Sunday, October 3, 2010

Lunch boxes and containers

     Helping our children to be as independent as possible is the goal of all Montessori parents and teachers.  So it was with some surprise that I realized, while talking about "child & earth friendly" food containers at orientation last month, that I'd never stopped to look at this issue from a parent's perspective.

      I decided to take a closer look at the choices parents have in the way of boxes and containers and came to this conclusion.  There are many food containers that  a 5 year old can handle but there are very few that are easy for a 3 year old. 

     The child in the picture below, is 5 and he is taking the lid off a kind of plastic container that can be found in most department stores.  As you can see, he turns the box sideways to get a better grip on the box.  Most children do this and, if they aren't holding the box over the table, end up with their food on the floor. 

    Here, a girl is opening a larger, glass container.  She is also tilting the box to get a better grip.  This is fine as long as the food inside is not something with a sauce or liquid. 

The next picture is of a lunch box that was purchased in Hong Kong and reminds me of a Bento Box.

It has separate compartments which hold several different sizes of containers.

The lid snaps onto the rim of the box.  I have found that this kind of lid is the easiest for the young children to undo and close as long as the rim is one continuous lip.... 

instead of a prong lock as in the next picture.  These are just too difficult for most 3 & 4 year olds to line up and snap closed.

There are some mass produced boxes on the market now with built in compartments to separate foods.  Watching the children opening these, I concluded that they are not any easier than their glass counterparts.

The very best solution I've seen for helping a child with lunchtime independence is in  this next picture - each item had been carefully folded in wax paper.  The folding was such that it did not come apart in the boy's lunch box yet it was easy for him to get apart.  In our neck of the woods, wax paper can be thrown into the city compost so this is also a very 'green' solution and much better than plastic sandwich bags.

     While discussing this topic with another teacher at our school, she pointed out that when a child does need help with a container, we help that child in the form of a presentation.  In other words, we hold the container in front of the child, making sure that our hands and arms aren't blocking his view, and open the container very slowly.  Presented this way, the child can see what is involved in opening the container and, after a few more tries, may be able to open it himself.  At home, a parent can do the same thing with their child.  This gives the child an opportunity to open the container for the first time at home, rather than at school.


  1. Lots of great info here and important points to consider when packing lunches for small children. Here's another waste-free option that's affordable & green, but most importantly, easy for kid to use and moms to pack: My EasyLunchbox System - 2 piece compartmentalized bento-style containers and insulated coolers. Less pieces, more function! Perfect for adults and kids. FDA approved. No BPA, phthalates, lead, vinyl, or PVC. Make sure to visit our inspirational gallery of lunches - lots of great meal ideas! - Kelly Lester, mom and CEO,

  2. Thanks, Kelly. Your website offers some grat ideas for lunch.