No matter the task at hand, it is always best accomplished with pleasure. If lunch preparation at home is done at the last minute and becomes a source of stress, your child is unlikely to want to participate. Coordinator of the Lunchbox workshops at Le Dépôt community food center in Montreal, Dahlia ChanTang has “very rarely seen young people who were not interested in cooking”. However, she believes in the importance of allowing them to take the time to discover their skills in a fun way. This is why, rather than preparing lunches in the morning, she suggests doing it in the evening. Your child will then be able to perform different tasks at their own pace.

At what age can you start involving your child in preparing their lunch box? “From kindergarten,” replies Mélanie Magnan. Of course, we adapt the tasks to our abilities. In her very colorful recipe book which has just been published, Lunch box, volume 3, the nutritionist also suggests different responsibilities to be entrusted according to age. If a kindergartner can wash fruits and vegetables or garnish his sandwich with help, a big 6 to 8 year old can choose and prepare his snacks. “The parent can help the child by cutting food in advance,” says Mélanie Magnan. The youngster just has to take the quantity he wants.

Not all parents are comfortable leaving a knife in their child’s hands, although some are suitable for small hands. However, alternatives exist. Rather than dicing a carrot, you can grate it or even make ribbons with a vegetable peeler, suggests Dahlia ChanTang, whose organization gave nearly 400 workshops in schools and community centers last year.

Deconstructed lunches are the easiest to make. “For them to be balanced, we want to go for whole grains, fruits, vegetables and a protein food,” explains nutritionist Mélanie Magnan, who is very active on social networks. Then just put one item from each category in your lunch box, and you’re done. “At the beginning of the school year, make a list with your children of what they like by food group. It will give you ideas and each week you will be able to rotate what you make available,” suggests the founder of Nutrimini. This way of doing things also avoids the monotony of lunchtime meals.

Another way to brighten up lunches: allow your child to discover new foods. Dahlia ChanTang advises taking him to the grocery store and asking him to choose what he would like to try. Afraid he’ll opt for a sweet treat? We orient his choice by limiting the rays where he can venture. We can, for example, tell him to select a fruit or a vegetable that he has never tasted. “Look at cooking as an opportunity to explore,” she says.

Around the age of 9 or 10, a large proportion of young people have acquired the autonomy necessary to prepare their entire lunch box on their own, especially if they have been involved from the start of school, says Mélanie magnan. Should they then be entrusted with this responsibility every day? So that it doesn’t become a “heaviness”, the nutritionist thinks it’s best to go in stages. “You could ask your child to make lunch once a week and then increase it,” she suggests, emphasizing that it’s important to “keep it fun.”