Transitioning Toddlers and Preppies to eat out of a lunchbox

By Stella Boyd-Ford, Youthrive Dietitian

When children transition to daycare, kindy or school there is so much excitement. However, there are also many new things to take in, and this can be overwhelming for little minds. Amongst these changes is a new eating environment and routine. It will take time for your child to settle in to this routine, and they may not feel like being adventurous with foods until they are more comfortable.

The following are some tips to help with adjusting to lunchbox eating and packing a lunchbox for your child.

  1. They might not eat everything in their lunch box and this is ok!

Remember: “You provide, they decide.” As a parent, you are responsible for what goes in the lunchbox and your child is responsible for choosing what foods they will eat out of their lunchbox.

Pack foods they already like with new foods to encourage them to try different foods. For example, if your child likes crackers and dip, pack this alongside some veggie sticks. If your child only eats berries, pack some grapes and cherry tomatoes as well as berries. This will ensure that they still have enough food to eat and will not be hungry, but will have the opportunity to try new foods if they want to.

  1. Involve children in the process

Within the parent’s responsibility of choosing what foods to put in the lunchbox, we can also explore different options with children.

For example, when grocery shopping, kids may choose what snacks they would like to buy to be packed, or what pieces of fruit. Giving options where appropriate can be helpful such as: would you like an apple or banana today? What flavor yoghurt would you like? Would you like a cheese sandwich or an egg sandwich?

Cooking lunchbox snacks with kids, or involving them in the lunchbox preparation process (for example, buttering the bread, or putting crackers in a container) can also help with making lunch boxes more fun and familiar.

  1. Make sure your child can open any containers or packets by themselves if needed, and the foods are easy to eat.

This might seem simple, but sometimes we forget how tricky things can be to open for little hands!

  1. Try to include a variety of foods from the core food groups

The five food groups are meat and alternatives, grains, dairy, fruit and vegetables. These all contain a range of nutrients that children need to learn and play. Some examples of lunch boxes for preschool aged children are listed below.


Example 1

A cheese sandwich

A small container of baked beans

A small piece of fresh fruit

A small handful of cherry tomatoes


Example 2

Vegemite sandwich

Cheese stick/babybell cheese

Cucumber sticks/baby cucumber

4 dried apricots


Example 3

Breadroll with roast chicken

Yoghurt tub

Fruit salad in juice cup

Creamed corn or corn on the cob


Example 4

Boiled egg

Cheese cubes

Piece of fresh fruit

Wholegrain crackers



Example 5

Tinned tuna and pasta

Small UHT milk popper