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25 Summer Lunch Ideas for Kids You Can Make in a Flash

Meal prep is your new BFF

summer lunches for kids: italian deli pinwheel sandwiches
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

Summer is supposed to be relaxing, but if you have kids, you know you’re more likely to be hauling someone to and from camp or arranging pickup swim lessons than lounging lazily by the pool. And that doesn’t even factor in the number of meals you have to make. Reader, fret not: These 25 summer lunch ideas for kids are simple, quick, packable and—most importantly—appealing to the most scrutinizing of eaters. Start the season with baking sheet quesadillas, end it with buffalo chicken wraps and keep scrolling for the days in between.

25 Toddler Meals That Are Easy and Lazy Parent–Friendly (and Mostly 30 Minutes or Less)


1. Baking Sheet Quesadillas

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why I Love It: sheet pan recipe, crowd-pleaser, <10 ingredients
  • Serves: 8

Once you try this sheet-pan method, you’ll never want to make individual quesadillas again. Use round tortillas if your store doesn’t carry the rectangular variety, and feel free to add more fillings (like leftover roasted vegetables or shredded chicken) to make the meal more substantial.

2. Baked Mac-and-Cheese Bites

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, <10 ingredients, make ahead
  • Serves: makes 48 bites

Macaroni and cheese is always a hit among kids, but it’s not the most portable meal. Problem solved: Simply bake it in a mini muffin tin and it’s a make-ahead lunch that can be served at room temp and packed for playdates, daycare, camp lunches, you name it.

3. Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad Stuffed Peppers

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why I Love It: gluten free, make ahead
  • Serves: 6

The bell pepper boat is completely optional, but it does make for a fun presentation. Each batch of the creamy chicken salad yields an impressive amount of filling, so you'll have plenty of leftovers for the week.

4. Baked Quinoa Chicken Nuggets

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why I Love It: high protein, <10 ingredients, make ahead
  • Serves: 6

While they’re not shaped like dinosaurs, these nuggets are just as easy to make as the frozen ones (and taste a lot better, too). The quinoa breading is crispy, the chicken is moist and they’re begging to be dipped in barbecue sauce. Freeze the leftovers for another day—if there are any.

5. Eggs, Greens and Cheese Tortilla

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why I Love It: <10 ingredients, <30 minutes
  • Serves: 2

If you want to switch it up from the usual PB&J, this egg and tortilla rollup is equally tasty warm out of the pan or sliced up and packed for lunch. Most importantly, you can play around with the exact filling based on what you have in the fridge. 

6. Smashed Chickpea Salad Sandwich

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why I Love It: no cook, make ahead, vegetarian
  • Serves: 3 to 4

This mayo-based salad is as riffable, protein-packed and easy to make as its cousin tuna. But unlike the competition, it’s surprisingly kid-friendly. Add or subtract any extras you like to adjust the flavor to your kid’s liking, and feel free to use plain Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise.

7. Meal-Prep Creamy Pasta Salad with Broccoli and Raisins

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why I Love It: make ahead, <10 ingredients, <30 minutes
  • Serves: 4

A touch of honey in the dressing balances out the tangy apple cider vinegar and mustard. Want to make this one even more kid-pleasing? Make the scallions optional.

8. Slow Cooker Meal-Prep Burrito Bowls

  • Time Commitment: 7 hours, 15 minutes
  • Why I Love It: slow cooker recipe, make ahead, high protein
  • Serves: 4

This summer lunch is ideal for busy parents, since you just toss everything in your slow cooker, then assemble your bowls and go. Psst: These beauties will keep for four days in the fridge and are even better served cold than warm, so feel free to pack them in a lunchbox.

9. BLT Pasta Salad

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes
  • Why I Love It: make ahead, crowd-pleaser
  • Serves: 8

What’s the secret to getting your kid to eat anything remotely green? Toss it with lots of fun, ruffly noodles and a bunch of bacon. If you're making this summer lunch ahead of time, store it in the fridge for a few days and add the dressing when you're ready to pack or serve.

10. Italian Deli Pinwheel Sandwiches

  • Time Commitment: 25 minutes
  • Why I Love It: no cook, make ahead, <30 minutes
  • Serves: 6

Deli meat and squishy bread? Pass. These adorable pinwheel slices take almost no effort and are a step up from the usual cold-cut sammie. The recipe calls for kale, but you can use a milder green or regular ol’ lettuce if you’re dealing with less adventurous tastebuds.

11. Lunch Kebabs with Mortadella, Artichoke and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why I Love It: no cook, <10 minutes
  • Serves: 8

The name says mortadella, artichoke and sun-dried tomatoes, but think of these kebabs as a jumping-off point for your kid’s summer lunch. You can use any combination of deli meat and vegetables, plus the obvious addition of cheese. (I’d suggest salami and mozzarella balls for starters.)

12. Buffalo Chicken Wraps with Blue Cheese and Celery

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why I Love It: <30 minutes, <10 ingredients, no cook
  • Serves: 4

Served hot or cold, buffalo chicken is always a good idea. This version uses a rotisserie chicken and store-bought buffalo sauce for the easiest-ever summer lunch for kids. (Want to dial down the heat? Try barbecue sauce instead.)

13. Vietnamese-Style Summer Rolls

  • Time Commitment: 55 minutes
  • Why I Love It: make ahead, low sugar
  • Serves: 6

Light, refreshing and served with an optional sweet-and-spicy dipping sauce, these bite-size rolls are surprisingly high in protein for an easy, kid-friendly summer lunch. If you need to make them gluten-free, you can use a rice-based wrapper instead of wheat.

14. Avocado and Black Bean Pasta Salad

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why I Love It: <30 minutes, make ahead, vegetarian
  • Serves: 6

This Tex-Mex-inspired dish is already full of plant-based protein and healthy fats, but if you want to add additional more veggies or meat (like cubed chicken or slices of cooked sausage), you totally can.

15. Lemon-Roasted Potatoes, Chicken and Spinach with Tzatziki

  • Time Commitment: 35 minutes
  • Why I Love It: make ahead, high protein
  • Serves: 4

It’s not just the adorable bento box that makes this summer lunch look irresistible. It’s the fact that everything tastes amazing straight from the refrigerator (and will keep for up to five days). Make a double batch for your kids and yourself.

16. Peanut Butter and Banana Roll-Up Snack Box

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why I Love It: kid-friendly, <10 ingredients, vegan, <30 minutes
  • Serves: 1

Peanut butter brings protein and healthy fat to this school lunch, while bananas provide energy-boosting carbs. What happens when you roll 'em up together? A satisfying, healthy lunch that tastes like dessert (but definitely isn’t).

17. Roasted Broccoli and Bacon Pasta Salad

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour
  • Why I Love It: make ahead, crowd-pleaser
  • Serves: 6

For whatever reason, broccoli is one of those ultra-healthy vegetables that happens to be kid-friendly to boot. Does the bacon cancel out the nutritional benefits? Maybe…but let’s just roll with it.

18. Mozzarella Meatball Frittata

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why I Love It: make ahead, high protein, <30 minutes, one pan
  • Serves: 4

Frittatas are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to making the most of leftovers (in this case, meatballs). No matter the mix-in, they're reliably delicious without reheating, so they're just right for summer camp lunches.

19. Carrot Pigs in a Blanket

  • Time Commitment: 50 minutes
  • Why I Love It: <10 ingredients, vegetarian, make ahead
  • Serves: Makes 40 pieces

Since everyone has already gotten their fill of hot dogs, no one will mind if you swap them out for carrots. The recipe suggests serving them with green goddess dressing, but swap in a different dip (like ranch) if you want.

20. Pita Pizza “Lunchables”

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why I Love It: make ahead, kid-friendly, beginner-friendly
  • Serves: 1

Pick your favorite pita bread (gluten free, if necessary), pair it with a cup of tomato or pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese and mini pepperoni et voilà—you have homemade Lunchables. You can also add chopped vegetables to this kid-friendly lunch if you're feeling virtuous.

21. Freezer-Friendly Green Chile Chicken Burritos

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour
  • Why I Love It: make ahead, freezer meal
  • Serves: 8

Few things are better than going to make a summer lunch for your kid and realizing it’s already waiting for you in your freezer. These are packed with chicken and potatoes, and you can adjust the spice level based on how much pepper you add.

22. Corn Fritters with Elote Dip

  • Time Commitment: 35 minutes
  • Why I Love It: make ahead, vegetarian
  • Serves: 6 to 8

Since fresh corn is in season, you might as well take advantage (although you can make these bites with frozen corn any time of year). The fritters are served with a creamy sauce that’s inspired by the flavors of elote, but if you’re feeding younger kids, you can use something mild, like sour cream.

23. Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

  • Time Commitment: 35 minutes
  • Why I Love It: <10 ingredients, make ahead
  • Serves: 2

Meatballs are almost guaranteed to be a hit among kids, and even more so if you serve them drizzled with Buffalo sauce and creamy ranch dressing. Make a big batch and freeze some without any sauce so you’ll be ready for another day.

24. Grilled Peach, Prosciutto and Mozzarella Sandwich

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why I Love It: <30 minutes, <10 ingredients
  • Serves: 1

Give that sad-looking ham sandwich a fancy upgrade. Sweet, creamy and savory, your kid will go wild for this sammy. It tastes great at room temp, making it easily portable and packable. (And if your kid's not into peaches, you could use thinly sliced apples too.)

25. Make-Ahead Spicy Chicken and Rice Salad

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour
  • Why I Love It: gluten free, dairy free, make ahead
  • Serves: 6

This dairy- and gluten-free bowl actually tastes better when you make it a day ahead, so it’s ideal for meal-prepping and packing into a container for lunch. Adjust the spice level of the jalapeño dressing as you see fit (or omit the peppers entirely). Want to shortcut it? Use the meat from a rotisserie chicken.


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Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...