School Lunchbox Ideas

Now that the school year is off to a start perhaps you are looking for new lunch ideas for your child.  Do you have a picky eater? Trying to branch out from sandwiches and mix up their lunch box repertoire? After working in Early Education for many years I have come up with many healthy and nut free options, since most schools are now nut free.  Here are just a few (please remember that based on the age of your child you will need to cut/slice food to appropriate size):

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Lunch Box Ideas
  • Grilled Cheese
  • Rice Cakes and Sun Butter
  • Deli Meat Rollup
  • Pasta (Tortellini, mac and cheese, spaghetti, etc.)
  • mini waffles or pancakes
  • muffins
  • Pita with hummus
  • Sweet and Sour Kielbasa
  • Quesadilla

Pair these main options with:

  • Yogurt
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Steamed veggies
  • Cheese Stick
  • Cottage Cheese
  • 3 bean salad
  • Tabouli
  • Yogurt covered pretzels
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Rice
  • Avocado slices

Why not pack your own lunch at the same time!  You’ll definitely feel like you are eating healthier and saving more money than ordering lunch every day.  Leftovers from dinner the night before are also great lunch ideas!

What was in your lunch box today?

Here are some of our favorite lunch boxes – amazon links:


Rainbows and Pots of Gold in Preschool!

There is nothing like an upcoming holiday to get Preschoolers over the moon excited.  One of my favorite ones is St. Patrick’s Day.  Even if you don’t celebrate holidays at your school, or in your home, there are so many awesome themes that can be incorporated into a March curriculum.  The first round up I did was on Rainbows and Pots of Gold.  Enjoy!

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One Artsy Momma’s fruit loop Rainbow

One Artsy Momma creates a super simple but really fun Fruit Loop Rainbow!  I’m sure kids would love snacking away as they create, but this is also a great way to practice sorting colors, following the order of the rainbow, and strengthening those fine motor skills.

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Shamrock Necklace by Mamas Like Me

Still have fruit loops left over?  Try making these awesome personalized Shamrock Necklaces by Mamas Like Me.   Your children will definitely strengthen their fine motor skills as they work to string fruit loops on a necklace.  And what a fun necklace it is!

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Q-tip painting with Make and Takes

I love this adorable and, relatively, mess free Q-tip rainbow painting!  Make and Take taped together q-tips and added paint for a simple way to create the rainbow.  You could use q-tips individually to, but this is a neat way to swipe just like a paintbrush.  And think of how mess free it can be compared to finger painting!

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Pot of Gold from B-inspired Mama`

This is a great little Hand Print Pot of Gold from B-inspired Mama.  Definitely starts to get messy when you add in painting hands, but kids love to see their handprints turn into art work.  If you don’t have the foil wrappers it would be super easy to make the gold coins out of something else as well.

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Pot of Gold from Babble

Here is another, less messy, take on a Pot of Gold from Babble.  Using pre-cut pieces of tissue paper is a super simple way to create the rainbow.  Children will again have the opportunity to sort by colors and follow the pattern of the rainbow.  Instant art!

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St. Patrick’s Day Book Mark from Teaching my Friends!

This is such a simple but adorable bookmark!  Paint chips that you can find at any Hardware store are great for projects.  Children will also get to see the various shades of a color and how the all come from the same family.  You could use hole punches, stickers, stamps, or anything you want really to decorate.  And then a little rainbow ribbon flare at the top, ta-da!  Children would love creating book marks to use!

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End of the Rainbow Twirler by Crafty Morning

There are so many things you can create from paper plates, and this one is great!  Crafty Morning painted a paper plate rainbow style first, and then cut it in a spiral.  Children can have a blast painting, and when it dries, you can help with the cutting.  It would look awesome hanging from the ceiling!

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Streamer Rainbows by Happiness is Homemade

Another great project to hang from the ceiling or windows!  Happiness is Homemade uses half a paper plate, streamers and cotton balls.  Almost all of the materials you probably have hanging around the house!  It’s a simple project with a great end result!  Children of all ages will love the 3D effect and the moveable streamers.

How do Infants and Toddlers Use Books?

Last time I talked about some of the things we can expect Infants and Toddlers to learn through the use of books.  I ended by saying that we cannot expect Infants and Toddlers to sit for a story like Preschoolers, so what exactly do we expect for them to do with books?  That is a really good question!  Lets talk about some age appropriate uses for books.

Just like Infants and Toddlers aren’t able to sit for a story like preschoolers, they also aren’t able to use and appreciate books in the same way that preschoolers or older children are.  Infants and Toddlers explore books differently, oftentimes with their mouths, and that is completely ok!  As their senses are developing they want to explore their world through all of their senses.  Having plastic books or sturdy board books will allow for mouthing without destroying pages.  Another great idea are bath books, mouth away!

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Bath Books are a great alternative to young children who are exploring their world by putting everything into their mouths!

Another sense that these young children are developing is their hearing.  Books that have sounds and songs are great!  They will oftentimes be more engaged, and they are also learning cause and effect.  What happens when I turn the page?  Music starts to play!  What happens when I push this button?  I hear a squeaking noise!  Learning to manipulate these elements of books will take practice, let your child explore them freely.

Many children will enjoy being read to, and now is a great time to make story time interactive.  Engage your children letting them complete stories, point out illustrations, find things on the pages and answer questions.  “Can you find the blue car?” Try to relate elements back to them.  “The caterpillar is eating strawberries, just like you eat strawberries!”

Young children will also start to learn how to manipulate books, usually by turning pages back and forth.  They are developing their sense of sight and increasing hand eye coordination.  They will start to feel a sense of accomplishment, and you will probably notice that they start to gravitate towards books more frequently!

A great way to engage young children with story time is to create your own picture books.  When they see familiar places or faces they will give out a contagious excitement.  You can relive your enjoyment of reading with your children.

As always, leave out appropriate books that are easily accessible for your child.  Enjoy when you can spend quality time reading together.  If you find that your child is getting bored, or has a short attention span, that is perfectly ok and completely developmentally appropriate.  Don’t force books on them, let it be a choice, and when they loose interest allow them to move on.

These moments you spend with your children will go a long way towards increasing their vocabulary and language.  Even if they are too young to be expressing themselves, they are internalizing what you are saying and doing, their brains are developing at a rapid rate, and new vocabulary words are being discovered and internalized.  Early Literacy can play a huge role in language development.

As children get older, you can expand their learning by using activities that relate to stories they are reading.  Come back later this week for some great book activity ideas!

What are Infants and Toddlers learning through books?

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents” – Emilie Buchwald

When books are introduced at the infant age it is not with the expectation that children will sit still to read them, but more with the purpose of introducing literacy and creating a “normalcy” to having books available.  Why do we have books for young children if they aren’t able to use them “appropriately” yet?

Books are used for a number of reasons.  Obviously the most important being literacy and language.  Books are a great resource for teaching vocabulary and language concepts, which in turn helps to promote cognition.  Before babies are even able to talk, they are benefiting from hearing you read and are internalizing the words that you are using.  As they get older they will start to learn that the words and pictures together are telling a story.

Books can be used as a great sensory tool, particularly for Infants and Toddlers.  Babies and young children like to touch and taste, so books with textures, sounds, moveable and pop up pieces can all incorporate meaningful sensory experiences.  Older Infants and Toddlers are developing motor control, which can also be incorporated as they learn to manipulate different pieces of various books.  Sometimes just being able to pick up the book and pretend to turn the pages is satisfying enough! Squishy, colorful and fabric books will particularly enhance sensory experience for young children.

Books can help support emotional development in children.  As I talked about in a previous post, children have a sense of accomplishment when they master something.  Books with repetition are one of the best way for children to master a story, and gain that sense of accomplishment.  This can strengthen their sense of self and build positive esteem, snowballing into that positive emotional development.  Books are also a great way to incorporate conversations about emotions.  For example by using the book “When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry…” by Molly Bang.  Conversation starters are almost built in!  “Why is Sophie feeling angry?” “What do you do when you’re feeling angry?”

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Another added benefit to reading with young children is the social aspect.  If you are reading individually to your child you are teaching them that they are important and you want to spend your time with them.  That individual attention can be invaluable.  In a group setting, reading stories with a small or large group can still give that individual attention and feeling of importance to children.  Sometimes children might look at books together, or sit near each other and look at different books.  Again, this gives that social interaction and shared experience around a love of reading.

When children observe adults reading for fun, they internalize that reading is fun, important and beneficial.  It is impossible to read too much to a child.  Remember to have appropriate books located in accessible and various locations.  The more you read, the more you will start to see your child gravitate towards books, even when you aren’t initiating the story time!

We cannot expect Infants and Toddlers to sit for a story like Preschoolers, so what exactly do we expect for them to do with books?  Tune in later this week for my explanation!

The Importance of Reading to Infants and Toddlers

During the infant and toddler age a child’s brain is being wired.  We can directly effect their ability to think conceptually and manipulate language by reading to them, consistently and often.  Books allow opportunities for us to talk with, not at, children.  We can communicate verbally with words, and nonverbally with pictures.  Infants and Toddlers are at an age where they are learning to associate that pictures and words together tell a story.  We are helping children not only develop vocabulary, but identify words to describe and define actions, feelings, emotions and the world that surrounds them.

During the next few weeks I will be doing a series of posts on ways to incorporate books with young children.  Some of the highlights will be specific stories that are great with this age, particularly books that have rhythm, repetition and rhymes.  A description of why these books are so important at this age.  How we should use books with Infants and Toddlers, and how to involve children in the stories – for example when I described talking with children and not at them.  I will also talk about how to expand on stories by adding accompanying activities that are meaningful and age appropriate.  And finally I will end the series with how to create your own books and why this is important.

Today I want to talk about what some of the benefits to reading to young children are.  Language and books are connected, and as adults we often associate books with literacy.  So by introducing books to even the youngest children, we can enhance their cognition.  We are doing this by incorporating new vocabulary and introducing new concepts.  As we stated, children are starting to learn that words and pictures together tell a story.  The best stories to use with Infants and Toddlers contain some kind of predictability, repetition and rhymes.  This is similar to the need for songs, finger plays, poems and rhymes.  Children have a sense of accomplishment when they are able to master something.  Hearing stories that contain repetition and rhymes will give them that sense of mastery.  Being able to pause and let children fill in words or what comes next will not only involve them in the story and enhance their social experience, but it will also give them that satisfactory sense of having mastered something.

Some of my favorite books that involve predictability, rhymes and repetition for Infants and Toddlers are:

51XqfNJbuZL._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do you See?  By Bill Martin Jr.

51Wkqzc4j8L._SY404_BO1,204,203,200_Jump, Frog, Jump by Robert Kaplan

61MvWm6VOEL._SY448_BO1,204,203,200_5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow

And as they get a little older more for the Preschool age:

UnknownGreen Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

51UBqnzGaNL._SX432_BO1,204,203,200_Silly Sally by Audrey Wood

511-N7b06hL._SY497_BO1,204,203,200_The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle

The best advice I can give you is:

  • Stock up on sturdy board books so that your infant or toddler can access them independently.
  • Look for books that offer rhymes, repetition or predictability so that as you read them your child can feel involved.
  • Talk to your child as you read.  Talk about the cover, talk about the author, talk about the pictures, ask them questions.  For example, “Can you find the dog?” “What color is the bird?” “How do you think the boy feels?”  By doing this you are creating those strong cognitive connections!
  • And read to them often!  Surround them by language and literacy.  

Happy Reading!

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