They get their own breakfasts and pick out their clothes. Are your kids ready to make their own lunches?

When your children are young, you expect to do for them — putting onesies on their squirmy bodies, feeding them, carrying them from place to place. As they get older, you cede some of the responsibility to them. It’s how they grow.

They learn to put on clothes, tie shoes, ride a bike and … feed themselves.

But how can you know when your children are ready for the responsibility of packing lunches?

What worked for me

My children were six and eight when I first started to give them food responsibility. It came in the form of preparing their own breakfasts using easy to handle foods.

I arranged granola bars and cereal bars in a basket. Fruit sat nearby in another basket. I taught them to use our mini Keurig to make oatmeal. And I painted a sign to remind them what their breakfasts needed: fruit, dairy and a grain.

It worked out well.

They learned to pour bowls of cereal. They mixed and matched foods. I kept the kitchen stocked with easy options.

Empowering them to make breakfast, I also taught them a good life skill. But learning that — and developing a responsibility around that — isn’t an automatic route into feeding oneself for other meals. They needed to get a little older and also learn other skills — how to determine which container, for instance, worked best for which food, how to heat foods, how to use knives safely — before they could pack their own lunches.

We’re not a pre-packed, grab from the fridge family. We make food.

So it was a few years before we added making lunches to the mix. And it wasn’t until middle school that it became an all the time thing.

How do you know if your child is ready to pack their own lunch?

To determine if your child is ready to pack their own lunches, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your child know what makes a good meal?
  • Do they care?
  • Will they voluntarily choose healthy foods? Can they respect a one treat rule?
  • Do they know how to use a butter knife to spread nut butters, jelly or cream cheese? Can they cut a sandwich in half safely?
  • Can they heat up food safely?
  • Can they determine the right container to keep soup hot and ensure it doesn’t spill?
  • Can they make a sandwich, salad, wrap, pita pocket or other foods?
  • Do they have a variety of lunch ideas?
  • Are you comfortable with their kitchen skills?

Letting go isn’t easy

As parents, sometimes we feel a little mournful when our kids don’t need us for the same things they did when they are younger. That can make letting go of things like making lunches harder.

Don’t let it.

While you might not be packing their turkey sandwiches anymore, your kids will still need you — and just like their responsibilities evolve, so do the ways in which you support your kids.