It's been a little less than 2 years, but I've already had such a variety of experiences - from what is "allowed" to how the food is prepared at lunch time. I thought I would share some of the things I've picked up along the way.
We'll start off with how you send things in. I'll do another post later about the kinds of things to send in.This is going to vary upon the class room rules. From 0-18 months, pretty much anything went for us. There was a microwave to heat things up, so I could send in anything. And the food was placed in the fridge, so I didn't have to worry about a lunchbox.
In the early days I sent things in these Munchkin bowls.
They were great for cut up fruit, or a bowl of stirfry, which is what Thatbaby ate when he was just starting out with solids. They were microwaveable, so things could be heated, and they were small enough to send in a bunch of things since he wasn't eating at set times.
Once he moved on to the transitionary room, they started having a set lunch time. I started using these Takealongs.
Dishwasher and Microwave safe, fits the perfect amount of food for a toddler, and fit nicely in the communal fridge where everyone's lunches go.
When Thatbaby moved to the Toddler Room, things changed. No refrigerator, no microwave. So we had to change things up a little. First, a lunchbox was necessary to hold everything. After a bit of research, we landed on this one.
It's big enough to hold his milk, and several food containers, which is important because I had to send in lunch AND snack. The interior pocket is great for holding silverwear, and the outer pocket is good if I need a little extra room for a breakfast snack, or the snack bags if the interior is really full. It also can be thrown in the washing machine. Which I do on a weekly basis.
As far as what goes inside, without refrigeration, you want to make sure that the cold stuff stays cold. Which is why I like these little Fit and Fresh Containers.
I was already a fan of Fit and Fresh, since Thatboy and I use their lunch containers for our lunch. These are great because they have little ice packs that fit into the lid of each. Now that Thatbaby is in preschool, he has microwave access again, these are what I send in his main courses that need to be heated. I like the 2 cup containers because they fit small things like green beans, or large things like a stuffed potato.
Without a microwave, I needed something that would keep warm things warm, a thermos!
I use this for pasta, rice and meat, or even soup - one of Thatbaby's favorites. This is nice, short, and stout, which is great in terms of space in the lunchbox.
I also am a big fan of reuseable bags for things like raisins, sandwiches, or crackers. Thatmom got me a set from Carried Away.
They're super cute, and wash really well. I also use these on the weekend to throw a snack in my bag to have on hand.
We have gone through all sorts of drink containers over the past couple of years, and I have finally hit on my favorite - the Contigo Autospout.
Both Little LO and Little Parrot used these bottles and that's how I was introduced to them. The upside to these is that they're gigantic, easy to use, easy to wash, and THEY DON'T LEAK! The downside is they're not insulated. I used these for Thatbaby's milk right now, and it seems to be okay, but I think it helps that it's pressed against the cold icepacks in the containers. I would be a little more nervous if it wasn't in an insulated bag.
So these are the tools I use and have found successful. It's an entirely different animal than what I put in them, which is only sometimes successful. But we'll cover that later!