If you or your kids are into anime or other kinds of Asian pop culture, you might have heard the term 'bento box' before. Maybe you have even seen one with some Pikachu or Hello Kitty rice balls.
During the fifth century, while they were on the road waging war, Japanese warriors ate rice from boxes decorated with intricate designs. The boxed lunches made it easy for them to eat and saved time.
Bento means “convenience,” and that is exactly what it is -- the Japanese version of a brown bag lunch.
Over the years the bento box has evolved into a modern lunch option that features all of the essential food groups -- fruits, grains, dairy, veggies, and protein. Bento boxes are much more complex than they once were -- there are even oekakiben boxes, or picture boxes, with the food inside arranged to look like people, animals, buildings, flowers, or plants.
All modern bento boxes have multiple compartments. You can fill these compartments with fruits, veggies, grains, and protein so that your child will have an adorable, healthy lunch they will enjoy eating.
The first thing you will need to do is invest in plastic storage containers that have dividers, or you can buy a kid-friendly bento box online. Make sure the container has a secure, reclosable lid. If you like packing soups or stews, look for containers that have stackable compartments for both liquid and solid foods.
You'll also need to invest in bento accessories like forks, spoons, chopsticks, cookie cutters, decorative food cups, and mini skewers. You won’t have to buy them all, but cookie cutters are essential for bento boxes because kids love to eat things in fun shapes.
Nutrition is an important aspect of a bento box, so be sure to add plenty of colorful fruits and veggies, moderate amounts of protein, and a little bit of dairy to balance the meal.
Now that you know the basics, here are 15 cute bento boxes that you can easily pack for your kids:
This fun idea from Kitchen Fun With My Three Sons is a great way to get your kids to try cantaloupe and carrots. You can use Eggo waffles instead of bread to make the sandwich.
For this bento box, you will need some homestyle and mini Eggo waffles, peanut butter, jelly, raisins, pretzel sticks, baby carrots, cheese crackers, a cheese stick, and a mini marshmallow. So cute!
This vegetarian lunch option comes from Sweet Peas And Saffron, and it features romaine lettuce, corn and black beans, tortilla chips, shredded cheese, pico de gallo, and a side of dressing. Of course, you can swap out ingredients to customize the box for your child. And you can add things like rice if you want to make it even more filling.
The ingredients may be simple, but this lunch from Hustle And Hearts is definitely not boring. You'll only need your favorite lunch meat, crackers, cheese, fruits, and veggies. If you prefer, you can also add some hummus for dipping.
You will need some Star Wars cookie cutters for this bento box idea from Mom Endeavors. But, other than that, this lunch is incredibly easy to make, and the Star Wars fan in your home will love it. Cut the bread with the special cookie cutters to make little Yodas and Darth Vaders, and then add some ham and cheese stars with olives, some veggie stick lightsabers with dip, and a few Cheetos for extra fun.
If you have an Avengers fan in your house, they will go crazy when they open up this bento box from Bunches O Lunches. You will need some Avengers cutters, and if you want, you can add extra decorations. The sandwiches are made with whole wheat bread, fruit spread, and sunflower seed butter. On the side, add celery, pineapple, grapes, strawberries, blackberries, pretzel slims, yogurt stars, and bunny gummies.
This idea is from Wendolonia is super easy to make and will be lots of fun for the dinosaur fanatic in your family. You will need two slices of bread, some pretzel sticks, lettuce leaves, sliced salami, cheddar cheese, a hardboiled egg, and lightly steamed broccoli.
Then, with a dinosaur sandwich cutter and a super short video tutorial, you can put together this fun lunch in just a matter of minutes.
This box from She Knows is just too cute. It is filled with fresh fruit and is super easy to make for the animal lover in your house. To make the piglet, you will need a bagel, strawberry cream cheese, a pull-apart Twizzler, two chocolate chips, a banana, and a sliced strawberry. You can also add other snacks on the side, like sandwich cookies, mini marshmallows, or peanut butter crackers.
You don’t need fancy gadgets or a degree in graphic design to make this box from 730 Sage Street. You'll only need silicone cupcake liners or small glass ramekins and your child’s favorite fruits, veggies, and cheese, plus a sweet treat and a healthy drink.
This idea from Foodtastic Mom is simple and fun, and you'll only need a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a slice of cheese, a banana, a Twinkie, and a veggie. To turn the food into minions, use grapefruit leather, a biscuit cutter, a metal frosting tip, and a black sharpie.
If you have a little one who is learning their ABCs, this fun bento box idea from Becoming a Bentoholic will be a big hit. For the lunch, you will need some cheese crackers, red pepper strips, black olives, a hardboiled egg, strawberries, baby carrots, blackberries, and a turkey sandwich.
This plant-based lunch idea comes from Food52, and you'll only need a rice dish, mashed sweet potatoes, and arugula. Add a side of sliced avocado and trail mix, and you'll have a delicious vegan lunch that your child can easily eat at school.
From Bless This Mess, this vegetarian lunch is simple, healthy, and yummy. Make your “sandwiches” with slices of apple topped with peanut butter. Then add a side of blueberries, cashews, almonds, pecans, dark chocolate chips, boiled eggs, carrots, and celery.
If you are feeling creative, try this idea from Lunchbox Dad. To make Dumbledore, you will need spiralized apple soaked in lemon juice for the hair, a whole wheat tortilla for the face and nose, some cheddar cheese for the hat, a spinach wrap for the hat, white cheese for the eyes, and black fondant for the eyes and glasses.
Add pretzel sticks, raspberries, and Babybel cheese to complete this magical lunch.
This bento box comes from Bentology, and it features two pencil-shaped sandwiches decorated with cheddar, provolone, and strawberry marshmallows. A food-safe marker will help you make the pencil tip.
On the side, add red and green grapes, carrots with ranch dressing, and a couple of Hershey’s Kisses.
This idea from Lisa Storms is absolutely adorable. Make a sub sandwich out of a hot dog bun and your favorite deli meats, cheese, and toppings. Use a cut straw for the scope, and on the side, add carrots and blueberries. The Goldfish crackers make this a true submarine lunch.
Whether you want to get super creative or keep it simple, prepare a bento box for your child's next lunch. It will bring a smile to their face!