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.
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.”
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.