Hi, this is Sakura, a Japanese mom with 2 kids living in Japan.
Are you thinking about preparing a bento box for your kids? Here are some of the most useful items that will help you prepare Japanese bento boxes for kids! All of these items are typically used in Japanese homes. Of course, I use them too to make bentos for my kids.
Great Items To Help Prepare Kids Bento Box
1. Bento Box Container
Of course, you will first need the actual bento box! Most families use the type with snap lids to prevent spills (bento side dishes are often juicy). There are different sizes, so pick the right one for your child. My 4 year old and 2 year old uses the 450ml size. Sometimes I prepare an extra small container for dessert. Some parents prepare extra onigiri (rice ball) if the bento box is not enough.
2. Separator cups
Japanese bentos typically use separator cups. These prevent food from mixing together, which helps food taste better and also safer in hygiene aspect (mixed food is said to go bad quicker than separated food).
These cups come in different size and designs, so it also helps the bento box look more tasty, or even exciting! My kids love cups with characters on it. By the way, you don’t have to put all food in cups. I typically use 1 or 2 cups, out of 4 to 5 side dishes.
There are mainly 3 different kinds of cups
Paper separator cups: This one is the most popular one, because they are cheap, microwavable, disposable, and comes in all different size and colors. They tend to be liquid resistant, but may wear out if put with liquid to long.
Aluminum foil cups: This is the more traditional type of cup. It is also disposable and comes in different size and shapes. They are not microwavable, but can be used in the oven (or Japansese toaster). I often use foil cups when I want to make a quick side dish using the oven. I just put some vegetables and cheese on the cup and cook.
Silicone cups: This is the newer type of cup that has become extremely popular nowadays. They are reusable, colorful, microwavable and often oven safe. You can also put food in silicone cups and freeze it. This is very useful for meal prep! The downside is that it is a bit difficult to wash, stain and smell can stay especially for food like ketchup or curry, and it takes up more space than paper or foil cups.
3. Cute bento picks
These picks will make your bento box cute in an instant! They come in a variety of different colors, shapes, and characters. Simply stick this picks in your side dish, like nuggets, sausage, or meatballs. Not recommended for very young kids who don’t know how to handle picks yet. I started useing them when my child was after 3 years old.
4. Onigiri plastic wraps
These are simple plastic wraps to wrap your onigiri (rice ball), but with characters! Just choose your child’s favorite character, and and lunch time will become an exciting time. Nice for picnics too.
5. Nori food puncher
Nori, or dried seaweed, is often used in bentos. There are food punchers (just like paper hole puncher) that makes cute shapes with nori. Basic ones make simple shapes, but more complicated punchers can make hiragana letters, character silhouettes, and fancy designs. There are also food puncher you can use for food like ham or cheese!