Believe it or not, lunchtime at school can be one of the most stressful times of the day for children as well as one of the most stressful events for parents to plan. Parents often struggle with what they can pack for their children that will be both nutritious yet still easy for them to manage and eat easily. For children with feeding difficulties and sensory processing concerns, this already stressful time becomes magnified. These are some steps that you, as parents, can take to ease both you and your child’s lunchtime stress and anxiety.
NOISE: If your child is sensitive to loud noises, the lunchroom may be a very stimulating and scary environment. Consider having you child wear small ear plugs to help lessen the noises.
SMELL: The lunchroom if full of a wide variety of smells, not all of which are pleasant, especially to sensitive noses. Your child may benefit from wearing a necklace with soothing scents such as vanilla or lavender to help mask the noxious odors. You can also attach a small car freshener to your child’s lunchbox in the same
EASE: When choosing foods, think about the containers they are in and if your child will be able to open the containers. For example, if your child can open snap off lids but is unable to open pull off lids, then place their fruit cup into a snap off container instead of the peel off one it comes in.
Prepare foods that are easy for your child to eat. For example, if he/she needs more time to chew and swallow carrots then they may not be the best foods for school lunch.
FOOD FAMILIARITY: Pack foods your child enjoys. Lunchtime is a very difficult time to try new foods. Save new foods for quiet environments that you child is comfortable in.
Have your child help you choose foods and to pack his/her own lunch so that he/she has more input into what he/she is eating and knows what to expect when opening the lunchbox.
FOOD ORDER: Your child may benefit from eating foods in the same order each day to increase consistency and structure to help manage lunchtime routines.