The Art of the Bento Box…

 It’s the little things that make the big things possible. Only close attention to the fine details of any operation makes the operation first class.  ~J. Willard Marriott

I have a confession to make. I went to Japan and came home with an addiction. Yup.  I am addicted to bento box lunches.

Every store I went into, I looked for more bento supplies. I ended up having to buy a little suitcase while I was there just to bring home all the stuff I bought!

But in all seriousness…the bento is brilliant.

First of all, it’s cute.

Secondly, and most importantly it’s efficient and good for our planet. I have not bought or used a single plastic sandwich bag since I got home. This means no more lunch trash to throw away. Everything I bought is washable and reusable. Oh, and did I mention it’s all cute?

And the last thing I love about bento (if I had to narrow it down to 3), is that my kids eat EVERYTHING! I don’t have squishy brown pears and half-eaten sandwiches coming home anymore. The bento boxes come home empty, without fail. Why? Well, that’s easy. It’s because everything is cute! Well that, and I’m packing smaller amounts of each of the different foods, and there is far more variety. It’s all just less, well…boring!

Here is an example of what I’ve been sending with my kids on a daily basis. They are all very simple. I make them the night before and put them in the fridge. The kids just grab them in the morning and put them in their backpacks. This probably saves us a good half hour in the mornings. Like I said…brilliant.

I don’t always send the drop cloth, but lately Coco’s class has been eating lunch outside on the grass and she was so worried about getting her white drawstring bag dirty! Oh the worries of a first grader! The drop cloth takes care of all those fears. The bento has an answer for nearly everything.

Now that both of my youngest children are converted to the art of the bento, I decided it was time to move on to the rest of the smalls. I wanted to share the love. So today, we had a bento snack party.

We started by exploring an actual bento box, right from Japan. Yes, I washed out the box that lunch came in on the train and I carried it all over Japan in my suitcase so I could show it to the kids at home. But what’s better than the real thing when it comes to teaching?

This one had steamed rice and seasoned beef inside. It was yummy! The boys had fun trying to use the hashi (chopsticks)…

After we talked about the bento box and everyone had a turn with it, I handed out each bento which I had designed especially for each child…

They were all pretty excited! Let the bento snack party begin!

These photos will help break down what is in each of these boxes…

Now in case you are thinking that you need fancy schmancy boxes straight from Japan in order to do this…think again. These little green boxes are sandwich boxes from Tupperware. And you can use silicon baking cups from Wal-Mart or dollar stores.  Little cookie cutters work for cutting veggies, breads, cheese, etc. And little pill containers from the dollar store work for dips and yogurt.

But if you want to get really authentic AND get a mountain of brilliant bento ideas, go and check out this blog…MEET THE DUBIENS.  Seriously. She is a guru. And she also has links to where you can buy all the fabulous bento tools online!

meet the dubiens bento

And if you still want more…check out this YouTube video from Angelique Felix for making cute little bento jellyfish.

And if you’re anything like me, and can’t get enough, check out these fabulous snackbox ideas from Learn With Play@Home...

Oh, and here is a fun twist on the bento…make the children’s snacks in their own muffin tins with JDaniel4sMom!

One thing I’d like you to remember about creating these pretty little lunches, is that they are not complicated. They CAN be. But they don’t have to be. If it can be cut into small enough pieces or put in a small enough container, it can be part of the bento. Bentos are supposed to make lunch time happier and less stressful, so if you are over-thinking and pulling your hair out for ideas, you are missing the point.

You don’t have to be super-mum to make a bento lunch…ok? No stressing allowed. Only fun. Oh, and cute. Cute is allowed.

Thanks for stopping by!

We have hooked up with Glittering Muffins for their Around the World in 12 Dishes Series. When you get a minute, go on and check it out!

~Arlee, Small Potatoes


40 thoughts on “The Art of the Bento Box…

    • Yes!! I bought the little alphabet cutters in Hiroshima at the “dollar store”…more like, the “100 yen store”, hehehehe! They had soooo many cool things. Oh, if I had a million dollars! 😉

  1. wow these are pretty awesome… now you have to share with us how you have kids with such extensive pallets. I assume these containers are pretty air tight, I would be concerned about things drying out? But I guess you don’t really have that problem. I will def. keep these in mind when I have kids. or maybe if I start packing my husband’s lunch?? though I have a feeling he won’t want cute lol.

    • They are pretty airtight…although we’ve only needed them to last overnight in the fridge. Most of the bento boxes come with a little strap that holds the layers tight together. The Tupperware containers are especially airtight, so if you are worried, maybe try those. I bought myself a bento box while I was in Japan too! Mine is black…so maybe your husband could enjoy a bento after all!

  2. Oh I love this…no…LOVE this. I am a bit addicted to this sort of thing too…and the Japanese have made food art for centuries so they are experts. I am going to try this as I am sure both my kids would love it too. Thank you so much for introducing it and I can completely understand your passion with Bento 🙂

  3. Wow, what variety, in such cute little packages! Bento boxes could be an excellent way to entice little picky eaters and sneak in some healthy items, which are so much more fun to eat from these boxes than as stand-alone items.

    We live in Singapore where there are manyJapanese expats. So, I will schedule a shopping trip to our local Japanese shopping center soon to stock up on bento box materials to get started. When my daughter is old enough, I think we’ll have lots of fun making bento boxes together.

    A related variation on this that I plan to use around the house as soon as my little 14-month old picky eater is over her “let’s see what happens when I turn this upside down” phase is a muffin tin where each muffin round is filled with a different healthy snack. This should make grazing on good food more fun for my picky eater and hopefully get her to eat more.

    Thanks for the tips and lovely pictures!

  4. Cool stuff huh? My Japanese friends told me about their bento boxes and I like the idea – you get to give your kids a good start to saving the environment, better still, they’ll look forward to the little snacks you put in 🙂 And I guess you’ll get to have a say in keeping their meals healthier 🙂

  5. Oh, I am so jealous of your bento shopping spree in Japan. I started packing story themed bento lunches for my son when he started kindergarten last August. He loves them and eats so much more of his lunch when it looks cute. Your lunches and snacks look so nutritious and yummy!

  6. this is definitely something i want to do for my daughter! I have to wait for her to start kinder first …. in about 3 years haha. but im saving this link! thanks for sharing!

  7. Thanks for making me realize I can do this without over thinking it. 🙂 But in the spirit of over thinking – I could only manage if I did it overnight, like you said, but don’t the crackers get mushy in the fridge for that long? Have you ever had any trouble with that?

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  9. This is gorgeous Arlee… and I have no idea why this is the first time I’m seeing this post? lol. Thanks for including our snackboxes and thanks to the traffic I got from you today, I was able to see this post, haha. So envious of all your great bento supplies. I have a number of them but it’s a collection that’s still being worked upon. Yours look great and i love that you used the tupperware sandwich keepers for them (is that what you used?) I use them a lot as well 😀 x

    • Thank you! And I’m glad you’re seeing some traffic! I still keep my eyes open for supplies I can use in the bento boxes…I’m addicted! And my daughter will ask specifically for a bento lunch now…she’s in love with her lunches! YAY!!

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