Riddles, jokes, and love notes your child will be thrilled to find midday, according to parents and experts.

By Maressa Brown
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When it comes to parting ways with your school-age kiddo daily for approximately seven hours every weekday, you're sure to have mixed emotions. While you know they're off pursuing academic success and personal growth, it's also natural to miss them and want to send reminders of love and support. For that reason, writing your child sweet, funny, even quirky lunch box notes can be a particularly heartwarming practice with immediate and long-lasting benefits.

Why Notes Matter

Suzanne M. Robinson Porreca, Psy.D., director of child/adolescent services, AtlantiCare Behavioral Health, encourages parents to write notes that are spontaneous, authentic, and supportive. "It has been shown that positive reinforcement is an excellent way to promote self-esteem, resilience, and improved performance," Dr. Robinson Porreca says.

These notes can also serve as messages of unconditional love and acknowledgment. "It is our human nature to want to be acknowledged for who we are, and kids are no different," explains Bonnie Compton, a child and adolescent therapist, parenting coach, and author of Mothering With Courage. "Have you ever noticed how your child lights up when you acknowledge them? Imagine how a simple love note tucked into their lunch box or backpack will help brighten their day at school. And the more creative you can get, the better. Your kids will appreciate the extra effort you put into writing a sweet note for them. You'll be creating wonderful childhood memories for your kids, and maybe one day, they'll surprise with a note of your own."

In fact, lunch notes often create a dialogue between parent and child. Lisa Heller, a mom from Wayne, New Jersey shares, "If I know my eldest has a special class like music, gym, or art or an assembly or field trip, I’ll mention that in the note. I’ll ask questions about what they're looking forward to this month or who they plan on sitting right next to at lunch. My youngest is still too little to write, but my older daughter will sometimes write me back on the flip side of my note."

Interested in writing lunch notes for your kids? Find inspiration from these 25 winning lunch box note ideas from parents and experts.

1. Write it on an animal cut-out. Heller loves doing this for her daughters. Post-Its may be the go-to, but writing a note on paper that's in an unexpected shape—like a giraffe, lion, or your family's cat—makes the experience even more personal and fun.

2. Look for kids' jokes on Pinterest. Jill Linnett from Lake Wylie, South Carolina likes surprising her little ones with humorous notes, written with chalk markers on their sandwich containers.

Courtesy of Jill Linnett
Jill Linnett

3. Recall a happy memory. Shannon B. Wanless, Ph.D., director of the University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development, advises parents to write about "a silly moment from dinner the night before or joke that the two of you shared." Jogging their memory on that "positive time together reminds them of your unique bond and will help them feel empowered to be brave and persist until they see you again."

4. Draw a funny picture. Elissa R. Lerma from Moorpark, California has drawn imaginary mash-up characters for her children, like a llamacorn (llama plus unicorn).

5. Write an ongoing story. Lerma gives her children snippets from ongoing stories, so they can look forward to the next part appearing in their lunch box. She says that the stories are tailored to what each of her daughters are into. "My oldest loves the boy band 'Why Don't We,' so I wrote her a story about meeting a boy from a boy band," she says. "My youngest is otter-obsessed, so her story was all about an otter rescue at sea."

6. Share messages of encouragement. Robinson Porreca recommends examples like, "I know you will do great on your test today," or "Good job on doing all your chores last night."

7. Create a game for your L.O. "My dad used to 'decorate' my paper bag every time he made my lunch," recalls Megan O'Neal from Los Angeles. "Some days, he’d draw a word search or a maze."

8. Write a thoughtful reason you love them. "One of my favorite encouragements to parents is to keep a running list of 'Reasons Why I Love My Son/Daughter,'" says Sherry Richert Belul, author of Say It Now: 33 Ways To Say I LOVE YOU To the Most Important People In Your Life. Items from this running list could serve as love notes for your child's lunch box. "It could look like this: '#3495 Why I Love You, Chloe: I love that you treat Mr. Fuzzy with such love and care. You always pet him gently and give him kitty treats that make him purr,'" says Belul. "For an older child, it might look like this: '#9899 Why I Love You, Charlie: I see that you always make time for Grandpa Jordan, even when I know you might rather be spending time with your friends. It means a lot to Grandpa and you bring great joy to him.'"

9. Write a poem. Tiffany Konecko, who writes on Farmulosity.com, says her eldest loves a poem she penned for his lunch box: "It's your day, what are you going to do? What will make you move? What will be your goal? Once you know ... Ready set GO! Don't hold back, go for what you know. This is your day to make your memories and dreams known!"

10. Share a haiku. Children may enjoy thought-provoking, school-themed poetry from a book, such as H Is For Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z, by Sydell Rosenberg. Two examples: "Holding umbrellas children, like rows of mushrooms glisten in the rain," and, "First library card and a promise to read all authors A to Z."

11. Draw their favorite cartoon or video game characters. "My boyfriend's mom used to draw Mario Brothers cartoons on his brown paper bag," says Emmie Brown from San Diego, California.

12. Write a short, motivational quote. Megan Sullivan, cofounder of The Local Moms Network, recommends writing something along the lines of, "You Are Strong," "You Are Brave," or "I am so proud of you!"

13. Give specific, detailed compliments. Amanda Ponzar from Alexandria, Virginia goes for messages like, "I like your creativity in the way you colored that dragon" or "that’s the biggest train track set-up I’ve ever seen. You’re really good at building things. Maybe you’ll be an architect or engineer when you grow up."

14. Consider sensory objects. "My son has autism, so he has special needs," explains Becky Beach, blogger at MomBeach.com. "I put sensory objects in his lunchbox so he feels loved like fuzzy cotton balls dipped in lavender essential oil, popsicle sticks that say 'I love you, Bryan' and 'You and I stick together' on them, and handmade cards."

15. Make a scavenger hunt. "Each note could be a clue to unlocking a new treasure, then have your child search for the hidden goodies at home," recommends Jonathan Sprinkles, author of You've Got This: Daily Motivators That Will Inspire You To Do More Than You Ever Thought Possible.

16. Write them a riddle. "If your child can solve the riddle by the time they get home, they earn a prize or a few extra minutes before bed," Sprinkles says.

17. Draw a non-scary monster. Rachel Infinger, a mom and teacher in Summerville, South Carolina recalls, "One of my students had parents who were both graphic artists. One of them would draw a non-scary monster on my student's napkin every day in his lunch box. They were cute, colorful, and the whole class enjoyed them every day."

18. Relate the note to current events. "I prefer to make their notes relatable to what is happening at school," says Colleen Wildenhaus, who blogs on Good Bye Anxiety, Hello Joy.  "For example, if my child has a presentation happening, I would leave a note about being brave. If my child is worried about a sporting event happening in the evening, I will remind him or her that trying their best is all that matters."

19. Encourage them to make a gratitude list. "Number the paper from one to three," advises Sprinkles. "Have your child write down five things that happened that day for which they are grateful. This will provide some amazing conversation at the dinner table that evening."

20. Write on a family photo. "Include a copy of a family photo—I always printed extra photos—with 'Love you! See you soon!' written on the back," advises Vered DeLeeuw of HealthyRecipesBlogs.com.

21. Use a colored piece of paper or napkin. "My favorite way to send notes in my child’s lunchbox is on brightly colored napkins," explains Marie Fiebach, founder of Feed Your Family Tonight. "I often buy several colors at IKEA and use a sharpie to write a quick note."

22. Find inspiration in the season. "Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the winter holidays are all opportunities for unique and fun notes," shares Aurora Satler, author of The Ultimate New Mom's Cookbook. "Jot a note on a saved leaf. Have a spooky pumpkin belch out a funny line, or write a mini-poem on a paper snowflake."

23. Look for eye-catching printable or pre-printed notes. Danielle Parker-Degood from Grand Rapids, Michigan says she likes using Big Life Journal notes for her kids. Another option: pop-open cards.

24. Offer a wish. Belul recommends something like, "Bennie, my wish for you today is that when you go out on the playground at recess, you get a chance to go on the monkey bars and swish-swish-swish all the way across like you’ve been imagining. You got this!" or "Suzy, my wish for you today is that all your studying for that English quiz pays off, and you get the ‘A’ you’ve been wanting. But no matter what, my wish is that you know you did your best and you celebrate that."

25. Include a sticker of the day. For younger children, Belul advises writing a little happy note on a card with a fun sticker. "Tape an unused sticker on the notecard and encourage your child to give the sticker to someone who would like it or who needs a boost. They could even sneak it in someone’s book to be an anonymous surprise. This is a way to teach our children random acts of kindness or spreading the joy."

No matter what you write, draw, or share with your child, you can take heart that as simple lunch box note can go a long way not only brightening your child's day but bolstering their self-esteem, sense of belonging, and your special bond for months and years to come.

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