The Lunchbox Surprise


Remember Jem!? My mom recently found my kindergarten lunchbox. It’s 26 (!) years old or so yet in great condition. I was debating giving it away when my mom suggested I use it to store some of Mazen’s smaller toys.

Mom is filled with good tips on parenting. She said she used to have a special basket of toys that I was only allowed to play with at naptime. It got her a good hour break for years – even after my naps were over and we had Quiet Time every afternoon. She would change out the toys and add new little trinkets to keep me excited about it.

We’ve been struggling a bit getting Mazen into his crib for naps. He’s obviously tired and once he’s down he’ll nap for 2+ hours, but it’s convincing him to settle down that’s the problem. Stories, singing, rocking – they all get him tired but he just wants to stay up for the fun when it’s time to get in.

Thus, the Lunchbox Surprise was born.


I’ve been filling the box with a mix of his smaller toys – Tegu blocks, big legos, wooden toys and new book. We’ve been at it for a week now, and so far it’s been a hit. When he sees it in his crib he gets excited to climb in, and I say goodnight and leave him playing. Within 10 minutes he’s sound asleep. The cutest part is that he packs everything back up before he finally goes to sleep! And now he asks for his “prize.”

Now before some of you go crazy for allowing him to have anything but a sheet in his crib, I wouldn’t do this if he were anywhere near the “putting everything in my mouth stage.” Mazen hasn’t put anything non-food in his mouth for about a year. So I feel comfortable. And I make sure the toys are big and sturdy. I also watch him like a hawk on the video monitor until he’s asleep since he’s getting to the age where he might try to climb out of the crib.

I’m sure this won’t last forever, but for now it’s been a fun and helpful change. And I’ve had fun planning the surprises!


26 thoughts on “The Lunchbox Surprise”

  1. Oh my gosh Jem! I recently tried to get my 11 year old to watch a few episodes with me on Netflix. Her response- “Mom, no offense but this show is kinda weird.” LOL!

  2. I love this idea! I have a 7.5 month old and he already gets sick of the toys that are out all of the time. Filing this away for when he’s a little older….

  3. such a great idea! And so cute that he packs back everything before going to sleep.
    I find my daughter (3 weeks younger than M) extremely helpful lately, she helps me to throw trash, bring my flip flops, put her shoes on and help teachers at the daycare. Sooo cute! 🙂

  4. That’s so cute! I love it! Great idea! I’m also at the point now where whatever she wants to nap with is allowed in the crib. 25 stuffed animals? sure! A cup and a plastic fork? ok! Whatever gets the job done. =) I like the idea of being a ‘Yes’ mom instead of a “no” mom. Giving them control where it really doesn’t matter is a good thing I think!

  5. Starting this today, great idea! How long did your mother do “Quiet Time” for, half an hour? 15 minutes? I would like to do this, too, when the time comes.

      1. Eveyone in my house gets quiet time for an hour every afternoon while my toddler naps. “Everyone” includes my teenager as well! My older kids read or do puzzles etc in their own rooms and it gives everyone a little break.

        1. We swear by quiet time in our house, too. It’s one of those classic, old-school parenting techniques and I think a lot of young parents today think it’s an outdated idea so they don’t bother implementing it. My daughter started out with 20-30 minutes of quiet time each day after lunch when she was 2 years old, and now that she’s 4, quiet time generally runs an hour or so. Looking back, I’m glad we started doing quiet time when she was still very young — I can’t imagine trying to introduce her now to the idea of playing quietly by herself for an hour every day!

      2. I did at LEAST an hour. We did stories first and then I’d leave. I never gave in and let the girls skip. I knew if I did, I’d be in trouble for the next Quiet Time. Once they were out of the crib, there was no pressure to sleep. They just had to play (so I could watch The Guiding Light in peace. Those were the days!) I did lot of switching toys around, etc.

  6. So cute that he packs everything back up before going to sleep! The most organized toddler ever! I guess the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree 🙂

  7. We have a hard time getting our 13 month old to go to sleep (we never had him on a good night schedule…) anyway, we give him his Scout dog to play with until he falls asleep (then we move Scout). It works well so far! Scout is only out for bedtime.

  8. I had the exact same lunch box, lol!!! I LOVED Jem!! I have so much stuff saved from when I was a child and I thank my parents every day for having kept all the “important” stuff! They most recently dropped off ALL of my report cards since kindergarten! I KNOW I’m going to do the same for my kids 😉

  9. Love this idea! My 17 month old STILL puts everything in her mouth, despite being constantly reminded not to. I have no idea how to break the habit. So she’s only allowed to have her “stuffies” in the crib. But I love this idea for later when she starts resisting naps!

  10. What a great idea! My daughter’s still in a crib too and I’ve been apprehensive about getting her into a bed for fear she’ll just climb out and not go to sleep (multiple sleep regressions are forever etched in my brain). Maybe the surprise box can be part of toddler bed into?! Thanks for posting this 🙂

  11. Just went to the dollar store for a little lunch box and some new toys. Hoping to try this tomorrow. We have been having the worst time with naps since I am home from work for the summer (I’m a teacher). She clings to me like I’m going to leave forever screaming like crazy. I feel so bad when I shut the door and she ends up sleeping on the floor. But she needs the sleep. Hoping the lunchbox surprise will help. Thanks for the tip!

  12. What a great idea!! I know this post is old but I was reading back to see if you had trouble with naps around this age and I see you did! My son Julian is 21 months and after lots of books and rocking, he is obviously SO tired for naps but it’s so difficult to get him in and as I try to put him down will cling on to me for dear life lol. Like your Mazen, he doesn’t want to miss any fun! I have even resorted to telling him that I’m going to take a nap too lol. I will though have to give idea a shot! Is it still going strong for you at almost 9 months later?? I love this too for when they eventually drop naps….don’t grandmas have the best ideas?!

    1. Now that he’s in a big boy bed, his whole room is now the lunch box : ) I still try to have surprises for him to get him interested in quiet time and rotate the toys around so old ones are new again. So the concept is still there but it’s in more of a big boy delivery

      1. That’s great to hear! And great to know he adapted accordingly…hopefully that’ll work when it’s Julian’s time for the big boy bed, which I’m admittedly terrified of! Thanks for getting back to me 🙂

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