What to do if your kid comes home with uneaten school lunches

There’s nothing worse for a parent than welcoming your kid home from school, opening up their lunch bag to clean it out, and finding it’s full of uneaten food. Besides that fact that it’s wasteful (of both the food and the time you spent packing it), there’s the worry that your kid isn’t getting enough to eat while they’re away from you. What can be done? Try one of these tips to get through it.

1. Focus on mornings

Make sure to provide a filling, nutritious breakfast, and allot plenty of time for your kid to eat it all.

2. Be patient

It can take some kids a while to get used to eating at school, especially kindergarteners. Give it time.

3. Prep for 3:30 p.m.

Until the issue resolves, be ready to offer a larger-than-normal snack (or even a mini meal) after school.

4. Remind them why it matters

Teach your kid that eating lunch gives them more energy for recess and gym, and more focus for learning.

5. Get them involved

Research shows that when kids help pack their lunch, they are more likely to eat it. (As a bonus, it also teaches them responsibility!)

6. Put on your detective hat

Ask your kid questions about what happens at lunch from a place of curiosity, not judgment. You might learn something that helps. For example, they might say they want to eat, but always run out of time.

7. Stick to their faves

If there’s a meal your kid consistently gobbles up, keep offering it. Don’t stress about providing variety—children generally don’t care about meal repetition like grown-ups do.

8. Do a sample run

Feed your kid their school lunch, packed the same way you would for school, when they’re home and watch what happens. Maybe the container lids are too tight for little fingers to pry open, or they don’t quite understand how zip-top bags work.

9. Chat with the school

Educators and support staff have seen it all and might recommend tricks that helped other kids in the past.

10. Consider the consequences

Is it truly a problem that your kid isn’t eating much lunch? Maybe let it go for now if it isn’t causing any major ripple effects. Remember the old adage: This, too, shall pass.

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