The Bento Box: Every toddler’s dream lunch

I love cute hair cuts. Cute smiles. Cute babies.

I especially love cute food.

And believe me – the Japanese know cute food. Not content to simply let plain-Jane food lay limp in the lunch box, they have an entire industry devoted to countless accessories and gadgets whose sole purpose is to make food perky and cute. It’s the art of Bento. And it’s super kawaii (guess what that means?).

A little background: Ava just started a 2 day per week preschool program and she takes a packed lunch. I love her school. Everything is so darn… well… cute – from the name of their class (Bunnies) to their pet fish. It’s appropriate that she brings a healthy, fun, and super cute toddler lunch.

With that being said, let’s Bento!

To start out, you don’t need much but a few tiny cookie cutters. You can use them to cut out steamed carrot stars, cucumber bears…

And cheese giraffes (use sesame seeds for eyes). Today our little cheese giraffes are walking on a bed of steamed asparagus and carrot stars. Adorable!

Then there’s the amazing trick of turning an egg into a bento duck. Add 2 carrot stars for feet and a bit of yellow pepper for the nose. You could use a quail egg or regular egg to make the duck. The seed eyes stick by dipping in a bit of water first. The nose can be stuck on with a dab of mayo or mustard. The carrot-star feet are stuck in small slits at the bottom of the egg.

Fill the bento in with other finger foods – small tomatoes, grapes, steamed broccoli, and a ball of steamed rice – preferably sushi rice  [Recipe].

This is a toddler’s dream lunch.

For real.

So what about you? Do you go all out for lunch?


  1. Stephanie says

    This is super cute! It’s a good thing our daycare provider provides lunch because I never have time to pack my own lunch, let alone our daughter’s!

  2. Brian S. says

    But what if the duck and giraffe come to life and eat the rest of the food?

  3. It’s called ART. The Japanese have a spirit-ual approach to the mundane. Their culture presents GRACIOUS as in deference to the OTHER and to the hidden life behind the “masks” – be they animal vegetable or mineral…

    Volunteering as community liaison with Japanese teen/young adult women at SHOWA in Boston, I was almost embarassed by how gracious they were..For example…assembled around a dinner table, not one Japanese would start eating or even pick up a utensil until I began (being the “outsider”) – and guess what! I was waiting for one of them to start because I was only the guest.

    SHOWA is a school providing 6 month externships from Japanese H.S. and colleges. Students come from the very best families and are chosen because they are the hope of the country. Their mission is to learn the American Culture so they will become effective ambassadors of good will in their future Japanese careers.

  4. Sasha Martin says

    Thanks friends! We’ll see if I can keep it up (at least a couple of cookie cutter items in each lunch).

    Mom – I can totally see the “no one eating yet” scene – hilarious.

  5. elisa waller says

    Fantastic..but haven’t u noticed our adventure has been quite ‘ironic’ at times…meeting people from other countries, making hungarian food when mom wa there, cooking japan when ava starts school (bento lunch) ..Iknow thee are more incidences of just plain old good energy…your adventures has such a good vibe!

  6. Jessica Bennett says

    Was the teacher impressed with her lunch? What about the other kids? I know I’m impressed.

  7. Stella says

    Love the Bento, think you document every bento box to give the rest of us mum inspiration for packed lunches 🙂

  8. Just wanted to tell you that I loved this post! I’m a working mother who had to put my littler girl in “day care” as a 9 month old infant. When she moved up into the toddler room of the Montessori school I was now responsible for just the feat you are describing (only time, patience, and exhaustion did not a creative mommy make). I stumbled upon this website which gave me lots of cute ideas to help infuse my love of food and love for her into her lunch.

    Thought you would enjoy it too! Enjoy the big steps she’s making! And keep up this amazing journey. I love it!

  9. I’m a pre-K teacher and I’ve had a few Japanese-American kids in my class. Their moms (who happened to be the Japanese half of the Japanese-American combo) make their versions of bento box lunches. While I have yet to see tiny giraffes made of cheese, I marvel at the care that is taken in their lunch preparation. An example would be a mom who uses a regular plastic lunch box, fitted with individual makeshift aluminum foil sections. In the sections could be: 5 tiny grape tomatoes; cucumber coins with serrated edges; some kind of meat such as 3 meatballs or 6 slices of hot dog, all packed in neatly; a few small broccoli sprigs, lightly steamed; a cluster of 6 or 7 grapes; a small roll of rice, wrapped with a piece of seaweed…but one of my favorite components is this one particular boy would bring ketchup to eat with the meatballs or hot dogs. He dispensed the ketchup from a small, hollow plastic fish which was about 1 1/2-2″ long, similar to one that can be played with in the bathtub. The only way to get the ketchup into the fish would be to use suction. Mom would have had to squeeze the air out of the fish, tucked the fish’s nose into a container of ketchup and then allow the suction power to suck the ketchup up into the tiny fish. It must have taken forever! I was very impressed and actually kind of touched that a mom would put that much work into her child’s pre-K lunch.

  10. Pingback: Global Table Adventure | Recipe: Rolled Egg Omelet w/ Kimchi (Gyeran mali)

  11. Samantha says

    That’s a really cute bento! I especially love what you did with the egg 🙂 I aspire to make bento lunches as pretty and neat as yours!

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