gladly eat them cold or warm. From Real Mom Nutrition
Cheerios Single Serving Cup
Vanessa M.: Cereal for lunch is a fun crowd pleaser, and it's one of the easiest quick lunch box ideas for kids! Just pack a spoon and a Thermos of cold milk to go with it. You can also include some yummy and filling cereal toppings, such as sliced strawberries, chopped nuts, raisins and other dried fruits, chia seeds, or a sliced banana.
Granola Crunch Apple-Peanut Butter Sandwich Wraps
Vanessa M.: Whole grain flatbread is spread with peanut butter (you could substitute sun butter for nut allergies!), and topped with matchstick-cut apples, golden raisins, dried cranberries, granola, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Easy, yummy, healthy, and a definite upgrade to your traditional PB&J sandwich! From Two Healthy Kitchens
Baked Chicken Nuggets
Vanessa M.: Don't forget about last night's dinner when you're coming up with lunch ideas for school! Putting hot foods in an insulated food container is a great way to expand your lunch packing repertoire. Chicken nuggets are a solid kid classic, but don't stop there - mac & cheese, spaghetti and meatballs, and plenty of other leftovers all make great hot lunches from home!
A great tip is to fill the container with boiling water and let it sit for a few minutes to heat up. Dump out the water, pat it dry, and fill with the hot food. Your child's lunch will still be warm at lunchtime!
Mason Jar Pasta Salads
Vanessa M.: The idea behind mason jar pasta salads is genius, and they can be customized in so many ways as fun lunch ideas for school. Make a large pot of pasta at the beginning of the week and drizzle olive oil over the pasta. Then throughout the week, scoop single servings into mason jars or any plastic lunch container and top with whatever you'd like to make pasta salads in a jar. Try a BLT version or a pizza-inspired version with pepperoni, mozzarella and olives.
Rainbow Vegetable Spring Rolls
This recipe is great for kids who like vegetables and items they can dip! This super easy lunch roll-up can be dipped in a peanut sauce (if the school allows it) or a sweet chili sauce if the school is nut free. Add shrimp or tofu for an extra protein boost! From The Kitchn
You're A Star Sarnies
Juan L.: Instead of spending a lot of time creating that boring same old lunch sandwich, spice up an old classic with these star sarnies! They are fast, easy, and kids will get a kick out of this delicious twist.
These are cream cheese and pesto sandwiches on whole grain but as long as you have the star shape cut out, you can make these with any sandwich your kids prefer; ham and cheese, PB&J, the star's the limit! From BBC GoodFood
DIY Pizza Lunchables
Vanessa M.: Do your kids beg for Lunchables? Cut out the cost and unwanted ingredients by making DIY pizza lunchables. In a divided container, pack everything your kids need to make mini pizzas at school: sturdy crackers, marinara sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese, and toppings like mini pepperoni. I've used matzo when making this for my children, and they love it!
Kelly R.: Making your own freezer friendly "Uncrustables" allows you to always have easy lunches on hand (and control the ingredients). Just make a traditional PB&J sandwich, but leave an empty border around the edge of the bread. Then use a sandwich sealer to squeeze the bread together and remove the crusts. Wrap individually in aluminum foil and store in the freezer until you need to pop them into a lunch box.
Ham and Mac & Cheese Lunchbox Muffins
Vanessa M.: This fun boxed mac & cheese hack is easy to pack, and takes all the mess out of mac & cheese. And let's face it - they are more fun! Combine mac & cheese, ham, eggs, and bread crumbs together, then mold them into muffin pans and bake. From I Should Be Mopping The Floor
Sun Butter and Jelly Sandwich
Michael Farina: I could spend hours prepping gourmet lunches, but the #1 request I get from the kiddos is for PBJs. With most schools designated as nut-free zones, I have tried a few substitutes for peanut butter, including soy butter, cream cheese, and cookie butter. Our favorite is sun butter, which is made from sunflower seeds. It has less of an aftertaste than soy butter, and it's got more protein than cookie butter.
Easy Crockpot Potato Soup
Erynn: Any soup can travel well with kids if it's packed in a thermos, so this easy crock pot recipe is a great option for cooler weather. It's more filling than thinner soups, and with a side of bread plus some veggies or fruit, it makes a complete meal.
Bonus: this soup is gluten free and vegan, so it's perfect for kids with specific dietary restrictions (just follow the instructions to sub dairy for dairy alternatives). From Veggie Balance
Hummus and Pita
Kelly R.: Pack some pita triangles with hummus (we like to send ours in a reusable condiment-size container). Add some veggies for dipping, too!
Yogurt and Granola
Kelly R.: Pack some yogurt in a small thermos, and include fun add-ons that your child can top it with when it's time for lunch. Granola, dried fruit, fresh fruit, sliced almonds...and maybe a couple of chocolate chips?!
Sarah Calamita: If you put frozen fruit in the lunch box it will be slightly cold at lunch. A naturally sweet treat.
Sarah Calamita: Theme your lunch! Star theme is fun! Gummy stars (365 by Whole Foods Market), cucumber stars (cut with mini star cutter), cantaloupe/watermelon kabob (cut in stars), star silicone to hold guacamole and the original Lahvosh star shaped crackers - my kids love these!
Sarah Calamita: These are the lowest sugar yogurts out there! Kids love them and healthy, too.
Homemade Pizza Pockets
Mommyx3 (Monique H): These can easily be prepped the night before and still be fresh and yummy the next day for lunch. Just take some pizza crust, any kind of cheese either shredded or cheese stick, tomato sauce/pizza sauce and pepperoni's if you like, but my children just prefer cheese for their stuffing, fold and top with a brush of oil or butter and bake. Easy and tasty! From One Little Project
Bagel and Cream Cheese
Kelly R.: It doesn't get much easier than a bagel with cream cheese! We like to do mini bagels, so there's plenty of room in the lunch box (and the belly) to round it out with fresh fruit and veggies.
Sarah Calamita: Cut a sandwich in a heart shape, add heart pretzels and cut your strawberries in a heart shape. Healthy foods but kids will enjoy it because it looks cute! :)
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