19 Bento Box Ideas That Take School Lunch to the Next Level

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Make school lunch something to look forward to with these easy (and adorable!) bento box ideas.

My preschooler is pretty adventurous with everything except the food she eats. So it was no surprise when she snubbed quite a few of the school lunches I packed for her last year. After a little frustration (and a whole lot of Google searching), I stumbled upon some beautiful bento box ideas that instantly caught my eye. They were so colorful and adorable, I knew even my picky preschooler couldn’t possibly resist eating them—and I was right!

Don’t own a bento box? You can find one on Amazon.

Picky eater or not, try these bento box ideas for your kiddo the next time you’re packing their school lunch:

1. Monogrammed Snacks

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2. Personalized Numerals

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We’re all about baking homemade cupcakes for a child’s birthday—but showcasing the age they are turning on a sandwich or cheese wheel is pretty darn cute, too. To give them a sweet treat for their special day, mix in chocolate-covered pretzels.

3. Sandwich Skewers

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If your child never wants to eat a normal-looking sandwich (the struggle is real), try putting it on a skewer stick instead. If you’re going for an extra healthy lunch, fill in the rest of the bento box with salad and spiralized veggies (which can easily be store-bought). Raisins also make for a healthy dessert.

4. Perfect Portions

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For a balanced school lunch, fill in each portion of the bento box with all the necessary food groups. Some bento boxes even come pre-labeled! Chopped up sausage, a berry mix, baby carrots and homemade coffee cake are easy-to-pack choices. Just make sure your produce is washed correctly.

5. Little Critters

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Plastic eye inserts turn a regular cheese ball into an adorable little creature. If there’s a certain food that your child really dislikes, try inserting the eyes to make it a little more appealing. If you don’t have time to hand-make every single portion of the bento box, fill it with a small amount of prepackaged snacks (like pretzel sticks, crackers or these gluten-free bites).

6. Healthy Kebabs

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Cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach leaves, cheese and cold cuts are a little more appetizing when they’re placed in a neat row, positioned into bite-sized pieces like these healthy kebabs. A homemade muffin and fruit can be added for a truly delicious combo.

7. Prepackaged Sides

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In a bit of a rush but still going for a wholesome lunch? Fresh fruit and vegetables can be accompanied by delicious packaged (and equally healthy) sides, like veggie straws and yogurt pouches.

8. Pack Smarter

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If you have a few leftover homemade muffins (or other baked goods), fill the dessert section of a bento box up with ’em. Get the most use out of a bento box by taking everything out of the package before you place it in, like granola bars and cheese bites. This way, you can add multiple items to a bigger section.

9. Breakfast Blend

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It’s OK to think outside the box (see what we did there?), so surprise the kiddos with breakfast for lunch! Pancakes, bacon and a hard-boiled egg will do the trick.

10. Bear Bites

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If a full-sized sandwich can fit into your child’s bento box, decorate it with mango and raisins to look like an adorable, cuddly bear. Mangoes are super easy to slice and kids will appreciate the sweet contrast.

11. Leftover Lunches

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Repurpose leftovers and use them for any bento box school lunch. Cheeseburger sliders from last night’s dinner will still be just as yummy the next day, we promise.

12. Kid-Friendly Sushi

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Faux sushi isn’t just clever, it’s healthy, too! Flatten out slices of bread and fill them with your child’s favorite sandwich filling. Cut ’em into rectangles and roll up in a pinwheel style to recreate this look.

13. Tex-Mex

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Is Tex-Mex food a hit in your home? Pack small tortillas with all the fixings and have kids make their own tacos during their lunch break. Bento boxes are seriously ideal for separating the individual toppings.

14. Sweet and Savory

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Banana, unsweetened coconut and Nutella miniature wraps are an easy-to-make main course for a sweet and savory lunch. Pack a favorite deli meat, something sweet and fruit to make it a flavor-filled experience.

15. Summer Themed

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Kids will love opening a bento box lunch that reminds them of barbecuing in the summer. This hot dog was created with a crescent roll bun, so it’s that much tastier for kids.

16. Pasta and Protein

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Pasta salad is customizable, can be served cold and is a super simple way to fill the largest section of a bento box. Add on grilled chicken cubes if kids need a little more protein.

17. Incorporating Greens

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If you want your kiddos to go a little more green with their diets, slowly add easy-to-pack green foods into the box. Kiwi and broccoli are safe choices, and can be easily sliced, layered or chopped to fit larger portions. Sneak in even more veggies with these tricky recipes.

18. Taste the Rainbow

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Experts always say that it’s healthiest to “eat the rainbow.” Chop and lay out various colored fruits next to each other in order to show your children what that exactly means, from watermelon to dragon fruit. Plain mini pancakes are clever to serve with the assortment, since they’ll partner well with the various tastes and textures.

19. Mini Quesadillas

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Quesadillas are simple and fun to make with kids. You can also pack grilled chicken or another type of meat that can either be eaten on the side or added to the main dish. Quinoa crisps and fresh produce round out this balanced meal.

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Taylor Murphy
Taylor is a food, parenting and health writer. When she's not writing about the newest Oreo flavor or her favorite kitchen appliance, she can be found searching for her next coffee fix or taste-testing recipes with her daughter.