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Lunch Box Learning – Simple Ideas to Boost Your Child’s Literacy Skills

Your child’s lunch box is something that gets transported between home and school Monday through Friday. It may be an untapped learning resource! An often slimy area, it is overlooked as being of potential benefit to your child. With a little thought, preparation, and a good scrub, that lunch box can be transformed into a miniature learning center.

Learning ABC’s
• Put the letters of your child’s name into the lunchbox. If your child has a metal box, use magnetic letters. Otherwise, use laminated letters that are in a zipper bag. Be sure to include an upper case letter for the beginning of the name!

• Put the first five letters of the alphabet in your child’s lunchbox. When your child can correctly name them and put them in ABC order, add the next five to the zipper bag. Continue until your child has mastered all 26 letters.

• Use the laminated letters to practice beginning sounds of words. Match a letter to the beginning sounds of foods included in the lunchbox. (s-sandwich, ch-chips, m-milk)

• Alternatively, you can create a lunch where everything starts with a certain letter (Letter B-bread, butter, bagel, beans, bananas, brownies, broccoli, burrito). Your child can help pack the lunch on these days! Coordinate this activity with classroom learning if your child’s teacher does “Letter of the Week”.

• Upper and lower case letter matching can be played with a set of upper and lower case letter cards, tiles, or magnets. Begin with a few sets and add as your child’s knowledge grows.

Ready for Sight Words
• Write simple love notes that contain familiar sight words. Ex. “I love you. You are kind.” Add a bit of whimsy by placing notes on valentine cards in February, inside plastic eggs near Easter, or on a die-cut shamrock in March.

• Include sight word and punctuation cards that be formed into sentences. When your child is able to correctly read the sight words and build a variety of sentences with them, add a few more. Ex. I like you. You like me. I like me. (Sight words: I, like, you, me)

• Create laminated word cards that include foods your child typically eats and drinks. Your child can build sight word knowledge by matching these words to what is in the lunch box each day. Words such as smoothie, juice, milk, sandwich, bagel, chips,carrots, or yogurt will help your child learn food words quickly. The fun part is that lunches are typically varied each day!

• Reinforce color words by matching the color word to the foods in the lunchbox. Initially write the color words on small squares of colored construction paper. As your child becomes familiar with the color words, switch to color words written on squares of white paper. You may want to laminate these as well since they may become sticky from contact with the food.

Decoding Simple Words
• Practice familiar word families such as -at, -an, -ed, or -ing. Your child can practice building and reading these words. Components b, d, p, r, s, w, z and __ing form words such as bing, ding, ping, ring, and sing. Move onto another set when your child has successfully completed the current one.

• Place a few pieces of a compound word puzzle into a zipper bag. These puzzles can be found online or at a teacher supply store. Change these as your child becomes competent in building and reading these compound words.

• Rhyming cards with pictures can be purchased and placed into the lunch box. Add a few cards that rhyme and a few that don’t. Have your child recite the rhyming words after school for a quick assessment. Change these every few days, or as your child progresses.

Beginning Reading
• Make reading fun by including a daily joke! Be sure that the words are at your child’s level. You can find children’s joke books in the library. Just retype them, print, and cut into strips. Your child’s jokes may be the lunch room highlight!

• Fortune cookies are a fun way to include reading at lunch time. You can purchase these or include your own fortune such as, “You will have a great day!” or “You will make a new friend today.”

• Reinforce family values by including simple Bible scriptures to build your child’s faith.

• Place appointment reminders such as, “You have a doctor appointment at 3:30pm.” or, “Jill’s mom will take you to soccer after school”.

• If your child is studying for a test or writing a report, insert small strips of information or facts. You and your child can prepare these strips together in advance. After all, it’s not fair for mom and dad to do all the research!

These activities don’t have to be fancy, just quick and fun! With a little forethought, your child can have an extra five minutes of learning time per day. In an 180 day school year, that adds up to an extra 900 minutes, or 15 hours of additional education! What can your child accomplish with an extra 15 hours? A whole lot with a little lunch box learning!