Backpacks, Lunchboxes and Cheese Sticks


Opening and closing a backpack, lunch box or water bottle and getting that stubborn wrapper off of a cheese stick can be challenging for little hands. This activity will help build those skills to make the first days of school less stressful and give your child a welcome boost of confidence!

Gather Materials

  • Back Pack
  • Cheese Stick
  • Lunchbox
  • Water Bottle
  • Yogurt Pouches
  • Ziplock Bags

Note: Small parts pose a choking hazard and are not appropriate for children age five or under. Be sure to choose lesson materials that you feel are safe for your child and that you are comfortable letting your child use.


Most teachers are more concerned about children's self-care and social-emotional skills than they are about how many letters or numbers they know.

If your child can sit in a chair, be a good listener, wait patiently and perform self-care tasks independently, this frees up the teacher to tackle letters, numbers and other academic pursuits.

Fine-motor skills are essential for independence and functioning within the classroom. Fine-motor activities—which use the smaller muscles in the hands, fingers and wrists—include holding a pencil, using a pair of scissors, zipping a jacket and opening and closing containers. 

You can help prepare your child for kindergarten by engaging in activities that help build these skills over the summer months.

Start by grabbing that new backpack to see if your child can master the zipper. If your child is struggling, find a small pencil bag, a makeup bag or a small purse and fill it with some of your child's favorite objects.

Sit behind your child and hold the bag while your child practices zipping and unzipping, back and forth, removing one object each time the bag is unzipped.

Let your child focus on pulling the zipper, using just their thumb and pointer finger. If your child is struggling with grasping, add a key ring, a carabiner or a piece of ribbon to the zipper pull. Once your child has mastered unzipping and zipping the small bag, let them hold the bag with one hand and continue practicing the zipping motion with the other hand. As your child's zipping confidence increases, you can return to the backpack for another practice session.

If you are sending anything to school in a plastic baggie, try to purchase the Ziplock bags that actually have the plastic zipper piece, instead of the ones that require the user to line up the grooves and press them closed. The zipper bags are more expensive, but your child's emotional well-being is worth every dime that you will spend on those bags during the first few months of school. Regardless of what baggie you buy, practice at home during the summer to make life easier in the fall.

Have you ever struggled to open a juice-box straw wrapper, a cheese-stick wrapper or an individual-serving-size milk carton? UGGGGHHHHH! Getting that tiny straw out of its wrapper can be really difficult for little hands. The same holds true for a cheese stick, and milk containers pose their own unique challenges. Adults will be on hand to offer assistance, but any practice that you can give your child now will help ease lunchtime frustration later.

What if your child's fine-motor skills are still developing when the school year begins? Try these tips if you're sending your child to school with lunch:

  • Remove the wrapper from the juice-box straw.
  • Open cheese-stick wrappers at the top to make pulling them apart easier.
  • Snip yogurt tubes at the top for easy opening—or just keep them at home for an after-school snack.

If your child is struggling with a zipper, a plastic wrapper or a water bottle, it's best to find out now and not during the first week of school.

In other words, now is the time to build your child's self-help and fine-motor skills. Have lunch at the park or set up a picnic on your kitchen floor. With a little practice, your child will have these skills down pat!

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