With my son starting preschool for the first time this fall, I have to start figuring out some preschool lunch ideas that are toddler-appropriate. He still lacks the teeth to eat anything that requires a thorough chewing. (Read: nuts or baby carrots). Fruits with pits are a no-go, his utensil skills are shaky at best, and his school doesn’t refrigerate or heat foods.
How do I keep him properly fed without these options — or the mac and cheese he so gleefully flings at home?
Turns out my favorite family food bloggers have me covered with these easy preschool lunch ideas for toddlers (also great for daycare!), to help get the year off to a good start — and inspire me to keep going for the long haul.
If you’re looking for the patron saint of little people food, I’m bestowing that title on Catherine McCord of Weelicious. Her site almost always the first place I check — well, after Cool Mom Eats — when I’m out of ideas for feeding my toddler.
As for a preschool lunch idea I know my son will eat, I love her aesthetically pleasing arrangement of common lunch fare in this PB&J skewers toddler school lunch. Way more fun than just cutting off the crusts! And of course if your own preschool or daycare center is nut-free, sunbutter is a worthy substitute and with enough jelly, kids get used to it pretty quickly.
If by October your kids are over PB&J, I like this alternative from our editor Stacie in this cream cheese and carrot sandwich that she posted on her personal @OneHungryMama Instagram feed. Such a smart preschool lunch idea for toddlers! You could also swap in cucumbers or you know…just plain cream cheese on toast if that’s your kid’s thing. Just be sure to add in some protein, like the uncured pepperoni you see here.
Raise your hand if you’d also happily eat this for your lunch. I’ll be making extra portions of this roasted sweet potato and goat cheese bento lunch from @YummyToddlerFood on Instagram. Yes, including the french toast with jam and sprinkles. Not sure that every toddler can handle this much food for preschool lunch, but you can always halve it and still have a gorgeous idea.
If you don’t mind a little weekend prep for the week of school lunches ahead, try these totally-worth-it, make-ahead mini taco hand pies for a perfect preschool lunch idea for a toddler, thanks to the recipe at Lemons for Lulu. They’re more work on the front end, but they make an almost complete meal (just guac and maybe salsa, of course) by themselves. Weekdays managed! And I know my son would be so excited for what looks like a little gift-wrapped edible present.
Prepping a preschool lunch while simultaneously caring for a toddler isn’t easy. I refuse to feel guilty about opting for a simple, mostly store-bought meal sometimes, especially when it’s still healthy. So I’m saving this deli meat bento school lunch from Natasha’s Kitchen for Fridays. Or any hectic day that feels like Friday. You could literally whip this up in about three minutes, and that includes slicing the cukes!
I especially love her sweet Post-It note in the center! But if your toddler isn’t reading quite yet, a sticker with a favorite cartoon character saying I LOVE YOU! should do the trick.