If you have an anxious child or a “sensory kid” and are struggling with lunchbox ideas, you have landed in the right place.
My name is Erin Chase and I am a mom of four boys. Two of them are “sensory kids” and one is an anxious kid. They are different and similar in so many ones, but one of them landed himself in feeding therapy as a young toddler. I learned so much about his feeding habits and tendencies, but also about oral motor dysfunctions and how that translates to food sensitivities and pickiness from our therapy team, as well as from my own research.
So, while not an academically trained expert, I feel comfortable calling myself a “frantic mom working this out in the kitchen day in and day out” kind of expert. And I will share some ideas and thoughts to assist you on this journey, but mostly I want you to have this handy list!
Fast forward to present day and my “problem feeder” is now in elementary school with his Sensory Processing Disorder and anxiety rearing their ugly heads – every day. He sees an occupational therapist, and we have activities and exercises at home that we do, and addition to accommodations at school as well.
As we’ve talked and worked together over the years, he and I have landed on just the right “crunchy foods” to pack into his lunchbox.
He’s in the “crunch to calm” camp.
Other kids are in the “smooth to calm” camp.
If you have a sensory kid, you know exactly what I’m referring to. (If you don’t, I highly recommend you read this book – Out of Sync Child.)
Because not all sensory kids are the same and calm themselves in different ways, I have developed 2 lists for you: One list for those who crave and calm themselves with softer foods, and another list for those who crave and calm themselves with crunchy, chewy foods.
Please note that in my research, I’ve found that the following eating methods are most beneficial to sensory kids and helping them “re-ground” – sucking through a straw or chewing tough foods or crunching on extra-crunchy ingredients/food, swishing soft foods around in their mouths. I’ve tried to incorporate some different foods that would help with those eating methods and motions too.
For more on oral motor issues and problem eating overview, see this article from a speech pathologist.
Before we get to the food lists, please take a look at this list…
When to Consult Your Pediatrician about Food and Nutrition Related Concerns
- over chews food and resists swallowing
- drinks water or milk with each bite, to help with swallowing
- spits out food
- complains of complete reflux and food regurgitation
- complains of high stomach, chest or throat pain, along the path of the esophagus, after eating
- fails to gain weight
- isn’t receiving balanced nutrition with what they eat daily
And now for the lunchbox ideas for your sensory kid, anxious kid, or “problem feeder” kid.
I hope this list is helpful and inspires new ideas for your precious child’s lunchbox 🙂
Sensory Kid Lunchbox Ideas for Crunchy, Chewier Foods
- Beef or turkey jerky
- Flavored or buttery crackers
- Cheese crackers
- Animal crackers
- Apple slices
- Chips – sweet potato or veggie straws
- Carrot sticks or baby carrots
- Celery sticks (ants on a log)
- Snap peas
- Dried banana chips
- Nuts – almonds, peanuts, walnuts, cashews
- Trail mix with nuts, seeds and dried fruit
- Granola – dry with yogurt or fruit
- Larabars or Lara bites
- Dried fruits – raisins or cranberries
Sensory Kid Lunchbox Ideas for Soft, Smoother Foods
- Peanut butter & jelly sandwich
- Yogurt tubes or cups
- Mashed potatoes
- Mashed sweet potatoes
- “Smoothie in a tube” – use these reusable tubes
- Oatmeal with cooked, soft fruit
- Cottage cheese
- Pudding (check out this homemade “chocomole” – they will never know what’s really in it!)
- Macaroni and cheese <<< click for homemade Instant Pot Mac n Cheese recipe!
- Refried beans with some melted, shredded cheese
- Chicken salad
- Egg salad
- Meatloaf bites
Dana McGiffin says
My son is a crunchy kinda guy. I have used chicken, pepperoni and taco meat to make air fry taquitos. Clayton like some heat so I use some queso and shredded cheese with the meat. I butter and salt the taquito befor serving. The air fry is set at 360* for seven minutes. I often use his leftover chicken nuggets from the day before.