Transitioning Back to School with Creative Lunch Box Notes

How a little bit of artwork can help ease back-to-school anxiety

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Going back to school is not always easy for kids. As a child, I loved school, but our son doesn’t hold the same affection for education. So who would’ve guessed that a few cute lunch box notes would help him make the transition back to school this year?

Lunch box notes seem like such a small thing, but they can mean a lot to kids who struggle with anxiety or nervousness.

Our son’s anxiety started in Kindergarten. This was a particularly difficult year for him.  He had just lost his cousin to brain cancer, and his dog, Milo, to lung disease. He was starting school in a brand new place with kids he didn’t know, and he was not looking forward to it. There were daily meltdowns, sadness, and crying.  He hated going. Every day. So I started leaving notes in his lunch box to cheer him up. They were written on post-it notes, with a picture I would draw using a Sharpie. Then I’d color my drawing with crayons.

A rainy day lunch box note

He would always bring the notes back home and I would just throw them away. But one day he caught me tossing them and he said, ‘Don’t throw them out! I want you to save them.’ I figured, why not? and stuffed them in a small ziploc bag in the kitchen each day when I emptied out his lunch box.

Lunch Box note bag

When Kindergarten ended, I put all the notes in a small photo album so he could look through them like a book. 

A special album for our Kindergarten lunch box notes

First Grade came around, and again, our son was not enthusiastic about heading back to school. That summer I kept a ‘Stuff We Did’ jar. Every time we visited someplace fun or did something memorable, I would write it on a little piece of paper and toss it into the jar (it was an old salsa jar that I had cleaned out).

Our Summer ‘Stuff We Did’ jar

I actually got the idea from the ‘Stuff We Did’ book from the movie, Up. Carl and Ellie kept an adventure scrapbook, but in there somewhere she had left him a ‘Stuff We Did’ section to see after she had gone.

Before school started, we looked through all of the fun things we had done that summer. We talked about all the fun things we would do again next summer. It made the transition a little easier.

Summer ‘stuff we did!’ Bird feathers, too.

And then my notes began again. This time I started saving them right from the beginning of the year (some didn’t survive the transition home, but most did). I kept them in a new ziploc bag in the kitchen drawer labeled with the year.

1st Grade Lunch Box note bag

Summer flew by and Second Grade appeared on the horizon. Our son was not excited, but not really dreading it like he did Kindergarten, either. Just by chance, I came across the bag of notes from the previous year while cleaning the kitchen. I decided to spread the notes out for him to see, just for kicks. School was starting in a few days. Maybe it would make him smile.

Over 100 Lunch Box notes from 1st Grade!

What I didn’t expect was how enthusiastic the notes made him. As we read through each one, it helped him remember all of the good times from school, similar to our Stuff We Did Jar. ‘Have fun on your field trip!’ ‘Smile for Picture Day!’ ‘Have fun exchanging Valentines!’ Each note was a reminder of a positive classroom experience. ‘Enjoy the Science Show today!’ ‘See you at the Spring Concert!’ or his favorite, ‘You made it! Last day!’

Lunch Box notes!

It wasn’t always easy to think of what to draw for each note. Sometimes I cheated and traced something or used a favorite cartoon character. Once in a while I substituted with a sticker.  I kept the words short, simple, and easy to read, and now I know that everything I did was worth the effort. 

Lunch Box note love

So the lunch box notes have become a necessity in this household! I make each one the night before so I don’t have to rush and do it in the morning. 

Now if only I could get him to eat a decent lunch. All he ever wants me to pack him are crackers and pepperoni. Sigh.

Originally published at

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