Who would have thought that the world of lunchboxes would be so competitive and cut-throat? Over the years, preparing lunchboxes have shifted from being a plain old vegemite sandwich and an apple to a gourmet selection of elaborate creations.

You only need to scroll through the many lunchbox groups on Facebook to feel 100 per cent inadequate as a mum. How is it possible to compete with the incredible cookie-cutter sandwiches, bread rolls in the shape of Hello Kitty, sushi, fried rice, watermelon stars and homemade bliss balls.

Yes, I know it’s not a competition but it’s hard not to secretly feel at least a little jelly about the incredible lunchboxes some mums come up with. The proudest creation was buying an edible marker and putting a face on my kids’ sandwich the other day.

No Time To Eat!

The problem is that while parents may have the time to concoct school lunches fit for royalty, the kids don’t have the time to eat them. Many mums moan that the lunch box comes back mostly full and that the kid devours the contents on the way home.

Stop Overpacking Lunch Boxes!

In a number of posts on a Lunchbox Facebook group, teachers implored parents to stop giving their kids so much food. One teacher explained that kids usually get at most 15 minutes to eat and then 15 minutes to play during their break time at school. 15 minutes is not a long time to chow down a tray of about 5 or 6 different food options. Most kids value their play time over food and will grab a sandwich or scoff down a muffin before heading out to play. The teacher added that the kids don’t generally care if their sanger has bobbly eyes or a carrot nose and it’s just unnecessary fuss.

creative lunch box

Kids Just Want To Play!

“I’m a teacher and sometimes kids don’t eat and I’ve been known to say things like well at least eat half a sandwich or some of the fruit trying to encourage them to eat something. But we can’t make kids eat if they don’t want to!,” another teacher added.

“So many kids just don’t eat at school because of wanting to go play or chatting or whatever it might be,” said another teacher.

(The students) “have a time limit in which they have to stick to. It’s a part of learning independence and time. I know it may seem unreasonable, but parents would then be complaining if they were left too long to eat and didn’t get to play or it disrupted learning.”

“As a teacher, I don’t ‘feel entitled’ to input (on lunchboxes), however, as many young students struggle to eat the contents of their lunchboxes or are too excited to play I will set a minimum that students need to eat to ensure that they are eating something. I will also mention this to their parents so that they are aware.”

You Have No Right!

However, the parents pounced on the teachers, pretty much telling them that she had no right to tell parents how much to pack in their kids’ lunchboxes. Parents said that they know their kids appetite better than any teacher.

Teachers should “focus on educating your child, and not on policing his food intake,” said one mum.

“Teachers need to keep their damn noses out of kids lunch boxes. It’s better to pack more than less. Other wise the poor kids will be starving. They burn so much energy at school.”

“Ignore (the teacher) pack as much as you want, he’s your child, and there’s no law as to how much you can pack in your child’s lunch box.”

“The teacher has no right to say you pack too much food. All parents know their children’s eating habits and what they consume at home.”

“My son’s kinder teacher also asked me to pack less. Personally I refuse. I like my kids to have choice and lots of it.”

“What right do teachers have to dictate what we send with our kids!”

“It’s up to you, as the parent, to send the amount of food you feel is adequate. I’d understand if the teacher said to send MORE food as the child was still hungry, but less food?! Doesn’t make sense, if the child was full they would just leave it in the lunchbox!”

“Teachers are paid to educate your daughter and while you appreciate her concern, you as her mother have nutritional needs to meet and are not having your child come home hungry. She needs fuel for her brain and that’s what’s you are doing.”

lunch box

Teachers Are Not Happy!

The teachers in the group were obviously really upset about the reaction:

“I have been teaching for 8 years and it is very common for children to get upset at lunch time because they think they are required to eat everything in their lunch boxes. Also, Teaching isn’t just about teaching the curriculum, it is about keeping children safe and helping them to make informed choices.”

“I’m also a teacher and I often spend my lunch break ensuring kids eat at least a little lunch and recess. I often miss out on my own lunch. Then I read all these comments and wonder why I bother at all because parents obviously don’t appreciate how much we care about their little ones,” one said.

“I think if your child is coming home with a mostly untouched lunchbox for two weeks, it’s not unreasonable for a teacher to state the obvious and say you’re packing too much.”

Biggest Lunchbox No-No’s

Besides overpacking lunchboxes, there are a number of gripes that our teachers have with the lunchboxes we pack for our kids. These are their biggest No-no’s:

1) Don’t go overboard on designs

Kids prefer simple, easy to eat food so school is not the right environment to start experimenting with different flavours and textures. Just because the food looks like a panda bear, doesn’t mean the child is going to eat it. In fact, some kids won’t eat artistic food because they don’t want to mess it up.

2) Don’t send things your child can’t open

Make sure your child knows how to open their lunch box. It can be very annoying for a teacher if they have 20 or more kids coming up to them because their sophisticated lunch box takes an engineering genius to open it. The same goes for chip packets or muesli bars or anything else that needs a grown-up to open.

3) Don’t pack anything that could spill

It’s the teacher’s worst nightmare when globs of yoghurt or fruit juice or saucy pasta drops onto the floor. Try and avoid sending food that can make too much mess if it lands on the floor. Easy to eat, finger food is what most teachers recommend.

Do you think teachers have a point about parents overpacking lunchboxes? Tell us in the comments below.

  • I think id still rather send my child with too much, than too little. I guess if a certain amount of food is coming home everyday, then it’s easy to work out how much food to send with them.


  • I’ve stopped packing my kids lunches, that’s their job and I find they pack far less than what I would with the whole reasoning being there is not enough time and they want to quickly eat and spend the rest of the time playing, which honestly, I don’t blame them. Kids aren’t designed to sit still and high protein quick carb meals are a better option for them.


  • Although I don’t think teachers can dictate anything regards the lunchboxes, it may still be good to be open for their suggestions. As a mom I just look how each of my children cope with their lunchboxes and tweak where appropriate. My teenagers actually always nibble just a bit of their lunchboxes and eat the majority at home after school, I’ve no problem with that


  • I do see both sides. It does sound like the teacher was not berating the parents, which I think they may have thought was happening to them. They can’t really win- next they will be in trouble for not making the children eat all of their food,


  • I get where they’re coming from and also from a parents view. My little one starts next year and I’m conflicted about what to pack her


  • Back when I was in primary school you had to finish your lunch before you were allowed to play!


  • I’m prob one of those parents but my children go to after school care before I pick them up after work so the extra food always get eaten. I don’t think anyone should judge others but this seems to be a ongoing thing these days.


  • If this is such a concern supply school lunches


  • This is too much. First opinions on nutrition and now quantity. Parents will figure out the appropriate quantity for their child in time


  • School lunches seem to cause so much conflict these days! Not looking forward to when we have school to deal eith


  • I always packed a bit extra. Monday they might feel like a banana, Tuesday could be an apple, so I packed a few extras to give them choices


  • Some parents pack heaps as the kids eat some in the car on their way home or to afternoon actives


  • seems to be a never ending issue


  • I feel in most cases the teachers are very reliable to listen to re: lunch boxes…just the odd occasion they step out of line


  • listen to the teachers. They are the ones experiencing recess and lunchtime. What your child eats at school is different to at home- different place, different distractions, different needs. Teachers are super busy, if they’ve taken the time to mention it to you it’s important. They don’t have time to make drama over nothing.


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