15 Easy Bento Box Ideas for Toddlers
To those new to toddler lunch making, the idea of a bento box lunch may seem overwhelming. All those tiny compartments to fill with adorable, healthy foods cut into sweet shapes! But there’s no reason to stress. Simply pick a bento box that speaks to your needs. Some keep foods both hot and cold, some have a built-in dip compartment. Others are stainless steel, plastic, or stackable. Next, cull about a week or two’s worth of easy ideas and pack away! To get you started, here are 15 bento box ideas that are not only healthy and delicious, but they’re super easy to make.
Breakfast Bento Box for Toddlers
Idea & Image: Yummy Toddler Food
As soon as you start thinking of “lunch” as the time your tot eats as opposed to specific foods that are “lunch” foods, your bento box making world will change for the better. For starters, try centering your toddler’s bento box lunch around an iron- and protein-packed spinach, egg, and cheese muffin. And don’t worry: The added spinach won’t alter the texture or flavor, making it an A+ add for even picky toddlers and preschoolers! Complement this breakfast-for-lunch bento with cubed cantaloupe, some whole grain cereal, and even a side of salsa to jazz up the eggs.
Protein Power Bento Box Idea for Toddlers
Idea & Image: Andi Anne
Serve your growing toddler a satisfying and lip-smacking lunch that’ll keep their tummy full for hours! Include hummus or soft roasted chickpeas, a sliced hard-boiled egg, plus edamame for a protein-rich bento box lunch. Remove the cooked bean from the fibrous pod for tots between 18 and 24 months. And if your bub is younger—but at least 9 months—remove the bean, then flatten and split before serving. For an every once-in-a-while treat, you can throw in a low-sodium, reduced-fat, nitrite- and nitrate-free salami, too. (Unsure how much food to pack? Check out this portion size guide for children 1 to 3 years old.)
Banana Sushi Bento Box Lunch for Toddlers
Idea & Image: Live Simply
Banana sushi is a super-fun finger food that’s also packed with nutrition. Win, win! Simply spread peanut butter (or another nut butter) on a whole grain tortilla, then tightly roll a peeled banana inside. Slice maki-style and sprinkle with a touch of cinnamon for a truly tasty bento treat! Round out your tot’s bento box lunch with cubed cheese, carrot slices, and turkey roll ups.
Cheese and Crackers Bento Box Idea for Toddlers
Idea & Image: Peas And Crayons
Cheese and crackers are not just charcuterie board staples—they can be the star of your toddler’s bento box lunch, too! Shoot for whole grain crackers and whole cheeses, not “cheese food products,” that contain added ingredients. Complement this savory lunchtime fave with various fruits and veggies.
Smiley Lunch Bento Box Lunch for Toddlers
Idea & Image: Martha Stewart
Bento boxes are almost synonymous with extra-precious Pinterest-worthy designs that are, well, nearly impossible to execute day in and day out. This smile-heavy take on a bento box lunch, however, is so darn easy to make, you might not be able to stop adding grins. Simply use a food-safe marker to draw eyes and a paring knife to notch out smiles on carrot sticks, eggs, and more. To create a smiley sandwich, slice a smile in whole grain bread rounds and add eye toothpicks to complete the look! PS: This photo features whole grape tomatoes that should be reserved for children 4 and up due to the choking risk. (Learn more about how to safely cut food for your toddler.)
Chicken Noodle Pasta Bento Box Idea
Idea & Image: Ann Le Do
Toddlers love soup, but bento box or not, it can be tricky to send a liquid lunch to daycare or school. Enter: Chicken noodle pasta. This lunch features all the comforting flavors of chicken noodle soup, but broth-free. Genius! Sauté carrots and celery until soft. Add a splash of heavy cream and some parmesan. Stir to combine and then toss with prepared egg noodles and shredded rotisserie chicken for a hearty lunch. Round out this bento box lunch with a pre-peeled clementine and Babybel, plus some whole grain crackers.
Turkey & Cheese Pinwheels Bento Box Lunch
Idea & Image: Eating Well
Pick a sandwich, any sandwich and—guaranteed—it’s more fun to eat when it’s a pinwheel! While the pinwheels pictured in this toddler favorite bento box lunch are made from low-sodium turkey, lettuce, and cheese, you can feel free to experiment with ingredients like hummus and veggies or strawberry and Nutella. Consider pairing your pinwheels with celery sticks, blueberries, and chocolate chip popcorn, as seen here. Yum! Just remember that popcorn is only safe for children 4 and up.
Ranch Dip Bento Box Lunch Idea
Image & Idea: Eat This, Not That
Whether it’s guacamole, ranch dressing, hummus, or ketchup, kids love to dip. That makes this all-you-can-dip bento box lunch a favorite amongst the toddler and preschool crowd. All you need to do is tuck a packet of ranch (or any other sauce) into your bento, then fill the rest of the compartment with dippable eats, like sliced veggies and chicken nuggets. When shopping for nuggets, look for a low-sodium, lightly breaded option, with chicken breast as the first ingredient, which is less processed than those that read “white chicken meat.”
Yogurt Parfait Bento Box Idea for Toddlers
Image & Idea: Undeniably Dairy
This DIY yogurt parfait bento box idea is another breakfast-for-lunch option bursting with nutrition. For a traditional take, include granola, blueberries, and cut strawberries (fresh or frozen) to mix into the plain Greek yogurt. You can also shake up the options and include chopped mango, diced roasted apples or pears, lower sugar cereal, and/or no-sugar-added applesauce to mix in. PS: To garner even more bento box parfait excitement, call them yogurt sundaes!
Energy Ball Bento Box Idea
Image & Idea: Sarah Remmer
No-bake energy balls are the perfect centerpiece for a toddler’s bento box lunch. They’re nutritious, filling, and give off treat vibes that kiddos truly dig. The energy balls pictured are a yummy mix of pumpkin, chocolate, rolled oats, chia seeds, and more, but there are infinite energy ball options to choose from when putting together a bento box. (Check out these 20 recipes.) Complement your energy-ball-based bento with whatever your heart (you’re your tot’s tummy) desires. Think: fruit, cheese, veggie sticks, even a helping of decadent, but so healthy, coconut banana chia pudding (pictured).
Quesadilla Bento Box Lunch for Toddlers
Image & Idea: Momma Fit Lyndsey
Cheese, bean and cheese, sweet potato and cheese, pizza style—no matter what you place between the two tortillas, quesadillas are easy and hearty headliners for a bento box lunch. Plus, you can usually pull them together with items already in your pantry. Add a dipping sauce and some fruit or veggies on the side, and you’ve got a winning bento box lunch for toddlers on your hands.
Pizza Lunchabe Bento Box Idea
Idea & Image: Meal Nanny
Lunchables are the packaged, Americanized, not-so-healthy version of a bento box. So, if your kiddo is jealous of the pizza Lunchables their classmates are gobbling up, go ahead and DIY your own—and make it a little healthier. Pack a whole grain round (halved), tomato sauce, shredded cheese, and—for a sometimes treat—some low-sodium turkey pepperoni. Be sure to include a spoon so your tot can create their lunchtime masterpiece.
Heart Shaped Egg Bento Box for Toddlers
Idea & Image: Mommy Hates Cooking
Kids adore food in fun shapes! That’s why so many bento box lunches feature sandwiches cut into silly and sweet configurations. (You can find tools to do that here.) To shake up that standard, try serving heart shaped eggs. Simply crack an egg into a (greased) heart shaped muffin tin and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 to 20 minutes and—voila!—healthy bites! Pack with other breakfast go-tos, like hash browns, fruit salad, and an individual container of plain Greek yogurt.
Pincer Grip Bento Box Lunch Idea for Toddlers
Idea & Image: The Kitchn
Got a toddler working on their pincer grip? Then fill each bento box container with oodles of practice! Include low-fat cubed chicken, turkey, or ham, plus cubed cheese, diced pear, and frozen peas. Each of these items require your bub to use the tips of their fingers in a pincer grip in order to eat up their lunch. Feel free to supplement with items like a no-sugar-added fruit pouch and some whole grain crackers.
Rainbow Bento Box for Preschoolers
Idea & Image: Martha Stewart
Think of a rainbow-themed bento lunch as the midday pot of gold your tot has been waiting for! For this rainbow bento box, slice pink low-sodium ham into lunch meat spirals. Next, add red strawberries, orange baby carrots, yellow tomatoes, green grapes…plus, a bonus pop of orange cheese crackers. If you’re looking to add some blue or purple to the mix, blueberries, red grapes, and prunes are great options. But remember: While whole prunes are a-okay by 18 months, unlike the photo above, all cherry tomatoes and grapes must be halved or quartered until your little one is 4 years old. (Learn more about choking hazards.) An alternative bento idea: If your toddler isn’t feeling the rainbow, go monochromatic!
More on Feeding Toddlers
- Easy Lunch Ideas for Daycare
- Nut-Free Snacks Ideas for Daycare and School
- The Most Nutritious Foods for Toddlers
- Toddler Dinner Ideas Even Picky Eaters Will Love
- Healthy Snack Ideas To Tickle Your Tot’s Taste Buds
- How to Decode Your Toddler’s Appetite
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.