Summertime is one of my favorite times of the year. It's full of outdoor fun, playtime, summer camps, arts and crafts, and sports! We may enjoy taking care of our gardens, going to the pool, or even just trying to keep our kiddos entertained to avoid the inevitable, "Mom, I'm bored! There's nothing to do!" With all the fun that summer brings, I often get busy and completely forget to plan out lunches and snacks. Then 2 o'clock rolls around, my kids are complaining of severe hunger, and I have no idea what to feed them. If this sounds like you, I've compiled a list of some of my favorite easy lunch and snack ideas to make life a bit simpler this summer!
Easy Meal Ideas:
Pigs in a Blanket: My all time favorite lunch to make with my grandma as a kid was pigs in a blanket! It makes hot dogs a bit more exciting for kiddos.
Quesadillas: Quesadillas are one of my daughter's favorite lunches. You can cut them in strips or triangles, or even pull out some cookies cutters for a little variety. Add shredded chicken to provide a little protein.
Shape Sandwiches: Sometimes all I have time for is a quick peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Make it more exciting and fun by pulling out the cooking cutters! You could make kids the same sandwich every day, but if you use a different cutter, our kids see it as unique and new.
Bagel Pizzas: My kids love pizza, but I don't always like making a whole pizza just for lunch. Mini bagel pizzas are the perfect alternative. Plus, kids can personalize them with whatever toppings they prefer!
Toothpick Kabobs: For slightly older kiddos, pull out veggies, fruit, ham and cheese and cut it all into little cubes. Then let your kids make their own little kabobs for lunch!
Wraps: Wraps are super easy, delicious, and healthy! Plus, there's so many different types you can make for your kiddos to introduce some variety and ensure they're eating veggies and meat.
Bow Tie Pasta: When my daughter went through a slightly picky phase, we found that she'd only eat pasta if it was shaped like a bow. Whatever shape you use, pasta is super quick and easy to cook up. Add some pre-made pasta sauce, or simply melt a bit of butter over the top.
Homemade Chicken Nuggets: Kids love chicken nuggets. However, I don't personally love a lot of the frozen varieties. I love to whip up these super easy baked nuggets at home for a healthier alternative than store-bought. (Although, store-bought nuggets are quick and easy as well!)
Mini Pancakes: My kids love anything if it's tiny! And they love pancakes! Grab your favorite pancake mix, or prepare some batter ahead of time. Add blueberries or chocolate chips to the batter to make them even better!
Banana Muffins: I always overbuy bananas at our house. My daughter gets excited when she sees that the bananas are starting to turn brown because that means muffins! These make a great lunch, snack, or breakfast item! My favorite recipe to use is this one from Natasha's Kitchen!
Macaroni and Cheese: Easily throw this recipe into your crockpot and store in your fridge for several days worth of lunch or dinner for your kids! Who can resist some delicious mac and cheese, right?
Water is so important, especially in the summertime! We can all get dehydrated way faster than we realize! So make sure to fill water bottles often. However, sometimes my kids get sick of water! Here are some fun drinks you can easily throw together and include with your kid's lunch, or even just for a middle of the day rehydration snack!
Fruit Smoothie: I love making my own smoothies. I've found that to make the best smoothie, you just need a good blender and a few simple ingredients: your favorite fruit juice, frozen fruit, and yogurt! I keep these ingredients on hand so I can whip up a smoothie whenever we want. If you prefer to follow a recipe, there are tons of great fruit smoothie recipes online!
Orange Creamsicle Smoothie: A fun variation on an orange creamsicle, these are great for hot summer afternoons or for a sweet dessert alternative.
Strawberry Banana Milkshake: One of my favorite summer fruits is strawberries! They're so sweet and delicious! Add them to this quick milkshake recipe to cool down after a day at the pool!
Fresh Squeezed Lemonade: When I think of summer I think of lemonade! Take a trip to the grocery store, pick out some fresh lemons, and let your kiddos help you make some delicious lemonade!
We probably all run into the same dilemma when it comes to providing healthy and energy-rich snacks for our kids throughout the day. Here are some things you can keep handy in your fridge or pantry when your kiddos need a little something between meals!
Grab and Go Snacks:
- Hard boiled eggs
- Cheese sticks
- Fruit leather
- Go-gurt/yogurt pouches
- Applesauce cups/pouches
- Granola bars
Snacks to Make Together:
- Jello jigglers
- Protein Bites
- Ants on a Log
Use a bento box or divided plates! This is a great way for me to ensure I'm offering a variety as I fill each area of the plate. Older kiddos can fill the sections independently, while young kids can tell you what they'd prefer in each spot. I recommend having them pick a main course, a fruit, and a veggie. This allows them to feel they have a say in what they get for lunch, while also ensuring they get what they need. You can also use silicone muffin cups to divide their fruits, veggies and cheese. This makes lunchtime so much more fun.
Let them help! Kids love to help, and allowing them to do so is a great way to teach them about food safety and prep. Teaching them early will allow them to be more independent as they get older.
Make it a learning opportunity! Lunchtime can be a great time to teach kids how to count. Help them practice counting, or teach them about the nutrients each food provides. Kids Eat in Color is one of my favorite accounts to follow. I love their "How to Talk" printable, as it offers age appropriate info on different colors of food, the nutrients they provide, and how it helps our bodies!
Offer variety! Kids need a good variety of different foods to ensure they have the nutrients they need to remain healthy and active. Make sure to always offer plenty of fruit and veggies. If your kids are picky, try taking them to the grocery store and let them browse the produce section. Let them pick a few things that they find interesting. You can also try cutting veggies into fun shapes, or adding just a bit of peanut butter or low-fat ranch.
Make energy-rich snacks accessible! Consider keeping energy-rich snacks easily accessible for your little ones so they can grab them when they need a little snack between meals. Keep the chips and treats hidden away. That way, kids will be grabbing the healthier items rather than filling up on foods that don't give them the energy they need to play this summer!
Fill your own pouches! Did you know you can buy re-useable food pouches? I love these because they're easy to fill, easy to wash, and I can put whatever I want in them. Whether I want to mix up my own applesauce or fill with a variety of yogurts, re-useable pouches give me the freedom to make whatever snacks I want for my kids. Just fill a bunch at once and keep them in an organizer in your fridge so that you don't have to fill them often. This is also a great way to save some money.
Prep ahead! This not only makes it easier to add fruits and veggies onto a lunch plate, but it's also a great way to avoid waste! Storing fruits and veggies in glass jars keeps them fresh much longer than in plastic or open containers. Just be sure to wash and allow them to dry completely before placing into the jar.
Mealtime can be stressful. Knowing what to feed our kids while also making sure they get all the energy and nutrients they need is overwhelming. But it doesn't have to be! With a little prep each week, mealtime can be a breeze.
Make sure to bookmark these ideas on your phone to easily refer back to them when you need some ideas!