You know the back to school routine: Each year, a short time before school starts, parents receive a list of the specific notebooks and folders and glue sticks or calculator their children need, with barely enough notice to make a trip to Target. But the stocking-up scramble doesn't just happen before the fall return: If your kid is headed to day camp this summer, it's time to do a little inventory of their lunch supplies.
If you live somewhere where the weather gets hot, you may find that your standard school lunch-cooling routine just doesn't work come July and August. Non-insulated water bottles get as warm as bathwater. Sliced fruit that did okay in spring turns sludgy by the end of a day's heat. Cheese is, well, it's best not to talk about what happens to cheese.
If your kid is growing fast-and eating more every day-it could be that the kindergarten lunch box just doesn't have enough space on the eve of first grade; you may need a freezable snack bag to send along, too. And if you got through this year remotely or on a hybrid schedule, you might not have required quite so many reusable food containers and bags, but you'll need them if full-time camp is your summer plan.
Here are a few of my favorite options to get your kid ready for lunch at day camp, including stay-cool, never-leak water bottles and the one bug spray that will actually let them finish a sandwich in peace.
These bags, which came out on top in our reusable bag trials, clean well in the dishwasher, but sometimes need a few hours to dry, so I like to keep a few in rotation so there's always a backup. I use the sandwich size, but there are also larger options, and stand-up versions with flat bases.
While my life goal right now is to always remember to transfer each day's ice back back to the freezer at night, sometimes exhaustion gets in the way. Having an extra in the freezer is a lifesaver.
Take a look at your kid's lunch box right now. It survived the year-but if the zipper isn't quite working, or you didn't really get it clean in the crevices, it might be time to refresh early. (And a new lunch box might be just want you need to smooth the transition to a new routine, not that kids ever have trouble with transitions.) Adding a separate snack bag means the lunch won't get accidentally eaten at 10:30 a.m.-and a freezable version means you don't need to dig more ice packs out of the depth of your freezer.
Do I ever manage to really distribute the suggested food groups into each section of this labeled bento? Let's go with sure… But this summer, a few more inches of space will come in handy, even if I haven't made any progress on getting my kid to try hummus. Just make sure whichever insulated bag you choose is big enough for the boxes you select. (As with everything else, the more backups you have, the less panicked you'll be if you forget to clean the lunch box at night.)
These bottles might be overkill in the winter, but in summer they're the only thing I've found that actually keeps water cool. They last forever, they don't leak, and I'm getting more because my daughter sleeps with one on her bedside table, too.
What makes lunch even more fun in the summer? The threat of sunburn and mosquitoes!