Every day we pack a lunch and snack for our kids to take to daycare or school and at the end of the day, we’re never sure what they will bring back. Did the food leak into the lunch bag? Did hot food become cold by the time lunchtime rolled around?
One of the best ways to make sure your child has a positive eating experience at daycare or school is to pack their lunch in the right lunch box for their specific age and needs. Just like you wouldn’t have your toddler wear your teen’s shoes, a three-year old with a small appetite won’t do well with a lunch box intended for a teenager with a big appetite. Little kids like finger food. Older kids want a meal, snacks and maybe a drink or two.
The right lunchbox is not just about a favorite cartoon character or super hero: it should be lightweight, durable, easy to open and wash and fit the kind of food your child likes to eat.
We feature five lunch boxes for kids that you can buy online. Read on to find one that suits your needs.
Top Pick Best for Young Children: Bentgo Kids Lunch Box
Whether your child is in daycare, starting kindergarten or is in the first few years of elementary school, chances are you send them off every day with something to eat. For younger children, this could just include snacks or some finger food, while the six and seven-year-olds need something a bit heartier. Many kids don’t like when certain foods mix, never mind even touch each other, and may not eat what you give them. If you are looking for a lunch box designed with small children in mind, then you may want to consider this model.
This bento-style lunch box from Bentgo has five practical portioned compartments to suit a young child’s appetite. Ideal for children who like a variety of foods, the compartments are different sizes to accommodate different foods. For example, the largest compartment fits a half sandwich nicely or a salad. The three mid-size compartments can hold fruit, veggies and other snack favorites. The smallest compartment is sized just right for salad dressing or dipping sauces.
The lunch box is made from FDA-approved food-grade materials and is BPA, vinyl, lead, and PVC-free. Other features include drop-proof, rubber-coated edges and a sturdy design; kid-friendly latches that are easy for small hands to open and close; and a removable compartment tray to reheat food safely in the microwave and easy cleanup in the dishwasher. Hand washing is recommended for the outer shell to preserve the leak-proof seal and extend the longevity of the lunch box.
- Designed specifically for children ages 3-7
- Five different sized food compartments
- Does not keep food cold or hot
- No room for an ice-pack
- Latches can break
Top Pick Best Bento Box with Thermos: OmieBox Bento Box for Kids
You love the idea of a bento-style lunch box for your little ones, since the individual compartments save you from having to buy and wash separate containers for each food item. However, sometimes you want to send your child to school with hot leftovers from dinner, or fresh mac and cheese made in the early morning. If you are looking for a bento-style box that comes with a thermos for warm food, then you may want to consider this product from OmieBox.
Similar to other bento-style lunch boxes, this one has separate compartments, but it also has a thermos insert so you can include hot and cold items in the same lunch box. You don’t have to buy a separate thermos; this one fits nicely into the configuration. And if you want to send a sandwich one day instead of using the thermos, there’s no problem. A divider is included to help you create an additional compartment that fits a sandwich or cheese and crackers.
The lunch box comes apart and the rubber seals are all removable, so you can wash it thoroughly everyday. If the seals get worn or damaged, you can purchase replacement seals instead of throwing the box out. The lunch box weighs 1.7 pounds, uses 18/8, 304 grade stainless steel for the interior of the thermos, and it is constructed from materials that are FDA and CPSIA compliant and BPA-free.
- Long compartment fits any size juice box
- Thermos insert for hot foods
- Leak proof
- No room for an ice pack
- No room for utensils
Top Pick Best Versatile: Pinnacle Insulated Leakproof Thermal Lunch Kit
You’re tired of spending money on food containers to put into your child’s lunch box. Often the lids and containers get lost, and sometimes the containers become stained or retain food odors. If you’re looking for a versatile lunch box for your children that comes with everything you need to pack a good lunch, then consider this one from Pinnacle.
This is a pretty complete kit that includes an insulated bag, two thermal leak-proof 16-ounce lunch containers, one with a stainless steel interior, which can keep food warm for up to four hours, and one with a plastic interior that can keep food cold for up to six hours; an easy-flow leak-proof multi-use 16-ounce thermal bottle with a cover that can also be used as a cup or a bowl, and matching cutlery. All you have to add is food, an ice pack and a napkin. No need to buy an endless supply of food containers. Plus, it has a heat-release valve that lets steam and moisture escape to prevent too much suction or a vacuum that would make the containers difficult to open.
- Includes everything you need in a lunch box
- Leak-proof containers
- Versatile design can be used in many ways
- Keeps food warm or cold
- Heat-release valve
- More expensive than other lunch boxes
- Not dishwasher safe
Top Pick Best Overall: Bentology Lunch Bag and Box Set for Girls
Your children are fussy – you hate admitting it, but it’s the truth. That means you choose everything they have with care to make sure it gets used. A lunch box is no different. Not only do you want them to like it, but you want to make sure it fits your requirements, too. If you are looking for a stylish and practical lunch box that your children will love to bring to school, then consider this set from Bentology.
This practical lunch box comes with almost everything you need to get your child off to school with an enjoyable lunch. Included is one insulated lunch box tote bag to carry everything, a bento-style box with five containers with leak-proof lids, and a matching ice pack.
The tote bag is fully insulated, durable and made from 100 percent polyester, is leak-resistant, has multiple compartments to store utensils and napkins and features a water bottle holder and a convenient carrying handle. The ice pack fits nicely inside an interior mesh pocket. One hundred percent food safe, this lunch box is BPS, PVC, lead and phthalates-free.
- Large opening with two-way zipping for easy packing
- Fully insulated
- Five leak-resistant containers with lids
- Microwave safe containers
- Top-rack dishwasher safe (eco cycle, no heat boosters)
- Drink sleeve is narrow
- Does not come with utensils
Top Pick Best Basic: FlowFly Double Decker Cooler Insulated Lunch Bag
You prepare lunch every day for your children who range in age from 9 to 15. Each has different appetites, but you’ve got that covered with various sized food and drink containers. What you really need is a lightweight yet sturdy lunch box that is easy to carry and will fit all the necessities you want to send with your child, including a thermos, ice pack, napkins and utensils. For an ergonomically designed large-sized lunch box that can accommodate whatever you decide to put into it, we recommend this basic model from FlowFly.
We love the double-decker design of this lunch box, which allows you to separate hot and cold foods. Put cool drinks and an ice pack in the bottom layer and hot food, a sandwich, salad or fruit in the top layer. Made of highly durable 600D polyester non-toxic FDA-compliant food safe PEVA lining, PE foam insulation and strong sturdy SBS zippers, this lunch box can withstand pretty much any rough handling by your kids.
This cooler tote can keep foods cool for up to nine hours when you add an ice pack. It’s also easy to carry with a comfort-grip handle or your child can use the detachable 48-inch padded strap to hang the lunch box from their shoulder or they can wear it as a cross-body bag. And when the school year is over, it folds nicely for easy storage.
- Two separate compartments to keep hot and cold items separate
- Made with FDA-compliant non-toxic materials
- Water and stain resistant
- Has handles and detachable shoulder strap
- Doesn’t come with containers, utensils or ice pack
Things to look out for:
Consider these things when looking for a kids’ lunch box so you will choose one that best suits your needs:
Functionality: Your child is going to gravitate toward a lunch box that has his or her favorite cartoon character or superhero without giving a thought to the functionality of it all. And that’s okay if it meets certain basic criteria. When looking for a lunch box for your children, consider their age and appetite. Younger children sometimes find it overwhelming to have a big portion set before them. That’s where separate containers are helpful. In this case, find a lunch box that can accommodate containers of different sizes. Bento boxes are specifically designed this way and could be a good choice. However, keep in mind that some may not have enough space for a drink, which your child may have to carry separately.
For older children with larger appetites, consider a lunch box that has space for a water bottle, ice pack and perhaps a thermos if your child prefers to bring hot food. If you need to include lunch plus snacks as well as napkins, a drink and utensils, make sure there is enough space inside. Some lunch boxes come equipped with all the containers you will need, which is convenient and can save you money.
Ease of use: There’s no use buying a lunch box for your child if they can’t open it, get the lids off the containers or zip it open or closed. Most children can handle a zipper, but if you choose a lunch box that opens with hinges, make sure they are child-friendly. The same goes for the lids of containers.
Maintenance: Some lunch boxes for kids are leak proof, but others are not. Plus, even if they are leak proof, it’s still possible that your child will spill soup, juice, jam or peanut butter on the inside of the tote bag. Make sure the lunch box you choose is easy to clean, that the containers come out and apart so you can wash and dry them completely. The last thing you want is mold to develop on the inside of the lunch box.