I’m in love with the Bento Box.

I’m pretty organized. It’s a highly valued skill when one finds oneself mothering several young children. If sorted and color-coded bins of toys, clothing, and prepped ingredients for supper be the food of sanity, then, I, in my right mind, am totally well-fed. And let’s not get started on my freezer. Or the cabinets. Or sock drawers. (Ahem. They rock.) So, naturally, I kind of freaked out in a good way last year when my Pinterest news feed revealed to me the things they call bento boxes.

It is the stuff anyone with OCD dreams of – neatly cut foods of varying kinds, meticulously packed into tiny little cubicles in trays that stack. The more artistically expressive bentos had been arranged into shapes of characters from films, pop culture, and kids’ books. But even the least industrious ones are colorful, visibly pleasing, and (drum roll) healthy. It’s the shangri la of lunch boxes.

As a mom of picky eaters, I would give – pretty much – anything to expand my growing children’s daily menu to something more substantial than a yogurt and six raisins. So with grand schemes of painstakingly gorgeous, edible picturescapes, I went ahead and a bento box for my daughter. The first time I packed a bento box, it took a good hour. No, really. You’d be shocked at how long it takes to configure mini peppers, kiwi cubes, and some whole wheat crackers into matchbox-sized compartments. But it was worth it. My little progeny brought home a very empty bento box. I am not joking, people. There was not one solitary grape left. She ate it all.

But that’s not all. Shortly after she brought her shiny purple bento box to school, her classmates began sporting their own bento boxes. One girl upgraded with silicone liners to separate foods. Another girl’s (very imaginative) mom spelled her daughter’s name out in fruit. The bento box invasion had begun.

Since then, I pack her bento box a couple of times a week. It is my new best friend. I’ve learned how to use cookie cutters for her sandwiches, straws for cheese-winged ladybugs. With her assistance, we’ve added different options to keep it interesting. And I still do my secret happy dance when she brings home an empty box. But bento boxes aren’t just for school age kids. The Skip Hop Bento Meal-to-go Diaper Bag makes it easy to pack an entire lunch for your baby or toddler. It has a compartment for the included bento boxes and a cool pack to keep it all fresh. After all, you wouldn’t want that Hello Kitty made out of papaya and blueberries to wilt, would you?

We’d love to hear – do you use bento boxes? What works for you? Comment below!