Anyone else dreading packing a lunch again as we head back to school? (Or if you’re homeschooling, making and serving yet another meal at home?) For inspiration, we turned Beau Coffron, the dad of three behind the @lunchboxdad Instagram account and lunchboxdad.com. Beau’s bento boxes, snack plates and food boards are like little works of art—as super appealing to even picky eaters. The best part? They’re easy to do. Since starting his site nine years ago, Beau has been featured by Good Morning America, Martha Stewart, and on Buzzfeed. We reached out to Ben to get some tips for mixing up our packed and at-home lunch routines.
For anyone who is not yet familiar, how would you describe your site and Instagram?
I create food art lunches for my kids and share the instructions on my blog so that other parents can make my lunches for their children. I also share family-friendly food recipes that my family has enjoyed.
Can you please tell us a bit about yourself professionally, and also as a dad?
I am married with three kids and my family lives in Oklahoma City. I work full-time in social media and run Lunchbox Dad as my side passion.
When did you start making your special lunches/boards, and why?
I started making these recipes about nine years ago when my daughter started Kindergarten. I wanted her to know that her dad loved her and was thinking about her. This was a way for me to show her that. I surprised her with a Hello Kitty lunch on the first Monday of school and we have been continuing the tradition ever since. I also now make special lunches for my two younger boys as well.
What are your best tips for a parent interested in making a kids lunches more fun?
I would say to start simple. You can use cookie cutters on a sandwich and write a lunch note. If you enjoy it and your kids like it, get more into it from there. I use basic tools that most people have in their kitchens like a good knife and a cutting board. Some tips I tell parents is to pack the lunchboxes tight with food so it doesn’t move around. Also you can use toothpicks, honey, or cream cheese to glue pieces in place. I give detailed written directions and videos on my blog and social media so make sure to check there often for tons of recipes.
Why are bento boxes and food boards both so great for enticing picky eaters?
Bento boxes help keep food separate but also help you as a parent pay attention to what you are packing. It is easier to see if you are giving your kids balanced meals when you can see every compartment rather than throwing it all in a bag. Food boards are fun because it helps you eat great food as a family and try out new flavor combos together. You can talk to your kids about new fruits and veggies while you both eat them and maybe even try different dips, which is one of my personal favorite ways to get my kids to try new foods.
What are your kids’ favorite packed lunches?
My kids’ favorite character themed lunches probably change by the week but some all-time favorites are Chewbacca from Star Wars, Elsa from Frozen, and any sort of superhero. They don’t always eat everything that I pack but our rule is they at least try it. If they try a food and don’t like it, we can move on to something else. But many times if they give it a shot, they will at least try it a few more times. Eating food in fun forms helps introduce them to it so they will hopefully eat it later in a regular meal. My kids have discovered many new foods that they like this way!
* This interview originally appeared ion The Local Moms Network