Making Lunch Time Easier
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Lunch time can be total chaos, particularly with a homeschool schedule. Homeschooling means that most days I have everyone at home for three meals a day. It often feels like the kitchen is always open.
In the Netherlands the kids came home for lunch. I had one hour to bike everyone home, get everyone fed and then bike everyone back. It was in this atmosphere that my lunch time routine was born. Now, under our new schedule, I pick the Middle up from his 3 hour preschool at noon and rush home to get everyone fed before the Little Little’s nap time. My lunch time routine keeps the chaos to a minimum and keeps me sane.
Yep. I pack the kids lunches. Most mornings I pack three little lunch boxes as I prep breakfast. I put the lunch boxes into the fridge on a low, reachable shelf.
We use the YUMBOX, which is a bento box style lunch box. They were popular in the Netherlands. I love how they force me to pack a variety of foods for the kids. (The Yumbox Instagram is a great place to go for inspiration.) My dear friend Larissa is not a fan since they won’t fit a sandwich, so be advised. For us though they are perfect. Most days the Big Little will actually pack his own.
Having lunches packed gives us so much flexibility. When we come in the door from picking the Middle Little up everyone goes into the room and picks their own lunch out of the refrigerator. If someone wants to play a bit, they can just grab their lunch a bit later. On days when we are all home, the littles can start lunch when they are ready instead of waiting for me to come get things started.
Packing lunch reduces the mess. The kitchen is tidied up after breakfast. With lunch packed the next time it needs to be tidied is after dinner. This is so much better than a full clean up three times a day. With a packed lunch the lunchtime dishes are confined to the lunch box instead of a whole new set of dishes.
I also love that if our plans change I can grab the lunch boxes and bring them along with us. If the weather is really nice, it’s easy to do an impromptu beach picnic.
I put on a podcast for the kids during lunch. I love meal time conversation, but we save that for dinner when Dad is home. A podcast generally keeps the kids from getting rowdy, bringing toys to the table and makes them focus on their meal.
We have an Alexa device in the kitchen, so now the boys are able to turn the podcast on, on their own. Our current favorites are Wow in the World, Pants on Fire, Story Pirates and Time Line. Before Alexa we used a little Bluetooth speaker. This allowed me to keep my phone with me but for the story to be coming from the table.
I tend to eat my lunch a bit later when everyone is settled in for quiet time. With the kids eating and listening to the podcast I can usually do a bit of dinner prep, put away things that came home from our morning errands and a few small chores in the area.
Lock the Pantry
The pantry lock was a game changer! We try to let the kids be independent, but found they were taking advantage of the freedom. Our pantry is next to our playroom and the boys bedroom. The animal cookies seem to call to them every time they pass by the door.
Fruits and veggies are always available for a snack. They sit out on our table and kids are always welcome to grab one. The pantry though, is home to more processed snacks and sweets.
The pantry isn’t always locked. We have “open” times and “closed” times. During lunch the pantry door stays closed, so that there are not additional choices.
We used the 3M Guardian Stick on Safety Lock. This lock stuck directly onto the door and door frame. we cut the 3M tape to accommodate the door frame. The lock is white and blends in perfectly.
The pantry lock can be set unlocked so the door can be used as normal, with no interference with the lock. The lock is complicated enough (and mounted high enough) to thwart my 2 and 4 year old. My 6 year old can open it with the aid of a chair, but is not one to break rules.
I’ve tried to build in some small “chores” into our routine. I have routine charts posted around the house. After the littles are done eating they put their lunch box in the sink. (The Big Little is able to wash his out and put it on the drying rack.) We have a learning tower in the kitchen so they can reach the sink. This is a wooden tower that Jeff built. It’s got an adjustable platform that is lowered as your kids grow taller. The tower has four sides so a kid can climb in but won’t easily fall out.
They are all expected to go wash their hands and faces and brush their teeth before they go play. I help the Little Little with these tasks. He then heads straight to bed.
Quiet Reading Time
At 1pm an alarm goes off on my phone and on our Alexa devices – it’s quiet reading time. Most of the time my Middle Little is still sort of messing around at the table, so this is a good reminder for him to get a move on. The next half hour everyone reads, including me.
Most of the time we all end up in the living room. I keep my leisure reading book there and the library books are there too. Sometimes though a kid will choose to be in their own bed or in the big chair in the playroom. Anyway, everyone looks at books for 30 min. They can look at picture books, read comic books or do a seek n’ find book. It doesn’t matter as long as it is a book.
I look forward to this time. I usually read my leisure book, but sometimes I browse a gardening book or preview our homeschool books. On weekends Jeff is also expected to stop what he is doing and read for 30 minutes.
When this time is done another little alarm sounds. About half the time the Big Little asks if he can read more. The Middle Little heads into his room or into my room for some quiet play time. He doesn’t nap anymore but needs some quiet time each day. The Big Little also utilizes this quiet time to do Legos or finish a project he started in the morning. This is when I write.
I would love to know what you are doing to keep lunch time sane! I’m always looking to try new things to keep our routine fresh.
This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, Dutch, Dutch, Goose! receives a small payment at no cost to you. The 3M Guardian door lock was provided at no cost for the purpose of this review. As always, I try to share how we have personally used these products and all opinions are my own.