Many, many years ago, schools did not serve lunches as they do today. During this time, children in Japan would bring their meals to school in a bento box. A bento box, is basically a Japanese lunch box. It normally consists of 4 parts rice, 3 parts meat, 2 vegetables and a side of something pickled. My first experience with bento left me almost too afraid to eat the food -- it looked so lovingly prepared. Perhaps that is why I love Bento Boxes so much.
Preparing a meal, is an expression of love with me. My husband has learned to very carefully tell me when he doesn't like something I've cooked. Though I do not have the time to prepare as many elaborate pieces as others might, our son still enjoys the little Americanized ways with his bento. I've found that cutting vegetables into shapes entices children to try them. I have a little neighbor boy who at first turned his nose up to starfruit. After I cut it into its natural occurring star shape and explained that it tasted like an apple, he tried it...and loved it.
You can purchase many kinds of different shaped cutters and accessories for your box if you wish, or you can be as simple as you like. I have a lot of different sized cookie cutters, and I just get resourceful with them. But you can buy actual vegetable cutters from Asian shops. Bento boxes come in dozens of options; dishwasher safe, microwaveable, 1-tier, 2-tier, etc. I love that I never have to use plastic bags. They are very fun for children and I think the popularity with bento is quickly growing.
If you happen to have an Asian market of some kind near you, take a look around. You will probably be pleasantly surprised at what you find there. I found these perfect sized bowls -- small and medium. I loved them so much that I had to go back and get a second set of each. (I also found my son's bento box at the Asian market.)
see: Back to School with Goodbyn Lunchbox (Americanized Bento)
see: Japanese Egg Molds