Posts

When I recently read the ingredients of a particular children’s protein shake, I realized I had to share a healthy alternative to PediaSure®. A milkshake that’s marketed to parents as a healthy drink but is filled with sugar, oxidized oils, and synthetic vitamins is certainly not what I would give to my own kids. As a liquid meal replacement, there are much better options.

Best plastic free lunch box gear for kids, including containers, snack size boxes, and water bottles. Read on to prepare your kids for back-to-school with a healthy lunchbox, even before the food gets packed. (links below are affiliate links in Amazon for you to see the various sizes available.)

plastic free lunch box for kids containers in stainless steel and glass

 

What are some first steps we can take to create a plastic free lunch box for kids?

  • Switch to glass and stainless steel whenever possible.
  • Purchase produce not wrapped in plastic, or remove once you purchase from the store.
  • Transfer food to glass storage containers as you meal prep.
  • Avoid putting any plastic you have in the dishwasher.

Why do we want a plastic free lunch box for kids?

In case you missed it, the Academy of Pediatrics released a new study showing the danger of plastics and the effects on children. They released a statement expressing concern about the scientific evidence that chemicals from plastics interfere with the body’s natural hormones and long-term development. The chemicals that are cause for concern in the latest statement include phthalates, which are needed to make plastic flexible. It also includes bisphenol (BPA) which is still used to line metal cans, and also perfluoroalkyl (PFCs) found in grease proof paper and packaging.

Infants and children are particularly vulnerable to exposure to hormone disruptors. This can increase their risk of obesity, diabetes, and fertility issues. Make the switch to glass and stainless steel, for your kitchen and for creating a plastic free lunch box for kids.

Best Plastic Free Lunch Box

Let’s start with the actual bag, or tote, for your kid’s lunch. There are so many options, but not all are created equal. Look for ones that are PVC, BPA & Phthalate-free, and CPSIA compliant. One of our favorites has been the Wildkin brand. (they also make really sturdy backpacks too!)

Plastic Free Lunch Box for Kids

PlanetBox

  • Plastic free lunch box bento style in stainless steel
  • Rover is great for most school aged kids.
  • Launch is great for older kids (and adults)
  • Comes with coordinating containers for “wet” food like yogurt, applesauce, and oatmeal.
plastic free lunch box for kids planetbox ideas

So many amazing lunch ideas for the Planetbox.

 

LunchBots

  • variety of simple, stainless steel containers
  • great for busy parents…keeps packing simple and you can toss them in the dishwasher at the end of the day.
  • I have multiple on hand so some are ready to prep, while others are getting washed overnight

plastic free lunch box lunchbots healthy lunch

 

Plastic free lunch box snack containers, great food storage containers for home and school

  • Kids Konserve– variety of sizes and easy to open silicone lids. I’ve used them for years, and finally ordered a second set last year. Love them.
  • Kid Basix Safe Snacker– sandwich size option, but also fits a salad for my 9-year-old. Added this to our lineup last year and it’s a great multi-use option. Also good for car trips.
    • opt for generic colors so the containers don’t “belong” to any particular child. It will make your packing lunch life easier.
  • Wean Green– we have had our first set of Wean Green containers since our youngest went to daycare at 9 months. We packed baby food in them, and now they hold her salad dressings! They now offer a variety of sizes and they are super durable. Dishwasher friendly and the square sizes pack really well in the lunch box. As you go up in size, they are also great for meal prep!

plastic free lunch box wean green kids

Plastic Free Lunch Box Bags and Accessories

  • Beeswax wraps- skip the bag and use a beeswax wrap. This is great for young kids as it’s easy to open, and doesn’t add extra weight to their backpack like glass does.
  • Lunchskins are our favorite fabric sandwich bags. Itzy Ritzy zippered fabric bags are my favorite for smaller snack size options. They have a ton of cute patterns too!
  • Bamboo utensils to pack for oatmeal, salads, or yogurt parfaits for lunch. Stainless steel kid utensils are great for the dishwasher, but adds more weight to the lunch bag.
  • Stainless steel thermos options are another great way to add more variety to your kid’s lunch. We like the Lunchbots Thermo Soup Jar. It works for when we send in oatmeal or a yogurt parfait. (Or a fried egg that stays hot and can be used for an egg sandwich!)

Plastic Free Water Bottle for Lunch Box

This has been a struggle for way longer than I would like to admit. Between straws that are hard to clean, leaky snap covers, and paint that chips off, we have seen it all. I can give you a few suggestions of what everyone has been happiest with lately.

  • Contigo Thermalock bottle– we bought this last September and it’s still in great shape for the school year ahead! No straw, easy to clean. I do think it’s better for older kids as it may be challenging to open it.
  • Eco Vessel Kids Scout bottle– this has also latest over a year for us. It does have a food-grade silicone straw, but it detaches easily and the spout cleans well too. My younger kids have this one and love it.
  • As our kids get older I see them asking for bigger water bottles. Certainly for sports they need more water. The Hydro Flask brand is a favorite in our house as they have a variety of lids, depending on what you need. The sport top is the easiest for the kids to “lock” so we don’t end up with wet backpacks!

Whew! That’s a lot of info about how to switch to a plastic free lunch box! Happy back to school everyone!

Resources

Hello back to school season! It’s time for a new meal plan that will help you save time, plan ahead, and make lunch packing a breeze. Well, that’s the goal anyways. Life tends to get in the way of our grand plans sometimes. Those early mornings are hard, aren’t they? But, it’s easier to start with a plan and adjust when necessary. My back-to-school meal plan can help you fill in the blank of what’s for dinner when you are making the grocery list for the week ahead.

The recipes I’m sharing use real food ingredients, although I too rely on some quality packaged items to round out my kid’s lunch boxes. They are used when time is tight, or it’s the end of the week and we are out of all the prepped goodies. The kids don’t mind when they get the occasional bag of pretzels or beef jerky sticks. I don’t mind either when I’ve taken the time to read through the ingredient list and weed out the junky versions. Eating well needs to be a balance, for everyone in the family. Time is tight and if you are making a couple of new recipes each week to expose everyone to new flavors, you’re on the right track.

In the coming weeks I’ll share with you some additional lunch packing tips that are specifically for kids. After the novelty of the first couple of weeks, we all need a little variety in the lunch packing routine!

Here’s a few recipes to help you get ready for those after school activities and map out your back to school meal plan!

Sheet-Pan-Shrimp-Fajitas-Back-to-School-Meal-Plan

Dinner

Late Summer Minestrone Soup– one pot meal that’s quick and uses fresh, local ingredients from Aimee at Simple Bites.

Instant Pot Carnitas-from PaleOMG

Cashew Chicken Sheet Pan– another prep ahead option with paleo and gluten free notes included

Thai Basil Turkey Bowls– make this part of your Sunday meal prep for the week. Grab cauliflower rice in the freezer section to save time. 

One Sheet Pan Shrimp Fajitas– quick 20 minute meal from No 2 Pencil

Healthy-Kids-Lunchbox-Ideas-Back-to-School-Meal-Plan

Great “green” lunch from The Natural Nurturer. The mac daddy of all lunch boxes is the PlanetBox.

Lunch

Granola Apple Peanut Butter Crunch Wraps– use my homemade granola listed below and swap in a nut-free butter for school to make this work.

Chickpea and Avocado Salad– from the Natural Nurturer

Chili Garlic Tofu Bowlslook for organic tofu to avoid GMOs.

Breakfast

Sausage Pizza Egg Muffins– from Paleo Running Momma

Banana Almond Chia Puddingmake ahead option from Grits and Chopsticks

Homemade Granola– leave out the nuts and add more seeds (like sesame for calcium!) and then use it as a nut-free school option.

Southwestern Breakfast Bowl -from The Do It All Mama. Make this one for dinner and have the leftovers for breakfast. Mix in some spinach to get in a serving of greens first thing in the morning.

Snacks

Oatmeal Green Smoothie Muffins– totally making these again this week! Super fast to make with your blender.

Cranberry Coconut Energy Bites-swap in pumpkin or sunflower seed butter to make it school-safe.

Fruit Leather-use a dehydrator or your lowest oven setting to set.

Bonus

*Healthy Batch cooking ideas– tons of ideas for all meals of the day. There are lots of ideas here you can add to your own back to school meal plan.

*I purchased the Real Lunches Real Easy III as I love having something new for packing lunches. It’s worth the $10. I’m not an affiliate but think it’s a great product and something you can share with your kids to get their input. I’ll be printing mine at Staples and having it bound together as a true cookbook.

back to school meal plan with quick and easy recipes

For more inspiration, check out the years of past dinner plans here, my Pinterest collection here, or OrgJunkie for a link-up of weekly meal plans. Leave a comment with your favorite family recipe to add a back to school meal plan.

Create Color In Kids Thank You Note Cards

My Grammy once told me how much she appreciated receiving my thank you notes after the holidays and every birthday. When I was young, all I remember was how long it took to write out those cards. Sending a note is such a simple gesture, but it turns out it can be quite meaningful.

Our kids have been blessed with very generous grandparents and extended family. Now it’s our job as parents to work with them to instill the value of gratitude. Explaining the concept of  gratitude via thank you notes is helpful to take that first step. Having cute thank you notes to help the cause is even better.

Kids can write a note on their own paper, create their own card, or try these custom thank-you notes we used this year. Although I’m embarrassed to admit, we are still catching up on holiday/birthday thank you notes. Our kids get a double dose of presents over a month and we are trying to finish up those thank you notes this week. Part of the delay is the challenge of getting a seven year old to spend quality time writing out the notes. I don’t want thank you notes to feel like a chore, but more like an opportunity to discuss the gratitude we feel in our lives. To the children, it may be for presents, but it’s a good time to talk about other blessings. A warm home, healthy food, favorite friends and strong bodies. The less we focus on the “stuff” we are thankful for, maybe the kids will be more protective of the other blessings in their lives.

Color-in-kids-thank-you-notes

 

Try this with your kids. Next time they need to thank someone for a gift, use this as a chance to get them involved. Talk about gratitude and what it means. Then turn the tables and talk about how we can be more generous. Can we donate some toys to a family in need? Drop off a meal to someone who is ill? Call those grandparents more often because we know it makes their day. (Even grown ups need a reminder here sometimes, me included.)

Need some adorable Thank You notes for your kids? Tiny Prints wants to spread the message of gratitude and I’m happy to help. One winner will get 30 Color-In Thank You Notes ($56 value.) Pop over to my Instagram and enter into the contest there. Thank you to Tiny Prints for sharing this product with me and with you too! Contest is open until 3/9.

Thank-you-note-coloring-kids

As we look ahead to the final weeks of preparing school lunches, let’s try to keep things fresh and fun. Here’s a little roundup of easy surprises you can add to your child’s lunchbox or after school snack time routine. Who knows, maybe your kid will try a new piece of fruit if presented with a little humor?

Have fun with these adorable lunchbox ideas!

Cute lunchbox orange

1. Happy little orange snail. (Use a food safe pen.)

Grape caterpillar for lunch

 

2. Line them up! Grape caterpillars.

Cute apple turtle for lunch

3. Sneak in some apple turtles.

Chicks and the mama eggs

4. What came first? The chicken or the egg?

Owl lunch design

5. Give a hoot for this fun owl lunch surprise.

Healthy kids bento lunch

6. Skip the work and just stick with a fun bento box for the kid’s lunch. The Yumbox is still a favorite since it’s lightweight, easy to clean and spill-proof. Pack them for a summer picnic or a car trip. These will make the cut for us on our Toronto road trip in August!

If you want ALL of my easy smoothie recipes in one handy printable recipe book, click here. All recipes are kid-approved!

Enjoy the last few weeks of packing school lunch. Then on to camp lunches…

Sources 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Which one is your favorite adorable lunchbox idea?

The hot weather has finally arrived in our little neck of the woods. Snow pants and wool hats were quickly replaced with sunscreen and sun hats. Getting the kids off to school layered up in sunscreen is a new part of our routine, one they need to get used to for the summer ahead. But what about other ways to protection our skin from the sun’s harsh rays? May is Skin Cancer Awareness month and it has certainly touched many people’s lives. Today I want to share some ways to protect your skin beyond reaching for the bottle of sunscreen.

Sun Protection Beyond the Bottle

Umbrellas

  • Find yourself a fabulous umbrella for the beach. Make sure it has an UPF rating of 50+. (UPF stands for ultraviolet protection factor)
  • The Coolibar Umbrella here is our family favorite. You can see at least 4 of them lined up at our beach spot all summer long with multiple families sharing the cool shade. It’s worth the price.

UPF Clothing

  • There is now a wide variety of choices in clothing with built-inUPF ratings of 50+.
    • Coolibar has womens, mens, kids and babies
    • Athleta and Title Nine also have options now for working out and some beach cover-ups.
    • Mott50 has fashion forward choices, including this awesome infinity scarf accessory.

Mott50 Infinity scarf

 

Hats

  • There are so many choices in fabrics…straw, canvas, and so on.
  • The key is to find one that will cover your ears, one of the top spots for skin cancer to form.
  • Find one with a brim large enough to give you lots of coverage, but not so much that it’s droopy and impedes your peripheral vision. (I had that issue once and it was so annoying while watching the kids at the beach.)

Kids Surf Suits

Kids UPF Surf Suit

  • The adorable surf suits make playing outside all day so much easier for both kids and parents. Less sunscreen is needed and some cover from the neck all the way to the ankles. (both suits at Coolibar.com)
  • These suits are generally good for one season and not great as hand-me-downs. The fabric often gets stretched out from sand, salt and the sun and you can’t rely on the same level of sun protection.

Hydration

  • A friendly reminder to stay hydrated while hanging out in the sun. Treat yourself and the kids to new water bottles this summer to encourage lots of water intake. Flavor the water with fresh fruit or cucumbers and keep it chilled.

Stay safe as you enjoy the warm summer months! Sunscreen will always be helpful but I love that there are all these other options now to help us protect our skin from the sun.

Disclosure: Coolibar provided our family product in exchange for this post. We have been loyal shoppers of Coolibar for years and all opinions shared here are my own. Throughout May, which is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Coolibar is giving the American Cancer Society $1 for every order placed. As an added incentive, they are also offering 15% off the entire order using the code ACS15.

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #NaturalGoodness #CollectiveBias

Toothbrushing with the kids has been an adventure. The guidelines have changed over the past six years and it’s hard to keep up with the latest and greatest. The one thing that has remained the same is using Tom’s of Maine Silly Strawberry toothpaste. I choose them because they don’t use any food dyes, compared to most of the other kid’s brands that use a Blue dye. The kid’s now ask for Silly Strawberry by name.

Avoid the toothbrushing battle with the kids

Although our toothpaste choice has been consistent, getting the kids to actually take the time to brush their teeth well has been a struggle. Bedtime takes forever with three kids and usually all three kids want to brush at the same time which leads to pushing and tears. We finally found a solution.

Teeth brushing dance party to the rescue! In order to get the kids to brush for the recommended two minutes, we find some favorite tunes and turn them up while each child gets their two minutes. Each kid gets to pick their favorite song and it motivates them to get into their PJs faster so they can be first. (Competition really works in my house.)

The second winning solution has been a fun timer app on my phone. This is a special treat they have to earn. If they don’t have good behavior leading up to bedtime, there is no toothbrushing app. I love how it tracks their brushing on a calendar and motivates them to get it down. It truly is amazing how well they are brushing during the two minute countdown and there is no nagging involved.

If you want to avoid screen time before bedtime (which I totally strive for generally), you can print out some fun toothbrushing printables if you search Pinterest. I pinned a couple on my fun printables board for reference. Print out your favorite, laminate it (I use this one) and then reuse it week after week.

Kids favorite toothpaste Tom's of Maine

Tom’s of Maine has been the natural choice for our family since we had kids. I was excited to see an even broader product line when I picked up another tube at Walmart. (Click here to get $1.00 off any Tom’s of Maine product purchase at Walmart.) There was a toddler-friendly flouride-free option, which is great for the littles ones to practice with and then the parent can brush with the flouridated toothpaste. This was the direction I got from the pediatric dentist we visited today for JJ’s check-up.

 Kids at dentist

The dentist gave JJ a clean bill of health! Teeth look good and even with his “groovy” teeth he is able to keep them cavity-free. Sometimes the natural choice doesn’t always clean as well as the conventional choice. When it comes to Tom’s of Maine, we consistently see healthy teeth in both kids and the grown-ups. As a general rule, we try to avoid synthetic food-dyes whenever possible. There is just too many strange health concerns related to them and no long-term studies available. Since there is a safe and healthy choice it’s makes the decision as a parent.

Happy brushing!

There are so many lessons nature can help us teach our children. The beauty in the world around us is vast, both in large spaces and small. The ocean and all its secrets, the sky in all its glory; there is much to appreciate down to the grass below our feet. As Earth Month continues, now is a great time to encourage your children to explore the outdoors. What lessons will they learn?

Nature quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson

This week PBS Kids is celebrating Earth Month with a fun-filled Twitter party, Explore the Outdoors! Join other parents as we share ideas for how to get outside and explore. Some kids need more encouragement than just getting out their backdoor. There are ways to make it an adventure! What will you learn at the party?

  • how to incorporate learning into outdoor activities
  • how can we intertwine technology with our environment
  • crafts and activities to enjoy outdoors
  • lessons other families have learned from nature

Join me and other parents this Wednesday, April 15th, online from 2-3 pm EST as we chat about the great outdoors! Your family will be ready for Earth Day and outdoor fun in the days ahead.

PBS KIDS Explore the Outdoors

 

It’s never too early to inspire children to love gardening. 

5 Ways to Get Kids to Love Gardening

As the seasons shift into spring, now is a great time to start planning your summer garden. There is no better way to teach children the connection between us and nature than gardening. Plant it, grow it, eat it. It’s so simple and easy to understand in a child’s eye. So how do we inspire a love of gardening in them at an early age?

1. Include Children in Choosing the Plants to Grow

The first step is to give the kids some control. All kids love to “own” things and you can start by letting them choose seed packets, or a special container to plant in. At our home, we have always limited our gardens to vegetables and herbs. This year I am choosing to follow this guideline and let our daughter plant flowers. I was impressed that she knew exactly what she wanted when we went to pick out some seeds. “White daisies.” So simple and so sweet.

white daisy flower

Kids can choose their own seeds and plant them in “cow pots!” Have fun explaining to them what they are made of. (wink, wink) Just know you are being a little greener by skipping the plastic starting pots.

Strawberry kids garden.

She is tending her strawberry garden.

2. Choose Fast Growing Plants

Radishes may not be every child’s favorite vegetable, but they will love to grow them. They have a seed to table time of about 22 days which is amazing. Cherry Bomb is a common spring variety and the key is to grow them before it gets too hot outside. The fresher they are, the less spicy they taste! Serve them with some ranch dressing to cool down any heat and you may have a new veggie to stash in the kids lunch box.

Radish seeds can be tucked in among other early spring plants like broccoli and spinach. The radishes will already be ready to harvest when the other plants need a little more growing space. Staggering the harvest time is more exciting for kids as there will always be something new to look forward to.

Alternatively, skip the seeds and go straight for the seedlings. It’s almost foolproof to just plop a seedling in the ground, water it, then watch it grow. There are often too many of one kind of plant in the seedling trays so partner up with some neighbors and make a trade or two.

3. Create a Growing Chart

Kids love to track things on a chart. Let’s move beyond potty training stickers and get out a ruler and measure some of the fun plants you choose to grow. You can also print out a calendar page and have kids draw out when each new action occurs. One day will be planting seeds, another the first seedlings, then the flowers and so on. Create a competition among siblings or neighbors and see which plants are growing the fastest!

4. Start Seeds Inside to Extend the Growing Season

With winter lingering here around Boston, and our raised beds covered in snow, we are starting seeds inside this year. Either go with the cow pots or a seed starting kit. This Indoor Garden kit is kid-friendly and includes 3 different seeds to grow: teddy bear sunflower, basil and zinnia. We already started seeds inside and the kids love to see how much higher they are every morning!

5. Give Kids Their Own Garden (or Container)

Our little girl has already placed a claim on her own raised bed this year to be used for flowers only. I think it’s adorable and love how excited she is to plan it. When the weather is warmer and we get the seeds in the ground, we can use the time to make our own labels for the flowers, and reread Miss Rumphius (or The Lupine Lady), one of our family favorites. If space doesn’t allow for a garden, see if there is a home for the kids to put their own large pot on a front step. Let them decorate it and make it their own.

Make a dinosaur garden for the kids!

There is also a fun trend of creating a themed pot. I love how entertaining the Fairy Gardens can be as it’s open-ended with what you can include. I also came across this idea for a Dino Pot and thought it was awesome! I’m so curious to try out this “Garden Pirate” idea from Climate Store as well. You get to create seed bombs and then then tuck them into fun spots around the yard.

As your child gets more connected with nature, it becomes even easier to teach concepts like Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. With Earth Day this month, now is a great time to kick off these discussions if they haven’t been happening in your home. While you are outside, talk about other ways to preserve natural resources. You can set up a rain barrel near a garden to help water the growing plants. Got a place for a compost bin? They are so sophisticated these days, and discreet, that most people can find a tidy home for a compost bin to create their own rich soil.

How else can you encourage your kids to enjoy gardening this season? Happy planting.

Climate-Store-LogoDisclosure: I am a partner with ClimateStore.com and compensated for my time. I only suggest products I believe in. All opinions are my own.  If you want to learn more about climate change and what it means to your family, I suggest you start here and learn about the first steps you can take. As we celebrate Earth Month, now is a great time to have conversations about climate change with your family. Please share in the comments any questions you have about taking first steps to reduce your carbon footprint.

Kids Egg Carton Craft Projects

Who has some extra egg cartons in their house this week? As Easter approaches, everyone is busy dying eggs or crafting eggs with the latest designs. Now what do you do with all those extra egg cartons in the house?

Here’s a round up of fun projects to reuse egg crates. Keep the kids busy as you prep Easter dinner!

Egg Carton Mask

Egg carton mask in happy spring colors! Kids can wear them and run around while still on their sugar high. (source)

Alphabet egg carton game

Help kids learn their letters with this cute Alphabet Egg Carton Game. (source)

DIY egg carton birdfeeder

Craft a DIY Birdfeeder with the egg crates. I love how easy this project it and when the rain wrecks it, it can compost into the ground.

Egg carton caterpillarAn easy and fun project to celebrate A Very Hungry Caterpillar. Use the time to talk to the kids about nature and the transition of a life of a caterpillar to a butterfly. (source)

Egg carton mobil

 

Cut out each egg holder and thread into a unique mobile. Hang them outside as the weather warms up.

What other crafty ways have you reused an egg carton?