Forget brown paper bags and ho-hum sandwiches — make your kid’s lunch a fun event full of surprises! These cute and fun school lunch ideas for kids, including food and packaging, will make your little one’s midday meal a delight and give them a little pick-me-up if and when they need it.
For more ways to ease the back-to-school transition, check out these back to school traditions you can start with your family. To keep your food budget under control, take advantage of these great deals.
Need more lunchbox inspiration? Check out our guide to packing healthy lunches, plus printable lunch notes to send with lunch!
Don’t forget to check out this year’s back to school sales for some really great deals — even if school’s already started for your kiddos!
1. Fabric napkin
Make mealtime a little prettier by sticking a homemade fabric napkin in your kiddo’s lunch bag. Use any fabric you like with a contrasting backing for a pop of color. You’ll be doing the environment a favor while little ones keep their fingers clean in style!
- Patterned fabric
- Solid contrasting fabric
- Sewing machine and thread that matches your patterned fabric
- Cut the patterned fabric into a 14-inch square. Cut the solid fabric into a 12-inch square.
- Lay the solid fabric on the back side of the patterned fabric, roughly centering it so there’s 1 inch of the patterned fabric showing on each side.
- Fold the patterned fabric in once so it lines up with the solid, then again so it overlaps. Pin in place.
- Continue folding and pinning, including the corners.
- Top stitch around the folded edge, stitching over the corner bits as well. Trim any loose threads. Enjoy!
2. Reusable sandwich bags
Source: Sew McCool
Reusing this adorable baggie is far better for the environment than sticking lunch in a plastic bag every day — and it looks a lot cuter, too! Since it has two pockets, you can fit a sandwich in one side and snack in the other.
3. Matchbox jokes
Source: Confetti Sunshine
Put a smile on your child’s face with these adorable little snack boxes. The free printables make them a breeze to put together, then you just fill them with a few pieces of favorite candy or other treat.
4. PB&J burritos
Source: Mission Menus
Make your go-to PB&J a bit more interesting (and healthier) by rolling it in a tortilla with a banana! Mix it up by using almond butter (or sunflower seed butter) and different types of fruit.
5. Milk jug sandwich box
Source: Creme De La Craft
Make a delightful storage container and recycle at the same time. This lunchbox is made from an old milk jug, and you’ll use a button, embroidery thread, and hair elastic for the closure. You can decorate the top with patterned paper if you like.
6. Skewer sandwiches
Source: Betty Crocker
Make any sandwich easier to nosh on by cutting it into little pieces and sticking it on skewers. If you’re packing multiple lunches, you could make a couple different sandwiches so each kid gets a variety.
7. Fruity love notes
Source: Alpha Mom
Pair a healthy snack with a sweet message to remind your little one of how loved they are. The free printable make them a breeze to create, and the clever puns will put a smile on their faces.
8. Sandwich sushi
Bento boxes are a great way to make lunches that are healthy, organized, and adorable. Try filling one with this kid-friendly take on the sushi. To make, roll tuna fish, carrots, and cucumber in pieces of bread. (Raspberries and melon balls make for a sweet treat.) For more bento box ideas, check out this inspirational gallery.
9. Chicken pot pie muffins
This comforting classic isn’t exactly a portable dish, but if you bake into a muffin it’s perfect for sticking into lunch bags. Kids will feel like they’re eating a special treat, but it’s healthy as well!
10. Notecard messages
Source: Sugar and Cloth
A pretty little note is all it takes to transform lunch from routine to wonderful. Start with the free template to make these chic and sweet note cards, then fill in your personalized message to brighten your kiddo’s day.
11. Fruit-stamped lunch bag
Source: Hello, Wonderful
What better way to decorate a lunch bag than with pieces of fruit? Simply dip them in paint and stamp on a plain fabric bag for a fun pop of color that kids will love to create and to use.
12. Pasta salad
Source: B-Inspired Mama
Take a break from the usual sandwich and pack your kid a pretty pasta salad. Cutting cheese, meat, and vegetables into fun shapes will guarantee they enjoy it.
13. Butterfly snacks
Kids will be excited to eat fruits and veggies when they come packaged as these adorable butterflies. All you need to make them are plastic baggies and clothespins decorated with paint, googly eyes, and pipe cleaners.
14. Stamped utensils
Instead of using plain plastic utensils, decorate eco-friendly wooden ones with colorful stamps. Use a different design every day so your kids will have a fun surprise to look forward to. You could also write or stamp messages.
15. Decorated juice boxes
Source: Land of Nod
Juice or milk boxes are a lunchbox staple, but you can make them more exciting by covering them in decorative paper and attaching the straw using neon tape. Have fun switching up the pattern to match the season or holidays.
16. Lunch labels
Source: Lia Griffith
Label lunch items with these colorful stickers that include a sweet graphic and sentiment, as well as your kid’s name. The free PDF can be printed onto label paper and trimmed to size for an adorable personalized lunch.
17. Embossed food
Source: Hungry Happenings
No need for a pen and paper! Use alphabet stamps to send your kid sweet messages written right onto their food.
This fall think outside the lunchbox with meals that are healthy, cute, and full of surprises. You don’t need expensive ingredients or accessories, just some clever tricks and new takes on old favorites. You’ll have fun putting your creative muscles to use, and you’ll brighten up your child’s day in the process.
Get more school lunch inspiration right here!