When my son Walter started school in September he struggled in a big way. Not academically (in fact it was suggested to us that we skip him ahead a year) but behaviourally. He would over feed the class goldfish, colour on the table when done with his project and even once tackled a kid in the hallway.
Walter is very fortunate to have a great teacher and a wonderful ECE in the classroom everyday. So I joined forces with them to figure out some real solutions for Walter. In time he settled down, but we kept up consistent communication with his teacher. She would send home a notebook every night letting us know how his day was. If it was a positive report he got a check mark. A week of checks and he got to choose a treat. Usually he chose McDonalds as his treat. We allowed it.
Then a funny thing happened. I started to notice that the nights we got him McDonalds were the nights we were fighting with him to finish his dinner, and the ONLY times Audrey left food on her plate. I guess it was so ingrained in me that "kids like McDonald's" that I never bothered to question it. And it took me months of Walter not finishing his "reward dinners" to notice. After all, why would he request it if he doesn't like it?
So how then do I get my four year old as excited by healthy food as he is about toys? Ah ha! Make food fun! I remembered seeing a Japanese style of food presentation (bento) that looked cute. So I started looking it up. I could do this!! Not all of it, of course. Walter and That Guy are both allergic to eggs and since cooked eggs are easily shaped they are often used in this style. I am also not a fan of licensed products, so I would rarely attempt to make anything Hello Kitty or Disney Cars. If I am going to be totally honest I can barely get out a recognizable cat, let alone something exactly like Hello Kitty.
But I have made some things that are reasonably cute. I primarily pack these in Walters school lunch, but they have also become really great options for reward dinners. And moreover, rather than trying to hide veggies in the meatloaf and not letting kids in on the secret that they really do like carrots I am celebrating the fruits and veggies Walter eats. They are all there, dressed up but in plain sight. So when Walter eats an apple that looks like an umbrella he knows he likes apples!
This is the sandwich I sent in Walters lunch yesterday.
If I estimate that it takes me ten minutes to pack Walter an average lunch (sandwich, fruit, vegetables, drink ect) then its pretty fair to say a fun bento lunch takes me about 13-14 minutes.
And really, if Walter likes this (as empty food containers coming home from school prove) and he DOESN'T like McDonalds, it takes about 15 minutes to go out and grab McDonalds- so this is healthier, faster, and more cost effective!
As I get and try more fun ideas, and as my bento skill set improves I will share them with you, gentle readers. Along with some quick tutorials on how you can do it yourself, if you so desire.