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20th Sep 2022

By age 8, children should pack their own lunches – and here is why it matters

pack lunches

Currently, my very favourite thing about weekend mornings is that there are no lunch boxes to pack.

Don’t you agree, parents?

A little break away from the peeling and chopping and fretting over nutritional content first thing is total bliss.

However, it seems I could be on a permanent break from lunchboxes – well, with one of my children anyway, as a developmental and behavioural paediatrician is now saying that really, by the age of eight, children should ideally be packing their own lunchboxes in the morning.

According to Dr. Damon Korb, author of Raising an Organized Child, kids should be packing their own school lunches by around third grade – so 8-ish year of age.

“When we think about what we do when we make lunch, it requires planning and problem-solving,” he told Australia’s Today Show. “Those kind of planning skills are important to be developed in kids and the everyday task of making a lunch [is] the way to do it…When kids do things for themselves, they feel proud… Our job as a parent is to coach them and teach them to do these things effectively and correctly.”

But hang on – these are kids we are talking about I can hear you think. So what happens when they pack themselves nothing but three Digestive biscuits and a rice cake with chocolate on it? In response to such worries, Korb offers a wakeup call: “Learning happens by experiencing and making mistakes, and if we’re doing everything for our kids, we’re depriving them of their opportunity to learn.”

And look – we can do the prep work – by for instance pre-cutting some veggies and fruit, or leaving out all the healthy stuff we do want them to pack into their school lunches. But the main idea is that we are trying to make our children a little more self-sufficient, says Korb.

“We want to create independent thinkers and problem-solvers, so they can be ready for the real world. If we do everything for them, they never get there.”

I have to admit this all sounds really good – I mean; sure I worry about their nutrition, and the control freak in me is already fretting at the thought of letting go in terms of what my nine-year-old opts to pack in her lunchbox. But I also really want to raise children who are ready for the world when that time comes. Who are problem solvers and do-ers and capable of managing their own lives.

So while I cannot hang up my lunchbox apron just yet (my five-year-old can definitively not be trusted with the task of his own lunchbox just yet!), I am giving this independence thing a shot with my eldest come next week.

Wish me luck!