Bento is a concept that has taken North America by storm! Originally from Japan, NA bento is a little different, often just simple foods in a pretty box. I like to have a little more fun with my daughter’s lunches once in a while! Generally, she has a great appetite for a 4 year old. Sometimes it can be a bit more of a challenge to get those healthy meals in! This extra effort every so often shows my wonder girl that I’m thinking about her, encourages her to try different foods, and is one of the ways that I show her my love! These are themed lunches that anyone can make, and hopefully will inspire you as well.
Of course I had to start with one of our superhero lunches! This one was kept very simple. I made a sheet of pancakes in the oven ahead of time and cut out different shapes for themes that I had in mind. I chose the bat symbol along with some mango carrot applesauce to dip it. Red and blue berries along with the star puffs and cheese represent many of the American superheroes like Captain America, Wonder Woman, and Superman. The round mini naans are designed to look similar to Captain America’s shield. What really made this lunch stand out for Tess were the added accessories!
Is there a more iconic series for the millennial generation than Pokemon? It has been making a comeback in the last few years, and my daughter is all about that Pikachu. I took a round naan and topped it with sauce, mozzarella, and half pepperoni. If she was less picky, I would have stuck a black olive slice in the middle to make a pokeball! I dipped a marshmallow in melted yellow candy melts. I used red and brown candy melts (a tiny amount!) and a toothpick to make the Pikachu face! I used the same on the onigiri rice hearts. To make those, I took sticky rice and cooked it with a lot of turmeric to create the colour (yes, I did accidentally dye my counter ?). I then used a onigiri/rice ball mold to make the heart shapes! The bonus of this is that sticky rice is less likely to make a mess all over the floor (you’re welcome teachers!). The rest is fairly self-explanatory: a babybel with the wax cut in half and a black circle paper (another pokeball), goldfish crackers as Magikarp, and raspberries to fit the colour theme!
I find myself equally finding this show and character both cute and ridiculous. I remember loving it growing up, so did my sister, and now so does my own daughter. Something about this cat is infectious! An addition that I wish I had used would be to make a bow out of a piece of nitrate-free deli ham to put on the winking kitty! My knowledge of the show is low these days, but I know that pink and hearts are a popular theme! I used a small cookie cutter to make hearts in half an apple, added pink sprinkles to vanilla yogurt, and made similar rice to the Pokemon theme, but I used red food colouring and stirred it in after cooking. The slice of bacon was a bonus haha! I filled the center circle with annie’s bunny grahams because Hello Kitty has a bunny best friend!
If you know my daughter, you know that she is OBSESSED with Star Wars. “Darth Vader is just in a bad mood” or “He needs to learn how to be kind to his friends.” Princess Leia and Rey are well loved, and we read books about droids regularly ? So I had to find a way to make this happen! Puff stars with a Darth Vader sandwich on top. Yoda, C3PO, and R2D2 pancakes with syrup or homemade coulis! A star cut out of a babybel, and lightsabers made from food picks and raspberries! The corn was my initial idea for stars before I remembered puffs, so I kept it in there. 🙂
My family is big on Disney. I’ve made two main princess bentos so far – one generic and one Beauty and the Beast themed! For both, I used gingerbread cookie cutters to make the bodies! Yellow hair can be made out of cheese strings, brown hair out of a hot dog or pretzel sticks! For Belle’s bento, I used bread (tortilla would work as well), rolled it out, cut it into triangles and folded them over with cheese in the centre. I quickly cooked them up in the morning, and they’re her books! I cut teapots and teacups out of pear, made a strawberry rose, and dyed pancake batter with turmeric. For the generic princess theme, dresses can be cut out of ham or bologna or turkey! You could definitely make them out of salmon/tuna salad, roast chicken, or whatever else your child likes as well. I found candy crowns and lentil princess pasta at Bulk Barn (pasta was made into spaghetti in the princess thermos!), and I cut a heart out of a mini cucumber. This would make any princess loving child happy happy happy!
We recently got a puppy!! She’s beautiful and fluffy, and her name is Charlie. The day before we got her, I knew we had to have a puppy bento made up! This could be done for any new pet coming! I cut the shape of a dog’s head out of two slices of bread and the filler deli ham. I then used the ham to make ears, a tongue, and an eye spot. I used food picks (including a hat for the nose!) to create the rest of the face. I cut “C”s for Charlie out of apple rings. I attempted to freestyle cut a bone out of bread and make grilled cheese, but as you can see, it will be easier with a cookie cutter in the future! I found the plastic nest from my daughter’s mini hatchimal toys and filled them with Made Good granola balls (which contain a serving of vegetables, win!). Finally, we used blueberries as “puppy vitamins” which is actually funny since they’re one of her favourite foods now! For a cat, you could include goldfish crackers and vanilla yogurt as “milk” (which is actually bad for cats btw). For a fish, you could include goldfish crackers, colourful cereal as “fish food,” spinach for seaweed, or make a fish out of rice and use cucumber and carrot coins as scales! The possibilities are endless!
The unicorn bento is by far my favourite bento that I’ve made so far!! My wonder girl’s favourite colour has been “rainbow” for as long as I can remember, she even has a unicorn named Rainbow in her dreams that she uses to fight off bad dreams and go to Candy Land – my mom came up with that amazing idea!! My first rainbow bento did not go quite as smoothly. I used bacon as the rainbow with pancake clouds, rainbow sprinkles, and made sure to include every colour of the rainbow that I could with what I had (I only failed on purple – I ran out of grapes!). For my second round, I upped my game! I didn’t have a unicorn mold, but I DID have a hippo mold. Bear with me here – when a child asks for a unicorn bento, sometimes you have to get creative! I used a toy ice cream cone as the unicorn horn. I missed orange and blue (although they made it in with the sprinkles!), I made sure we had purple grapes on hand this time! The addition of little toys and horses really makes lunches like these more fun!
I only included one example here (red and pink) aside from the above rainbow, but there are so many options here as well! You could make a lunch filled with your child’s favourite colour by dyeing pancakes, hard boiled eggs, rice, pasta, and adding sprinkles to yogurt. Fruit and vegetables come in all colours of the rainbow – and this may incline them to try something new! There are different colours of cheeses and dips (from cheddar to guacamole to roasted red pepper hummus!). It’s easy to find food picks that come in whatever colour or shape you need!