Sweet surprises: Lunch box treats to brighten the day

Aug 16, 2012 at 4:29 a.m. ET

Just like grown-ups, kids have bad days. Whether it’s a rough test, a lost sports competition or a grumpy friend, you wish you could be there to help them cope. The next best thing is adding something to their lunch box or bag to make them smile and remember the fun things in life.

girls with lunches

Sweet surprises don't have to be edible. As long as your treat elicits a giggle or makes their eyes sparkle, it's a grand success. What takes only a few minutes to add to a bag can turn a kid's whole day from gloomy to glad.

Crispy and crunchy

A bag of granola is rather ho-hum but when it's mixed with nuts and bound with a bit of honey, the resulting snack bar is satisfyingly sweet and moderately healthy. A snack size bag of caramel popcorn is a great find at the bottom of a lunch bag. Yogurt-coated pretzels satisfy kids' sweet tooth without adding a lot of sugar to their diet.

Chocolate rules

Nothing gratifies kids (and adults) like a dose of pure chocolate. If your kid likes dark chocolate, which has some real health benefits, pack a miniature bar in the lunch bag for a nice surprise ending for lunch. Milk chocolate lovers will be elated at finding a couple of milk chocolate Hershey kisses in their lunch box. Make heart-shaped brownies to make their day better.

Picture perfect

Slip a snapshot from a family vacation into the lunch bag, the sillier the better. Cut a picture of their favorite super hero or pop star from a magazine and draw a mustache or funny eyebrows on it before putting it into the lunch box. Clip their most-adored comic strip from the morning paper and stick it in the bag.

Nutty notes

Write a funny riddle or knock-knock joke on a piece of paper to give them a laugh while eating lunch. Print out the lyrics to their favorite song and add it to the bag to lift their spirits and put the tune in their head. If you know they've been feeling down about themselves, add a simple note of praise or encouragement acknowledging what a good sibling they are, telling them how much you enjoy their sense of humor or praising their math skills .

Want another fun idea? Make the note nutty... literally! Pack a SMUCKER'S® Uncrustables® made with whole wheat bread into their bags and write something fun like, "I'm nuts about you!" on the wrapper with a permanent marker.

Crazy presentations

Draw faces on their hard cooked eggs and top them with little homemade paper hats. Create miniature kebabs with fancy cocktail toothpicks threaded through chunks of cheese and fruit. Cut sandwiches into odd shapes with cookie cutters. Draw crazy characters on napkins and add humorous captions.

Adding sweetness to your kids' lunch boxes not only makes their day, it improves yours as well. Around lunchtime, you'll catch yourself smiling, knowing you added a much-needed ray of sunshine to your child's life.

Share with us!

What's the best surprise you ever found in your lunch box? Leave us a comment below!

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