Sometimes, part of getting a toddler to eat isn’t just about what you’re feeding them. You might need to play around with textures and different shapes when coming up with lunch ideas for a toddler, like changing up the way a PB&J is cut. I find that with my very particular 2-year-old, I can often get her to eat things she’s unsure of by placing it right next to something I know she loves. She’ll start eating the thing she loves, then she realizes she’s hungry and eats the other food as well.
A toddler lunch box is a great idea for all of these reasons, and you can use them whether your toddler is in daycare, school, or just at home. Start by getting a cute leakproof bento box for kids and then fill it up with treats.
The toddler lunch ideas below are creative and will make lunch seem exciting, which is exactly what you want, especially if you’re dealing with a picky eater Feel free to copy them completely or just use them as a source of inspiration. Change up little details (like swapping celery sticks for carrot sticks) depending on what your child likes. A well-balanced lunch box should include a protein, carbs, fruit, veggies, and a crunchy snack.
Don’t want to waste food? No problem. This flower-shaped jelly sandwich idea has excess mini sandwich circles on a skewer. Both are creative ways to present an otherwise run-of-the-mill main and look great next to pinwheel-shaped cucumbers and carrots. Strawberries, tomatoes, and crackers make great sides as well.
Rainbow Pancake Skewers
Mini pancakes are the perfect size to squeeze into the compartment of a bento box. If you have the energy, make a couple colorful batches using different food dye colors, but it would be just as fun if they were all one color. Fill a leakproof container with a bit of syrup for dipping or yogurt for protein. Your toddler will appreciate the face on their cucumber slice so much, they’ll forget you put vegetables in their lunch.
This cute little banana roll-up lunch box from Family Fresh Meals is perfect for a toddler who loves fruit and snacks, but isn’t really into meat yet (which basically explains my daughter). The roll-ups are a whole wheat tortilla, a banana, and peanut butter, and they’re a great alternative to PB&J. Add a small orange, some pretzels or another crunchy snack, and some celery sticks to round it out. The peanut butter adds some protein and keeps this filling, and they’ll love picking at the snacks.
Turkey and cheese make for another great pinwheel idea — these mini roll-up sandwiches are easy for toddlers to grab and make for simple portion control. Using this idea from Two Peas and Their Pod, fill a whole wheat tortilla with turkey, mustard, cheese, thin apple slices, and spinach, then roll up and cut. Add sides like grapes (cut them in quarters for toddlers), potato chips, a small granola bar, carrots (also modified for toddlers), and cucumbers.
This idea from Yummy Toddler Food is very simple and easy to adapt to your toddler’s tastes. You can make your own small PB&J Uncrustables, or you can buy them and serve them out of the package. Add a cheese stick, some sliced cucumbers, and some melon pieces. It’s balanced, super fast, and very versatile.
Yogurt & Granola
If you scroll to the fourth slide, you’ll see a really cute yogurt and granola idea from Yummy Toddler Food that is ideal for toddlers who like sweet stuff. It includes some plain yogurt with granola (be sure to pick out any large pieces they could potentially choke on), kiwi, strawberries, and tomatoes. It’s full of sweet options that aren’t too sugary, and the granola adds a nice crunch.
Ham, Apples, & Cheese Wraps
This cute low-carb ham and cheese wrap idea from Family Fresh Meals is different and easy to put together, and it’s great for gluten-free toddlers or little ones who just aren’t that into bread and sandwiches. Using thicker slices of ham, wrap up apple slices and cheddar cheese slices. Add a fruit like grapes (you’ll want to cut them up), and some crackers for a crunch.
PBJ Waffle Sandwich Lunch Box
Put a new spin on peanut butter and jelly with this easy waffle lunch box idea from Family Fresh Meals. Grab two waffles (either from the freezer or homemade), and spread them with jelly and peanut butter. Cut them in half so they’re easy for little hands to grab and they look like a sandwich. Add a mandarin (you might need to peel it) and a halved hard-boiled egg for more protein.
Another super simple and unique idea from Family Fresh Meals, this quesadilla lunch box incorporates dips, which are almost always a win for toddlers: They tend to love condiments and find it exciting to dip their food. Make a cheese quesadilla (you can add chicken if you’d like), then cut into triangles. Add small cups of sour cream and salsa, and on the side, some cut-up grapes and avocado slices.
Owl Toast Lunch Box
Want to get seriously creative? Then make this owl toast that is almost too cute to eat from Two Peas and Their Pod. One slice of bread, almond butter, and pieces of banana, kiwi, strawberry, blueberries, and Cheerios make up the owl, and your kid will love picking apart their sandwich. You can add some sliced grapes, more strawberries and blueberries, and some carrots, celery, and cucumbers as snacks. A little yogurt or ranch dip is a nice addition.
Deconstructed Turkey Sandwiches
In this post, Yummy Toddler Food gives turkey sandwich lunch box options for young toddlers about a year old, older toddlers, and older kids. You can spread bread with a little mayo or mustard, cut into pieces, and then add some sliced turkey and cheese on the side (they can put the sandwiches together or eat everything separately). Add some sliced grapes and thinly sliced red peppers for snacks, and some avocado for a healthy fat.
Deli Meat Rollups
This versatile deli meat lunch idea from Good Life Eats is really easy to change up according to your toddler’s tastes and works for a variety of ages. Roll up a few slices of their favorite deli meat, and mix that with crackers and sliced cheese. Orange slices or a mandarin make a yummy fruit choice, and granola with yogurt and chocolate-covered raisins is a healthy and sweet addition.
Spiderman Pancake Lunch
If your little one loves Spiderman, then they’ll love this breakfast for lunch idea from Cookies and Cups. Add a few frozen or homemade pancakes with a fruit cup (or cut-up fresh fruit). You might also want to add a little container of maple syrup for dipping. Pistachios are good for older kids, while small granola might be better for toddlers. Add some pretzels and a decorated Babybel cheese or tomato on lettuce. You also don’t have to add the spider details if you don’t want to!
Copycat Starbucks Protein Box
OK, so this Starbucks copycat box from Damn Delicious wasn’t specifically made with toddlers in mind, but it’s a great idea for toddlers regardless. Make your own at home with apple slices, carrot and celery sticks, and chunks of cheddar cheese. Peanut butter or almond butter is great for dipping, a halved hard boiled egg makes for extra protein, and a small muffin or pita bread is a nice carb.
Sandwich Sushi Roll
How adorable is this sandwich sushi roll idea from Eating Richly? It’s pretty easy to put together and makes sandwiches fun, and can be great for meal prep. With a rolling pin, roll a piece of whole grain bread until it’s very thin (or use a tortilla), then top it with your kid’s favorite deli meat, a thin carrot stick, cucumber piece, and a chunk of cheddar cheese. Roll up and cut. Put this in a box with sides like sliced apples, a piece of chocolate, raspberries, and some cooked broccoli.
Grilled Cheese Box
Bring it back to the basics with this simple but delicious grilled cheese lunch box idea from Family Fresh Meals. Make a grilled cheese, then cut it into fours or smaller pieces (you can cut the crust off if necessary, of course). Serve it with a small covered container of tomato soup for dipping or eating with a spoon, and some small pickles. You might also want to add some fruit.
English Muffin Pizzas
Another basic you really can’t go wrong with is an English muffin pizza, and this idea from Family Fresh Meals is so perfect. Spread a toasted English muffin with tomato sauce and cheese (and maybe a protein if your toddler would like it), then broil for a few minutes until the cheese is melted. Serve with sliced cucumbers and grapes for balance.
This egg muffin breakfast for lunch idea from Yummy Toddler Food looks delicious and easy. You can meal prep spinach egg muffins (or any kind) at the beginning of the week, then cut them into bite-sized pieces and add them to the lunch box. Serve with sliced cucumbers and melon pieces, and add some cereal or puffs (or a mix). It’s easy and fast, making this great for busy mornings.
Waffle sticks are another genius way to serve breakfast for lunch, and this idea from The Yumbox Mama nails it. Cornbread waffles or regular ones can be cut into easy-to-grab sticks. Add a side of maple syrup for dipping, some cut-up strawberries, a piece of cheese, and a mini pepperoni stick for protein. For more protein, a squeezable yogurt pouch is an easy addition.
Preschool Lunch Box
Made with preschool aged toddlers in mind, this lunch box idea from Because I Said So, Mama is a vegetarian option with some delicious and healthy snacks. There’s a black bean and cheese quesadilla, Goldfish for some crunch, sliced cucumbers and strawberries, and a pouch of Made Good cookies for dessert. It’s easy and satisfying.
Kindergarten Lunch Box
For toddlers who are a little older, there’s this kindergarten lunch box idea from Because I Said So, Mama that is really easy to put together as well. Meal prep chicken salad to add to the box, then add sides like carrots, tomatoes, blueberries, crackers, and a Nature’s Bakery bar. There’s a wide variety here and it’s all good for the little ones.
DIY Lunchable Brunchable Sausage Box
Another breakfast for lunch idea that toddlers will love is this mix of sweet and savory from Family Fresh Meals. Stack pancakes with sausage patties and some cheese — you can do this on fun food picks, or if you’re not comfortable with that, just stack them next to each other. Add some sliced fruit and a little bit of flavored yogurt. You can also add a cup of maple syrup if you want.
Pasta & Peas
If you scroll to slide two in this set of images from Yummy Toddler Food, you’ll find a fun way to incorporate pasta into a lunch box. Mix up pasta, butter, cheese, and peas for a satisfying lunch, then add sides like energy bites or granola and a pouch of applesauce. This is really easy to meal prep.
Every kid-friendly meal on this list from Wholefully is a great idea for your toddler to enjoy, but this one is an especially useful way to use leftovers from the night before in your little one’s lunch the next day. It features skewers with burger pieces, cheddar cheese, and lettuce alongside some yummy sides like pretzels, coconut chocolate chip superfood cookies, cantaloupe slices, and cucumber spears with hummus. And this recipe doesn’t necessarily have to use hamburger meat — it could very easily be a turkey burger, veggie burger, or whatever protein patty you have at home.
Waffle Peanut Butter and Apple Sandwich
This easy waffle recipe from Simply LaKita is like brunch for toddlers — it’s perfect for both the morning and midday. All you need to do is toast two of your little one’s favorite waffles, top one side with peanut butter (or any nut butter), and top that with some thin slices of apple. Then cover it with the other toasted waffle and pair that with come carrots and diced cheese on the side.
Tortellini Pasta Box
Another great option for a toddler lunch from Family Fresh Meals is this easy tortellini lunch box idea. The recipe features a cup of cooked tortellini, along with side cups of pizza sauce and shredded cheese. The best part is that it can be eaten hot or cold — warmed up with hot tortellini, sauce, and melted cheese or served cold and perfect for dipping, whichever way your little one likes.
Veggie Crescent Bites
Not only are these crescent roll pizza snacks from Mom On Timeout colorful and bright, but they’re also super nutritious. The spread is made with sour cream and cream cheese, as well as any type of fresh or dried herbs you have, such as chives and dill. Then you can top that with any veggies you like — red, yellow, and orange bell peppers make it vibrant, crunchy, and sweet. And if you want to add some greens, broccoli and cucumber are great additions, too.
Sweet ‘n Sassy Sweet Potato Pockets
This recipe from Healthy Happy Life is like an entire vegan Thanksgiving meal stuffed inside a puffy pita pocket and is sure to make your little one happy and full. These toasted whole grain pita pockets contain fiber and vitamin A-rich sweet potatoes, garlic, protein-rich hummus, cranberry and citrus chutney, and a dose of nutrients from the parsley and mixed greens for a balanced meal. You might even want to make some just for yourself!
Remember, if these lunch ideas don’t work for you the way they are, just use them as a jumping point to come up with your own. We think you’ll find at least one your toddler will love!
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