How Special Needs Kids Can Avoid the Lunch Box Blues

Last updated on September 23rd, 2017 at 06:37 pm

School is back in session! After the clothes, the supplies and the backpack have been purchased there is one big item left…the lunch box! We want to help our children feel more independent, but sometimes kids with special needs need some special assistance with this portion of their school day. Also, many in this population have very specific dietary needs and wants. Here are some tips for finding containers that will work for your child.

Special note: If your child has a feeding tube, do a search for Facebook groups or ask your child’s team for resources. It’s easy to fall into a rut but there are new ideas and breakthroughs happening every day.

Open and Close

Can your child open AND close the containers you pack? Should the covers be twist tops or snap-ons? Can they open a zippered baggie? Sure, these tasks sound easy but they can be real challenges if you have fine motor issues.

Different brands and styles of containers have different benefits, so do a little spying and trial and error. There is no point in spending an hour prepping a picture perfect bento box if your child is unable to get to it. My child could open the Ziploc divided container but never get it closed again, leading to tragically messy and stained lunchboxes!! This must have been a common problem, since the company has discontinued the item.

This year we are using Snapware, which seems to be working out nicely and doesn’t leak. Victory! But those side latches could be tricky for some kids so do a trial run before sending anything new to school. Hopefully the school has grown ups on hand to assist with these things, but better safe and full than sorry and hungry.

Touch and Go

Some kids with special needs will have a meltdown if their foods touch each other. Others will only eat from their favorite bowl or with their own spoon. This is another reason to be sure to have some trial runs or introduce the containers before school begins or on weekends. A child may need some transition time or a chance to get used to a change in a calm environment rather than under stress in a cafeteria.

Ask and Learn

Ask your kids what kinds of cool containers their friends use. Ask other moms what works best for them. Do a web search. But remember, what works for one child may not work for yours. Borrow containers to try them out or bring your child to the store and have them experiment before investing a lot of money in something that might be useless.

Might Want to Checkout

  • Snapware:  I got a big boxed set at Costco – which as all sizes and one size even has dividers.  Here’s the link to the set at Amazon
  • Sistema (people seem to like it – don’t have the link)
  • Easy Lunchbox: seems like a sturdier version of Ziploc
  • Planet Lunchbox:  some people say the latches are easy, but I haven’t tried them

Happy packing!

About the Author

Rosie Reeves is a writer and mother of three; including one with special needs. She works side-by-side with her daughter’s therapists, teachers and doctors. Rosie has also served as the Los Angeles Special Needs Kids Examiner and serves as a contributor on the Yahoo! Contributor Network. She can be reached at rosie327@aol.com.Rosie is a member of the PedSafe Expert team

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