Bento Recipes for Kids ideas from Maki Ogawa

Posted by on Jul 30, 2013

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Bento recipes for kids are a sweet tradition in Japan where mothers will often send the children off to school with special, often animal-shaped lunches. The children open the small lunch boxes (known as bento boxes) to find a new scene or creation every day. Bento designer Maki Ogawa, co-author of "Yum-Yum Bento Box: Fresh Recipes for Adorable Lunches," shares more about these popular treats, ways to avoid common mistakes and a few tools you need to make successful bento recipes for kids.

bento recipes for kids
Why are bento recipes for kids so popular?

I'm Japanese, so, from a Japanese mother's standpoint, I'll answer your questions.

Bento is a familiar, ordinary thing for me. I was a picky eater. My mother always wanted us to maintain a good nutritional balance, so she packed a lot of foods I liked into my bento box. Many Japanese mothers make the effort to make good bento boxes for their kids through trial and error.

The bento box is a small but nutritional little meal, and they are packed with a lot of affection for their kids. It's special for them. I think this is one reason they've become so popular in the United States.

Which tools are essential to making bento recipes for kids?

Nori (sea weed sheets) are necessary for making smiley faces onigiri (rice balls).
bento recipes for kids
Are there any common mistakes or misconceptions about making bento boxes for little ones? Any ways to overcome them?

These are some mistakes I've made. One day, when my son went to kindergarten, I packed some vegetables he disliked (spinach and okra) to help him overcome his picky and slow eating habits. But it was the wrong thing to do. For a while, lunchtime at kindergarten was a gloomy time for him. For small kids, it's really important to eat happily. I should have done this kind of training at my house. From then on, I decided to pack his favorite foods and vegetables in his bento box.

What are some common foods in bento recipes for kids? Are they healthy?

Japanese kids like tamagoyaki (Japanese-style omelet) or Japanese-style fried chicken. Although it is not super healthy, you can always make it healthier by combining it with vegetables.

Image credits: All images from Yum-Yum Bento Box

"Yum-Yum Bento Box"
Maki Ogawa is the co-author of "Yum-Yum Bento Box: Fresh Recipes for Adorable Lunches," published by Quirk Books. You can check out more bento recipes for kids at her website Yum-Yum Bento Box.
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