Empowering Parents to Teach- 5 Ways to Green Your Child's School Lunch

Five Ways To “Green” Your Child’s School Lunch


The choices we make every day affect our planet. Daily habits that we often don’t even think twice about can either help or harm the Earth. That is why is it important as a parent to teach our children good habits that are mindful of our impact. If we establish good habits now, we are helping both our children and our planet.


Essentially, every area of our lives can be analyzed for improvement when it comes to helping maintain a healthy environment. Today, I am going to focus on just one: our children’s school lunches. Every day many of us pack a lunch and send our kids off to school. Ever stop to think how much trash is produced from those lunches? Are we focusing more on convenience than nutrition? There are many things to consider when we choose what to put in our children’s lunch boxes. In efforts to reduce the amount of trash produced and provide our children with proper nutrition, focus on these five things:


*Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase from Amazon, I receive a very small fee at no extra cost to you.


1. Reusable Packaging

Ditch the little plastic bags! If you use plastic bags to hold a sandwich or snacks, count how many you use every day in your children’s lunches. Now multiply that by 180 (the typical number of school days in a year). How many plastic bags do your children throw away each year? For example, if you only use 2 every day then your children are throwing away 360 plastic bags! Do you use 4 a day? That’s 720 plastic bags a year! If you switched to a reusable source, you are now saving those 360 or 720 bags from ending up in a landfill.

What should you use instead?


Stainless steel containers

Stainless steel or glass is your most eco-friendly option. You may not want to send a very young child with a glass container, so stainless steel is a great choice. Some products available:




We have two Lunchbots that look similar to the one pictured. They have worked well for us and have held up for years. There are more types of these available with different numbers of divisions for food.


Washable food bags

We love these! This company has so many fun patterns to choose from so there is bound to be one that your child enjoys.

Plastic containers

Of course, there are always plastic containers to help you avoid disposable one time use bags.

Rubbermaid sandwich kit:

Ikea food containers:

We have both of these sets.  I use the cold pack from the Rubbermaid set every day. The Ikea set has so many sizes, that I can always find a container to fit what I want to pack! The extra small size has come in very handy.



2. Reusable or Compostable Utensils

To reduce waste even further, have your child stop throwing away plastic spoons, forks, and knives. Or, if they do throw them away, pick a better material that can be composted or biodegrades easily. Here are some choices:

To-Go Ware

This set of bamboo utensils has everything you may need: knife, fork, spoon, and chopsticks. The outer sleeve holds the pieces very tightly when closed preventing the utensils from spilling out and getting lost. We have a set of these, too!


Compostable utensils:



These utensils are made mostly from non-GMO corn and can turn into soil in 3-6 months when composted (according to the information on their packaging). Even though they are considered disposable, I still have my children bring them home every day to wash them and reuse them. When the time comes to dispose of them, I know that they will biodegrade much faster than plastic utensils would.


3. Cloth Napkins

An often overlooked place to reduce the amount of trash in your child’s lunch is his or her napkin. Simply giving your child a cloth napkin can take away one more piece of trash every day! You can easily find these in many stores, but if you prefer online shopping Amazon’s got you covered with this set below.

4. Fresh Food 

All of the things we put in our children’s lunches is meant to provide them with the best nutrition we can give them. It’s tempting to put convenience over nutritional value at times. It seems easier to buy prepackaged processed food and quickly throw it in a lunch box while we make a mad dash to school. Now matter how early you wake up, the morning seems hectic and lacking adequate time to get out of the door. Examine your child’s lunch. How many items in there are actually just empty calories that fill your child’s stomach but don’t really provide nutrition? What can you pack instead? Give yourself time to plan ahead of time what kinds of nutritious foods you can pack.  Develop a routine of preparing and packing those foods until it becomes second nature. Remember, it all begins at the grocery store. If you don’t buy junk, it won’t end up in a lunch box.


Looking for suggestions on what to pack? Parents magazine’s Lunch For a Month gives 30 healthy lunch ideas given by celebrity chefs (click here for the article).



5. Avoid Overpacking

One thing I noticed about my children’s lunches in the beginning of the school year was how much they actually ate. They came home with a lot of uneaten food. Of course, they claimed that they did not have enough time to eat. Which I do not think they are fibbing about, they have a short lunch (in my opinion). Knowing that they only have a certain amount of time to eat, I want every bite to count. I needed to pack less food, because over packing would result in more waste not more eating. If I packed too much they will naturally eat the things they like the most and the rest may end up in the trash. I do not want to waste food, so I pack only what they eat.


This brings me to a huge issue in schools: food waste. If your child buys lunch at school, they may be throwing away a lot of food. For example, in the Los Angeles Unified School District in 2014, they estimated that students threw away $100,000 worth of food a day. Perfectly edible food just thrown away! Click here to read the full article highlighting this problem. There are steps that a school can take to help alleviate this. Ask your child’s school if they participate in the U.S. Food Waste Challenge. Click here to learn more about the U.S. Food Waste Challenge and what schools can do to help.


Little changes can make a big impact if enough of us do it together!



Empowering Parents To Teach- 5 Minute Math

Five Minute Math

I am very pleased to be a part of the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum’s blog hop, Educating Gifted Children: The Many Ways We Approach Their Learning.


My kids have experienced both homeschool and public school.  In this post, I will share one way we supplemented our children’s public school education at home. As parents of gifted children, we know that public school may not always be able to meet every need of our gifted learners so we often need to supplement our children’s education on our own. To me, it can be a tricky balance. I feel like after a long day at school, the last thing I want to do is give my child more work. I want them to play and have time to unwind. In order to keep after school time as low key as possible while still helping my children progress on their level, I started Five Minute Math.


For my children, math is one of their strengths. Their math ability is much higher than the level they are being taught in school.  My goal with Five Minute Math is for them to practice higher level math concepts that they already know so they don’t forget it! The practice time is short. I call it Five Minute Math because it should only take them 5-10 minutes to complete. The set up is really quite simple.  I just take a notebook and write a couple of math problems for them to solve.  I usually write 6-8 math problems covering various topics depending on what they know and what they are not getting practice on in school. Sometimes, the simplest solution is the best solution. For us, just a tiny bit of practice helped my children retain their math skills that may have otherwise been forgotten from disuse.


At one point my oldest son did this every day, but now that both boys get more homework they only do this about once a week. It’s so simple to do and my kids actually ask me for the math. I like that it is so easy to set up. I don’t have to scour the internet for worksheets that often have too many problems and print them out. I can adjust the the type of math problems every day as needed. All I need is a notebook and the knowledge of what my children are capable of and I can completely customize their practice problems.


This is what Five Minute Math looked like when my oldest was in first grade:

Empowering Parents To Teach- Five Minute Math


Five Minute Math worked for us, it may work for you too. It’s short, easy to set up, and keeps your child from forgetting math skills!


Be sure to visit the many other bloggers who share their insight, stories, and advice for parents of gifted children. Click here to read more!

GHF Blog Hop

Follow Gifted Homeschoolers Forum on Facebook: Click here


Empowering Parents To Teach- Magnets

Learning About Magnets

Exploring magnetism was a hit in our home school last year. There are many simple, high-interest activities that you can do at home with your children to help them learn about magnetism.


The book Everyday Physical Science Experiments With Magnetism by Amy French Merrill is a very easy to read book that explains how to do many classic and simple activities designed to introduce your child to magnetism. After doing these activities, look for more books at your library to go more in depth with the topic. Additional book suggestions are at the end of this post.


Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you make a purchase from Amazon, I receive a small fee at no extra cost to you.



To complete the activities we needed to purchase two items:

 Alnico Bar Magnets

Iron Filings


Using the directions from the book, my boys separated iron filings from garlic salt, witnessed magnetic field, and so much more! The instructions were so easy to follow and the activities held the attention of both of my boys, aged 4 and 9 at the time. Here’s a look at some of the things we did:


Magnetic Field

Empowering Parents To Teach- Magnets


Separating Iron Filings

Empowering Parents To Teach- Magnets


Empowering Parents To Teach- Magnets



After we did the activities in this book, we decided to make our own Lego car that we powered by magnets.


Lego Car

First, the boys figured out how long the magnet was.

Empowering Parents To Teach- Magnets



They hid the magnet inside the vehicle.

Empowering Parents To Teach- Magnets



They continued building the car.

Empowering Parents To Teach- Magnets




Empowering Parents To Teach- Magnets



Using the invisible force of magnetism, the boys drove the car.

Empowering Parents to Teach- Magnets



Further your child’s study on magnetism with these books and products:


Teaching Multiplication (free printable chart included)

To introduce multiplication, I usually start with our math bears. You can use any type of small object that is easy for your child to manipulate. Once the child seems to understand the concept, I will use the multiplication chart using beans. Since the spaces on the chart are uniformly spaced, the child can see the relationship between the various products they will create. For example, the array s/he creates for 2×3 will be much smaller than the array created for 4×5. While this seems like common sense to us, a child’s mathematical reasoning is developing. They need to see this!


Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you make a purchase from Amazon, I receive a small fee at no extra cost to you.


Multiplication With Math Bears


Empowering Parents To Teach- Multiplication

Materials needed:


1. Select multiplication facts with small numbers for factors. Put the multiplication facts in a pile for your child to use.

2. Pick the top card and show your child the multiplication fact. Tell your child that just like we have symbols that tell us to add or subtract ( +, -) the  “x” on the card tells us to multiply. The numbers on the card give us information too; the the first number tells us how many groups we have and the second number tells us how many items are in each group.


Empowering Parents To Teach- Multiplication


3. Using 2×3 as an example, explain that the we know that there are two groups and each group has three items in it. Demonstrate this with the math bears. Take out three math bears and line them up together. I would talk out loud as I am working, “We have one group, but we need two. So, I need to get three more bears to make two groups of three”. Line up the second group under the first. “Now I have two groups of three. If I count them, then I will know what 2×3 equals.” You can count them or ask your child to. S/he may announce the answer before you even do this!


Empowering Parents To Teach- Multiplication


Empowering Parents To Teach- Multiplication


4.  Choose another card and walk your child through the process again, but this time let your child manipulate the bears. You can still verbalize what to do at each step.

5. Once your child seems to be able to do this easily with your help, have him or her try one on his or her own without you directing each step.


Teaching Tip:

Not sure if your child is ready to multiply?  It’s helpful to understand psychologist Lev Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) and it’s role in teaching.



Empowering Parents To Teach: ZPD Chart


The graphic above shows three concentric circles. The center circle represents everything your child can do by him or herself with no help needed. The next circle represents the area where your child can do something (such as multiplying) with help or guidance from an adult. This is the Zone of Proximal Development. The outer circle represents things that your child cannot do, even if you are helping (like calculus). When working on this activity, take a moment to see where your child’s understanding of multiplication falls. Can your child accomplish the task at hand with your assistance? If so, that’s good! You are working in the ZPD, which is where you want to be for your child to learn something new. With enough practice and guidance your child’s multiplying ability will move from the ZPD into the center circle of things he or she can do independently.


However, if your child is looking at you like you have three heads when you are working on multiplying and seems totally confused no matter how much you try to help, your child’s understanding may fall in the outer circle. This means that your child may not be ready for this task. S/he may need to work on skills that lead up to multiplication. Practice more addition, demonstrate multiplication informally in play situations, talk about groups, read books about multiplication (see additional resources at the end), practice skip counting, etc.



 Multiplication Chart


Empowering Parents To Teach: Multiplication Chart Activity


Materials needed:


Activity 1–Solving Problems:

1. Present your child with the materials as pictured above.

2. Show your child how we can use the beans to solve the multiplication problems just as we did with the math bears.  This time however, we can use the chart to place the beans in an orderly fashion.

3. For example, if the card says 2×3, we know that we need to make two groups of three. Demonstrate this by placing the beans on the chart one group at a time.


Empowering Parents To Teach- Multiplication Chart

4. Have your child count how many beans there are on the chart. This is your answer.

5. Repeat the process with more multiplication facts.


Empowering Parents To Teach- Multiplication Chart


Teaching Tip:

Keep this chart on hand to help with homework. Your child can use this as a tool to solve multiplication problems independently.


Activity 2–Filling in the chart:

Once your child understands the concept, you can encourage your child to fill in the chart.  I usually wait to fill it in so that the child is not memorizing the facts at first.


1. Follow the same procedure as above to solve multiplication facts.


Empowering Parents To Teach- Multiplication


2. This time, when your child gets the result have him or her record their answer directly on the chart. For example, if the child solved 2×3, s/he would count the beans (left to right, top to bottom) and write the answer in the square of the final bean. Naturally, this will be in the lower right hand corner of the array where the two factors meet.


Empowering Parents To Teach- Multiplication


Empowering Parents To Teach- Multiplication


Have fun!


Additional Resources:


This post is linked to:
Montessori Monday

Empowering Parents To Teach- Santa Barbara

Real World Classroom: Science and Social Studies in Santa Barbara

The world truly is a classroom. Last year I home schooled my oldest son for his fourth grade year. I only bought one textbook and it was rarely used. As much as possible, we used our natural environment, hands on activities, and library books. We took opportunities as they came to us. One of those opportunities was a trip to Santa Barbara. My husband was running in the Veteran’s Day marathon that Santa Barbara holds. Since we always go to his marathons to cheer him on, I decided that we would also make this an educational trip for our boys.


Fourth grade standards focus a lot on Native Americans and California mission history. Santa Barbara was the perfect place for my son to learn about these topics. When teaching social studies it is best to use primary sources as much as possible. Primary sources would be actual artifacts or documents from the point in history one is studying. A textbook is written through the eyes of the author and often through a particular cultural lens or even viewpoint of a company or organization. It’s best for my child to see these things for himself and draw his own conclusions. Obviously, he cannot go back in time to witness this history.  Visiting the historical sites and seeing real artifacts is the closest he can get. Naturally, we read books on the subjects and had projects related to the information so that he could delve deeper into the subject and synthesize what he had seen and read.


Santa Barbara has a lot to offer.  We had to narrow it down because we only had a four day weekend and of course one of those days was taken up with the marathon.  Another factor was the budget. Hotels are not cheap in Santa Barbara so we chose carefully about what to do when we were there, hoping not to go broke.  Even if you have a short amount of time and a limited budget you can still have a fantastic educational trip! I’ll share with you what we did.


Chumash Painted Cave

Empowering Parents To Teach- Santa Barbara


The Chumash Indians are one of the most studied tribes in our area.  After reading many books about the Chumash Indians, we were excited to go this cave where paintings that they created are still there! You will see their actual paintings, how cool is that? They are blocked off with bars so you cannot touch them, but it is very visible.  To get to the park, you have to drive up a big mountain.  My kids marveled at the view and commented on how it looked like we were above the clouds.


Empowering Parents To Teach- Santa Barbara

Empowering Parents To Teach- Santa Barbara


Just a couple of days ago we were talking about our trip and my kids were guessing how the Chumash got up there. My boys wondered what was it like to live up high and how the Chumash got food. Because they visited this place, they have a better understanding of the environment that the Chumash lived in. Therefore, they can see why the Chumash developed certain habits or traditions.


Empowering Parents To Teach- Santa Barbara

Empowering Parents To Teach- Santa Barbara

Empowering Parents To Teach- Santa Barbara


This is a California State park so it is free to visit. The constraining factor is parking.  To give you an idea of what the parking is like, see the picture below. You have to find spot on the side of the road that is clear of trees and doesn’t look like you will fall of the edge!  We went early in the morning and had no trouble finding a spot just up the road from the site.


Empowering Parents To Teach- Santa Barbara

Empowering Parents To Teach- Santa Barbara


Click here to visit the park’s website. It is not in Santa Barbara, but it is a very reasonable driving distance from it.



Santa Barbara Mission

Empowering Parents To Teach- Santa Barbara


Twenty one missions were built in California. One of them is right in Santa Barbara. Peek into history by visiting the Santa Barbara mission.  You will see the garden, cemetery, church, and much more.  Your child will have a better understanding of what a mission is by seeing one for him or herself. There is a fee to enter, but parking is free.

For more information on Mission Santa Barbara visit their website: Click here




Goleta Butterful Preserve

Empowering Parents To Teach- Santa Barbara

Goleta is a short drive from Santa Barbara and is a very special place. It is a stopping point for migrating Monarch butterflies. This is a seasonal event. From November to February you can see the butterflies hanging in the trees resting for the next leg of their migration. At first, they can be hard to see since they have their wings closed and the brown of the outside of the wings blends in with the trees. But, if you look carefully, you will notice them, especially if the begin to flutter their wings.


Empowering Parents To Teach- Santa Barbara


Pictures were hard to take. The small spot of orange on one of the trees is a butterfly fluttering (picture below). It was hard to discern the butterflies at first, you had to observe carefully. Once you learn how to look for the resting butterflies, it’s amazing to see. It was really interesting to see how they all hung on the branches together.


Empowering Parents To Teach- Santa Barbara


Not only can your child see migrating Monarchs, the rest of the park provides an exciting landscape to explore.  It’s a natural lesson in geology and biology.


Empowering Parents To Teach- Santa Barbara

Empowering Parents To Teach- Santa Barbara

Empowering Parents To Teach- Santa Barbara

Empowering Parents To Teach- Santa Barbara

Empowering Parents To Teach- Santa Barbara

The park is free to enter and parking is free too.  For more information about this park: Click here


Besides, do you really need an excuse to go to Santa Barbara? This place is gorgeous!


Empowering Parents To Teach- Santa Barbara

Empowering Parents To Teach- Santa Barbara