Friends Lani Preis and Marla Zafft have a lot in common. They are both busy Atlanta moms to elementary aged children. They both have a set of twins. They are both marketing consultants –and they both hate planning and packing school lunches. “It was the bane of our existence,” says Preis. They searched for tools that would help to outsource the task to their children. They tried various apps as well as creating charts, but nothing gave them the outcome they wanted –kids to confidently and independently plan and pack their own lunches.

So Preis and Zafft put their marketing hats on and came up with a product called u* do*lunch. But they didn’t stop there. “We wanted to foster a culture that encouraged kids to do things for themselves now so that they build those skill sets,” says Preis, who has eight-year old twins and an eleven-year-old. With that goal in mind, the two formed chick*u*do  in 2017. “The idea was this little chick is hatching and becoming independent. Our logo is an egg that has cracked and our tagline is ‘hatching independent kids,'” explains Preis. We talked to Preis about her and Zafft’s company, the products and how the dreaded chore of lunch packing is going these days.

AP: How does u*do*lunch work? 

Lani Preis: It’s a wall hanging that is about 12-13 inches wide and 20-21 inches long that you can hang on a door or on any hook. It has five days of the week and four categories going across. The categories are main, side, veggie and fruit. Each kit comes with fifty cards plus a name card. The name card has instructions on it. It is written for the child, not for the parents. We talk about the four P’s of lunches: Plan, Purchase, Prepare and Pack. So when the kids prepare, they pick their main, side, veggie and fruit. You can also pick one sweet during the entire week and put it into your side category.

AP: Do the cards give the kids ideas or do they come up with the food themselves?

Lani Preis: It gives options and you can customize it. For example, one of the cards for mains is turkey. Underneath it, there are three selections plus a blank line. They could have a turkey sandwich, turkey chili or turkey deli wraps, or they can fill in the blank line for whatever they want. The kit comes with a dry erase marker.

AP: When should kids start making their own lunches?

Lani Preis: Kids should be in the kitchen at a very young age. The product itself is designed for 6-12 year olds, the reason being we were going for the young elementary age child to really get them involved. There are studies that say kindergarteners and first graders can use not-so-sharp knives and do hands on activities. By the time they are at the end of their elementary school careers, they can plan just about everything. They can prep the grocery list, prep their meals. I help my children with anything that needs to be heated.

AP: How has lunch planning and packing been going since you started using u*do*lunch in your home? 

Lani Preis: My kids actually enjoy planning and packing their lunches now. They like having ownership of it. And on the one week where they didn’t plan, they were upset with what I had to throw together for them. I also love that it has nothing to do with technology; it gives them tactile interaction.

AP: Speaking of technology, tell me about your second product, the mobile phone and tablet contract posters. 

Lani Preis: We call these “over easy contracts.” It’s a piece of art that reminds older kids about the rules for technology.  They can hang them up in their bathroom or their bedrooms. The idea is to reinforce the relationship that older children have as they move into the real electronic universe–as they get a phone or a tablet.  It reminds them that using a device is a privilege and it has responsibilities that come along with it. Our children only hear a percentage of what we talk with them about. This serves as a gentle reminder, not mom and dad nudging. Marla and I both have a lot of social media experience, and we see adults who feel like they are bullet proof when they are behind a screen. What makes us think a teenager doesn’t?

AP: What else will you and Marla be creating for chick*u*do? 

Lani Preis: We are in the process of creating u*do*breakfast, so kids can help with their morning meals. We;’re excited to get more u*do*lunch kits out into the market in time for back to school. We also plan to add more over easy contracts and make the current ones more customizable.

Besides paid products, we also want to offer free valued added tools. For instance, we have a free grocery list download to help parents with the u*do*lunch product. We have a blog/newsletter we send out called “Walk the Walk Wednesdays” about parenting and raising independent kids. We cover things like being a responsible digital citizen, lunch hacks and teaching ‘kindependence.’ Mine and Marla’s philosophies on child rearing are very much aligned. We were both seeing a generation of young adults who seem to have this ‘failure to launch syndrome.’ That was the impetus for all of this.

Awesome Atlanta Parents: Lani Preis and Marla Zafft, founders of chick*u*do
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