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Here you will find a list of more than 25 toddler lunch ideas for daycare for your 1-3 year old toddlers from a mom of three. Daycare lunch ideas for main course and side dishes based on what my 18 month old is eating at daycare.

If you’re on the lookout for creative and nutritious toddler lunch ideas tailored for daycare, you’ve come to the right place!

Balancing the demands of work and parenting can be challenging, especially when it comes to ensuring your little ones receive a delicious and well-rounded meal during their time away from home.

In this post, we’ll share a variety of toddler-friendly lunch ideas that are not only easy to prepare but also cater to the specific needs and preferences of your little explorers.

Say goodbye to lunchtime dilemmas and hello to happy, satisfied toddlers at daycare! Below you will find what my toddler has been eating at daycare recently at 18 months old.

If you are looking for more meal ideas for babies or toddlers, check out more posts from my feeding series: Meal Ideas Feeding Series

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How to Pack A Toddler Lunch for Daycare

Here are a few of our favorite lunchbox supplies for packing your toddler’s lunch for daycare. These are our tried and true favorites based on what i’ve used for my three kids:

Bento box: We have these Bentgo kids bento boxes and I think they are a great size for toddlers. My kids have used them and loved them for many years and they are one of our go-to’s. I love that they are leak proof.

Austin Baby Co Bento Box: these bento boxes are on the larger size. This could be helpful if you have a toddler with a big appetite or just want one container for lunch and snack. I love that they are made of silicone.

Packit Freezable Lunch box: we love these because the whole thing goes in the freezer and the walls act as ice packs and it stays cold for at least 8 hours. No more ice packs lost or left at school!

Thermos Funtainer Cup: this is a great spill proof cup for milk or water. It keeps beverages cold until lunch and comes in OVER 40 fun colors and designs. This cup has over 6000+ 5-star reviews on Amazon.

Visit our Amazon Shop to see all of our favorite lunchbox finds!

Main Course Toddler Lunch Ideas for Daycare

For the main course, I try to send something that is filling and includes a healthy protein and/or fat.

  1. Pasta Salad – try different varieties like my favorite toddler pasta salad recipe, pesto pasta salad, caprese, or really anything goes!
  1. Lunch Meat, Cheese, and cheese – a simple way to get in healthy protein & fat without serving a sandwich. Try different meats like rotisserie chicken or rutkey. For cheese we like whole milk string cheese, sliced cheese and Babybell cheese.
  1. Mini Pizza – my kids love taking mini pizzas on naan bread, English muffins, or mini bagels (better for 2 years and up).
  1. Eggs – hard boiled eggs are a great way to send some extra protein in school lunches!
  1. Sandwich – try using different types of nut butter (peanut, almond, sunflower) and different flavors of jelly. Turkey and hummus, turkey and avocado, or avocado sandwiches are also hits for my kids at this age. Strips, bite sized, or quarters are good for this age.
  1. Breakfast for lunch – try pancake dippers, waffle strips, or even a waffle sandwich.
  1. Mac & cheese – most toddler’s don’t need their mac & cheese heated up to enjoy it so this could be the perfect daycare lunch idea. If you made some on the weekend or for dinner one night, pack it up and send the leftovers for lunch the next day.

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Toddler Lunch Sides for Daycare

For sides, I try to include a protein or fat if it wasn’t part of the main course and lots of fruits and veggies. We try to stay away from snack food at this age, but it does make an appearance once in a while.

Protein/Healthy Fat

  • Whole milk yogurt pouches or yogurt tubes
  • Lunch meat
  • Whole milk string cheese
  • Sliced or shredded cheese
  • Hard boiled eggs


  • Banana
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Grapes (quartered or halved)
  • Pears
  • Mandarin oranges
  • Kiwi
  • Apples


  • Avocado
  • Cooked carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Peas
  • Squash
  • Tomatoes


  • Amara Organic Smoothie Melts (Use PANDP15 for 15% off – we love these because they are no-sugar added and made with whole food ingredients!)
  • Whole wheat crackers
  • Cheddar crackers
  • Fig bars
  • Harvest snap peas
  • Pretzel crips
  • Puffs
  • Raisins
  • Graham honey sticks

Toddler Lunch Ideas for Daycare

Here are photo meal ideas sharing what my 18 month old has been eating for lunch! These are great daycare toddler lunch ideas and are also great for at-home too!

  1. Pasta salad – try pasta salad that is toddler friendly with this quick and easy recipe, sides of raspberries, nectarine, cucumber, and pretzel crisps.
  2. Turkey & cheese – shredded cheese, with diced turkey and salmi, sides of peas, strawberries, crackers, and raisins.
  3. Hard Boiled eggs – hard boiled eggs, strawberries, sliced cheese, puffs, and blueberries.
  4. Mini Pizza – a mini pizza made with an English muffin (see a similar meal idea for DIY mini pizza)

Visit our Amazon Shop to see all of our favorite lunchbox finds!

  1. Caprese pasta salad – whole wheat pasta with olive oil, diced tomatoes, mozarella pearls, and basil. Sides of strawberries, blueberries, Graham honey sticks, cucumbers, and raisins.
  2. Turkey & Hummus sandwich – turkey and hummus sandwich strips, cucumber, pineapple, raspberries, and Graham honey sticks.
  3. Sandwich bites – peanut butter sandwich cut up into bite sized pieces with sides of whole milk string cheese, tomatoes, graham honey sticks, and blueberries.
  4. Pancake dippers – a super fun way to serve pancakes for lunch; cut into strips and send with yogurt for dipping. Sides of mango and Nature’s bakery fig bar.
  1. Chia Pouch snack box Mama chia pouch with a cheese stick, grapes, cherry tomatoes, LesserEvil snacks, and Annie’s bunnies.
  2. Pesto Pasta salad – cooked pasta with pesto and mozarella pearls. Sides of yogurt tube, mandarin oranges, grapes, and Annie’s bunnies.
  3. Yogurt pouch snack box – whole milk yogurt pouch with a side of hard boiled eggs, Harvest pea snaps, raspberries, and raisins.
  4. Waffle strips – toasted waffle cut into strips with sides of a yogurt pouch, mandarin orange, cucumber, and puffs.

Remember to follow along with us on Instagram for more baby & toddler meal ideas!

  1. Crackers and cheese – this is always an easy favorite for my kids, with sides of yogurt tube, grapes, and Amara Organic Smoothie Melts (Use PANDP15 for 15% off)
  2. Pouch and cheese snack box – applesauce pouch, whole milk string cheese, raspberries, black berries, Annie’s bunnies, Harvest snap peas, and Amara Organic Smoothie Melts (Use PANDP15 for 15% off)
  3. Turkey Roll Up – rip a string cheese in half length wise and then wrap with turkey for a fun turkey roll up, sides of grapes, cucumbers, blueberries, and Nature’s bakery fig bar
  4. Egg Salad Sandwich – a fun alternative to pb&j, with sides of cucumbers and ranch for dipping, strawberries, and Kodiak bear grahams.

More Toddler Daycare Lunch Ideas

Here are a few more ‘oldies but goodies’ daycare toddler lunch ideas based on what my kids have actually been eating!

Most of the containers shown below are from Sistema (I don’t think they make this exact style anymore, but here is a very similar 3-compartment style)!

Visit our Amazon Shop to see all of our favorite lunchbox finds!

Lunchbox Idea 1

Toddler Daycare Lunch Idea #1

PB&J w/ Yogurt. Peanut butter (or other nut butter) & jelly sandwich cut into bite-sized pieces. Sides of whole milk yogurt, banana, golden kiwi, peas, and blueberries.

Lunchbox Idea 2

Toddler Preschool Lunch Idea #2

PB&J w/ Turkey and Peas. Peanut butter & jelly sandwich with sides of lunch meat turkey, peas, very thinly sliced applies, and a fig bar.

Lunchbox Idea 3

Toddler Daycare Lunch #3

Almond Butter & Jelly w/ Pears. Almond butter & jelly sandwich with sides of thinly sliced pear, ham, diced tomatoes, and a yogurt tube.

Lunchbox Idea 4

Toddler Preschool Lunch #4

Jelly Sandwich w/ Pea Crisps and Fruit. Pb&j hold the peanut butter with sides of whole milk string cheese, pea crisps, strawberries, mandarin oranges, and golden kiwi.

Lunchbox Idea 5

Toddler Daycare Lunch Idea # 5

Sunbutter & Jelly w/ Turkey and Carrots. Sunbutter (sunflower butter) and jelly sandwich. Sides of turkey, cooked carrots, blueberries, watermelon, honeydew melon, and cantaloupe.

Lunchbox Idea 6

Toddler School Lunch #6

Avocado Sandwich w/ Turkey and Cheese. Avocado sandwich cut into bite-size pieces. Sides of cheese, lunch meat turkey, kiwi, and grapes.

Lunchbox Idea 7

Toddler Daycare Lunch Idea #7

Avocado Sandwich w/ Turkey and Veggies. Avocado sandwich cut into strips (this is a great step in encouraging your toddler to eat bigger pieces). Side of turkey, peas and carrots, strawberries, and mandarin orange.

Lunchbox Idea 8

Toddler Lunch #8

Avocado Sandwich w/ Cheese and Blueberries. Avocado sandwich cut into bites with whole milk string cheese, blueberries, grapes, and cheddar crackers.

Lunchbox Idea 9

Toddler Lunchbox Idea #9

Turkey & Cheese. Turkey lunch meat with whole milk string cheese, peas, grapes, banana, and strawberries.

Lunchbox Idea 10

Toddler Daycare Lunch #10

Crackers, Turkey & Cheese. Whole wheat crackers with turkey, whole milk string cheese, golden kiwi, strawberries and banana. Like a snack tray packed for school.

Lunchbox Idea 11

Toddler Daycare Lunch Idea #11

Corndog Bites. Corndog pre-cooked and then cut up into bite sized pieces. We like the veggie corndogs from MorningStar Farms. Sides of turkey, cheese, strawberries, mandarin orange, and banana.

Lunchbox Idea 12

Toddler Preschool Lunch #12

Waffle Sandwich. Pre-cook a waffle, spread with jelly, and then fold it in half to make a sandwich. Sides of turkey, whole milk string cheese, blueberries, and a fig bar.

Lunchbox Idea 13

Toddler Daycare Lunch #13

Mac & Cheese. If your toddler loves Mac n’ cheese it can be great for school too (my toddler doesn’t even mind it cold). Homemade mac and cheese with veggies stirred in, cheese, grapes, golden kiwi, and blueberries.

What are your toddlers loving in their school lunches these days? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for stopping by!

Check out my newest daycare or preschooler lunch ideas. Read more here >>>>> Toddler Preschool Lunch Ideas

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