8 Ways to Spice Up Lunchtime & Boost Belonging

In a day chock-full of listening and learning, lunchtime provides the perfect opportunity for students to connect. In our April blog, we discussed how research shows lunchtime activities with peers were a significant predictor of whether a student felt they belonged. 

Creating fun and engaging activities for students to participate in while they eat is a great way to bring a sense of togetherness into the lunchroom. Here is a list of 8 unique ideas to make lunch the most enjoyable meal of the day:

Creative Activities to Give Lunchtime Some Juice

1. Themed Lunch Days

Elevate lunchtime by transforming the cafeteria to fit a theme. Decorations, on-theme music, and a matching menu are great ways to break the routine of lunch and make it feel like a special occasion. For example, if the theme was “Winter Wonderland,” your school could put up snowflake decorations and fairy lights, play a winter-inspired playlist, and serve a variety of warm soups. Other ideas include 70s Disco, Under the Sea, Fantasy Literature, and 50s Diner. Get creative! Uniting the cafeteria under one theme manufactures an environment of fun and togetherness, helping students feel like they belong.

2. Cultural Food Festivals

Encourage students to connect with their roots and learn about each other by hosting a cultural food festival during lunchtime. Encourage students and staff to prepare and bring traditional dishes from different cultures to the cafeteria, turning lunchtime into an opportunity for cultural exchange, education, and appreciation.

This also provides a wonderful learning opportunity for classrooms. Each student could pick a country to study in-depth and give a presentation on. As a part of this assignment, they could pick a traditional recipe from their country to cook and share at the festival. Your school can celebrate the diverse backgrounds within your community over food, making all students feel recognized.

3. Cooking Competitions

Chefs…your time starts now. Organize lunchtime cooking competitions where students have the opportunity to showcase their culinary skills in groups. Inspire creativity through your dish categories, like best plating, healthiest dish, or most creative recipe. Invite teachers or local chefs to judge the competition. Winners could receive food-related awards, like gift cards to local restaurants or new cooking utensils.

This is a great way to build comradery among students as they all compete together against the clock!

4. Trivia or Quiz Games

Another way to incorporate fun competition into lunchtime is through hosting trivia or quiz games. Transform a section of the cafeteria into a Jeopardy or other game show-like stage with a projector and speakers and have students sign up to compete. Or pull up Kahoot or another trivia-esque website on a projector and allow students to participate on their phones, competing individually or in teams.

You can ensure all students feel included by incorporating a variety of topics, like pop culture, history, science, sports, and more. For extra incentive, you could offer prizes to the winners.

5. Outdoor Picnics

Of the 1,000 hours K-12 kids spend in school in America over the course of a year, they spend the vast majority of those hours indoors. Weather permitting, get students outdoors to enjoy the sun and fresh air during lunch. Organize outdoor picnics where students can bring picnic blankets or sit at tables in a designated area on the school grounds. For even more fun, set up lawn games for students to enjoy, like cornhole, ladder ball, and frisbee.

6. Healthy Eating Challenges

It’s fun to try new things! Encourage healthy eating habits by organizing challenges or contests focused on nutritious food choices. For example, you could incorporate a “New Food of the Week” challenge where students can try a new fruit or vegetable every week. Or similar to a reading log, have students keep track of how many types of fruits and veggies they consume—whoever has the most variety gets a prize! Encouraging students to try something new gives them something to connect over!

7. Community Service Projects

Research shows that people who volunteer report higher self-esteem, self-efficacy, and social connectedness. Lunchtime is a great opportunity to engage students in community service projects while also providing an environment that helps them bond. Students could participate in packing lunches for shelters or writing letters to deployed military personnel while they eat.

8. School Spirit Lunches

We got spirit! Rooting for the same goal brings people together. If your school is gearing up for a big sports event, get the students excited by celebrating with their lunch. Craft a menu that incorporates the event. For example, if there was a big baseball game, you could serve hotdogs and for a football game, you could serve sloppy joes. Promote school spirit even more by dishing up food that matches your school colors! If your school colors are red and white, you could do strawberries in white yogurt. These lunches will remind students they are all on the same team.

The name of the game is to dish out opportunities for students to bond. Creating fun lunchtime activities that foster student connection is a great way to help students develop socially, an important aspect of learning that may be a little harder to target within the structure of a classroom.

Let’s Chat Over Lunch!

We’d love to sit down and discuss some fun ways for you to incorporate new, fun activities into your lunchtime routine to help promote a sense of belonging among your students! 

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