You've probably seen pictures of fancy bento box lunches on television or on the web. Think their just for fancy restaurants? Think again! Bento boxes filled with cute, personalized creations can be made from foods like lunch meat, rice and vegetables. In other words, they're perfect for your child's lunch box and a great way to encourage your kids to eat a healthy meal.

If you're like me, you probably have no idea how to go about creating a bento box. A good place to start is Yum-Yum Bento Box. This new cookbook/guidebook/artbook is written by Crystal “Pikko” Watanabe (mother of two toddlers and author of the bento blog Adventures in Bentomaking) and Makiko “luckysundae” Ogawa (mother of two boys and author of the blog Cute Obento. (You can also read her Japanese blog.)

Yum-Yum guides even the most novice lunchtime artisans through bentos such as Fluffy Lamb (made from a hardboiled egg surrounded by rice), Christmas Penguins (nori crafted creatively over rice) or Smiling Sammies (made from bread, deli meat, and cheese.)

Of course, each bento takes a bit more time to prepare than your standard lunchtime fare. So, personally, it's not something I want to try to do everyday. But the recipes and creations are perfect for special occasions or for days when you just have a little more time in the morning.

To get an idea of what's involved in making bento, check out this video of Makiko making the Three Little Pigs bento that's mentioned in the book:

Bento-box lunches
Jazz up your child's lunch box with cute little bento that are easier to make than you think.