Best Kids Lunch Boxes
Packing a well balanced and healthy meal for your little one to take to school has come a long way since the days of those thin tin pails. Not only are there a ton of clever and adorable designs to make even the most discerning and picky eaters looking forward to mealtime in the cafeteria, but they are also made from high quality materials that will keep warm food warm and cool food cool all day. We really liked the bento style containers because it allows parents to organize all of the nutritious food groups in small and visually pleasing individual containers, but traditional soft packs are also a great way to ensure your little one is eating right. In this guide you will find some of our favorite picks for kids lunch boxes.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 5 hrs of research
Made from high quality and safe materials
- Violet Mist
- Wildkin Olive
- Skip Hop Zoo
- PackIt Freezable
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top 10 Picks
Made from high quality and safe materials
A little more expensive than most
Limited colors and designs
What we liked most about this design is that it offers meals to prepared in the bento fashion where there are multiple small compartments to ensure that all of your child’s nutritional needs are met, and no food are going to touch each other- which can be a real deal breaker for your picky eater.Read more
If your little one longs for something that has a fun and friendly print on the front, this isn’t going to be your best choice. However, it is offered in bright and fun colors that include purple, green, and blue.
The best thing about this design is that the interior has 5 separate and seals compartments to hit up every food group. There is a central container for sandwiches or noodles, and three side compartments for veggies, fruits, and crackers. Plus, it has a condiment compartment to fill with their favorite dipping sauce.
This unit is made from a very sturdy plastic that is similar to the best Tupperware that you have at home. Plus, it is coated with rubber bumpers along the edges to protect it if it happens to take a tumble off of the monkey bars. Parents can feel good that the plastic is FDA approved to be food safe, and doesn’t contain BPA, lead, vinyl, or PVC.
This unit is small and compact, and measures to be just over 8 inches long, 6.5 inches wide, and 2 inches deep- perfect for tucking into tight bookbags.
The cost of this unit is a little bit more than many of the other designs out there on the market. However, we feel that this is an excellent deal based upon the fact that it is made from high-quality materials, and it comes with a 2.5-year warranty.
For parents that are looking for something that is going to simple and durable, and make packing a nutritional meal simple and easy, this design is going to be one of your best options.
Made from high quality materials
Designed to take a beating
Central compartment can hold things like soup and pasta as well as sandwiches
No color options offered
The OmieBox is another bento design that is made to put all of your little one’s favorite food in sealed compartments so that you can ensure they get all of the nutrition that they need to get through the day in a fun way that is perfect for even really picky eaters.Read more
Much like the previous option, there are few fun characters and colors offered in this design. Parents will be able to select from a simple light blue square box that has a thick yellow handle.
The thing that parents really like most about this option is found in the main compartment. It is the perfect size to hold your standard sandwich, or you can place an insert on the top so that you can pack things like soups or pasta with red sauce.
This unit is incredibly heavy duty and is made with withstand being roughed up on the playground a bit. It uses heavy duty stainless steel for the hinges, and it is made from plastic that is incredibly safe and BPA free.
This unit weighs in a 1.7 pounds- which means that it is really resilient but it may be a tad to heavy for really small children. It measures to be a perfect 7 inches wide and 7 inches long, and is about 3 inches deep.
The bad news here is that this design is one of the most expensive designs that we have seen out there on the market. However, if you want something that is going to be virtually indestructible, and is sleek enough that your child would be willing to take this simple design all the way through to high school, it is a great value.
What parents liked most about this design is that it has all of the compartments that are throughtfully placed to ensure that their little one gets all the nutrition that they need, and it is versatile enough to stray away from the standard sandwich and crackers.
3. Violet Mist
Made from high quality neoprene
Can be easily washed
Some users feel that the neoprene has an unpleasant odor
If style and patterns are something that is going to be important to ensure that your little one gets excited about meal time, this design from Violet Mist is going to be one of your better options because it comes in a ton of different colors and designs that are entirely unique to this brand.Read more
What parents and kids like most about this option is that there are a lot of designs to select from. Options include things like sharks, owls, foxes, porcupines with tomatoes on their back, unicorns, pineapples, and photos of funny dogs or cats.
One thing that parents really like about this option is that it is made from soft yet durable materials that feel nice to carry in little hands. It is made from neoprene, which is a great material for holding in heat for water food items, or keeping cool foods cooler for longer periods of time.
This design is quite bigger than some of the other designs that we have seen. It measures to be 12 inches long, 11 inches tall, 5 inches wide, and it is just shy of being 9 inches deep. Plus, because it is made from neoprene means that it is going to be really lightweight.
Parents love that the cost of this design is incredibly affordable, and it is still made from really high-quality materials that will be able to hold up over time.
If you are in the market for something that is going to give your little one a lot of designs to pick from to get them excited for meal time, and you want to save a little bit of money in the process, we feel that this is an excellent choice.
4. Wildkin Olive
Many fun designs and color choices
Easy to clean
Holds quite a lot of food
A little more expensive than other soft nylon designs
This option from Wildkin Olive offers the classic square zippered design that everyone remembers taking to school but it has a few modern twists to the design that makes it perfect for keeping food fresh all morning while your little one is in class.Read more
One of our favorite things about this option is that it comes with a lot of fun prints and bright colors that your little one can choose from. Some of the designs include horses, mermaids, and owls, and it also comes with basic prints such as polka dots and zebra print that will age right along with your child.
The interior of this option is wide and open for parents that like to pack a lot, or that like to use their own tupperware- you are going to have plenty of room with this design. Plus, it has a mesh pocket on the inside to hold things in place like juice bottles, and a zipper along the front as well.
The inside of this option is made from an insulated material that will keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold, and parents find that it is incredibly easy to wipe down after every use.
Parents are going to be able to fit quite a lot of food into this design. It measures in at 7 inches tall and almost 10 inches long, and is 3.25 inches deep.
The cost of this design is just slightly higher than many of the other nylon insulated options out there on the market, but we feel this is still an excellent value based upon the quality of materials, and unique design.
For parents that want something that is going to be able to grow along with their kids and is going to really be able to whole quite a lot of food, this design from Wildkin Olive is going to be a great selection.
5. Skip Hop Zoo
Easy to clean
Some users do not like the smell
There have been some users that found that it leaked
This company is known for making high quality products that are cute and adorable that kids and parents love. This option from Skip Hop Zoo gives your little one the choice of selecting from an entire barnyard worth of animals, and parents can feel good that it is made from high quality materials.Read more
The most notable feature from any Skip Hop Zoo product is that it has a ton of adorable animal faces to choose from. Style include owls, cats, dogs, pigs, foxes, frogs, cow, monkeys, ladybugs, sharks, as well as a host of others.
What parents like about this design is that it has a large central pocket that is going to be able to fit a lot of food. You can select one of Skip Hop Zoo’s line of products that will fit perfectly inside, or you can just use your own tupperware.
The materials used for this design is insulated so that it is going to be able to keep hot foods warm and cool foods cool. The nylon material is BPA free, and is also free of other harsh chemicals such as Phthalate, Latex, and Nitrosamine.
This option is a little bit on the larger size. It measures to be 9 inches tall, and just over 7 inches wide, and is 3.2 inches deep.
The best part about any product from Skip Hop Zoo is that it comes in at an incredibly affordable price point. The cost of this unit is significantly less than any other design we have seen thus far.
For parents that are looking for something for their little one that is cute and adorable, comes from a trusted brand, and is offered at a really great price point- this design is going to be one of your better options.
Easy to clean
Offer in many fun color and design options
Some users feel the material is a little thin
There were a few users that had trouble with sticky zippers
For parents that are looking for something classic and simple that is incredibly affordable- this is going to be your best bet. While it comes in at one of the lowest price points of any of the others out there on the market, it also offers users a ton of different styles and designs.Read more
We think parents and their little ones are really going to like all of the different styles offered in this line. Many of the colors are fun and bright, and have adorable creatures printed in them such as owls, fish, frogs, dinosaurs, cars, fairies, and cats- perfect for both boys and girls.
Simplicity is the name of the game when it comes to this design. It has a large central compartment that is perfect for sandwiches and crackers, and it is also big enough to fit some of your smaller tupperware or a thermos. It has a mesh pocket in the top, and a zippered pocket on the outside.
This nylon design is made from materials that parents can feel good about. It is considered to be 100 percent food safe, and is free of harmful chemicals such as BPA, lead, and phthalates.
This unit runs about in the middle of the road in terms of size. It measures to be 7.5 inches tall, 9.5 inches wide, and 3 inches deep.
Hands down, this is going to be one of your better values. It comes in at a price tag that is half of what some of the higher end options are priced at, and it is made from the same types of materials.
For parents that are looking to save a little bit of money, but still want to be able to select fun and functional style that their little one will love, this design is going to be a fantastic option.
7. PackIt Freezable
Gel lining will keep food colder for longer periods of time
Comes in many patterns and colors
Easy to clean
A little more expensive than other soft designs
Not as deep and most
Users found the velcro to be a little weak
If you have had issues with warm and mesh sandwiches and room temperature apples (when everyone knows apples are better cold!), this design is going to be the answer to those problems. The material in this design is made to keep food cool and crisp for up to 10 hours.Read more
While this bag has a lot of functional features, it also brings a good deal of style as well. It is important to note that all of the fun colors and prints aren’t of fun animals, so it may be something that your child will be able to take with them throughout all of their cafeteria school years.
What parents love most about this design is that it is made to keep food cold. When you pack up your child’s meal the night before, when you place the bag into the fridge the gel on the lining of the bag will keep food cold until mealtime.
We have already talked about the gel lining on the interior of the bag, but the exterior is also made from soft and resilient nylon that is going to be incredibly easy to wipe down when it gets to be a little dirty.
This bag is going to be just a little bit bigger than most. It measures to be just over 13 inches tall, and it is about 9 inches wide (which is about average). It isn’t as deep as most, measuring at 2.5 inches deep.
The cost of this unit is a little most expensive than many of the similar soft nylon options out there on the market, but we feel that the addition of the gel lining to keep food cool makes it well worth the slightly higher price point.
If you are in the market for something that has a little extra power to keep those apple slices cool and crisp all day long, this is going to be one of your better choices if you are willing to pay the slightly higher price tag.
Made from sequin mermaid fabric
Cannot toss it into the washing machine
Some of the sequins will fall off over time
One the the most popular fabrics that has been integrated into anything that can be upholstered is the mermaid fabric that is found on the outside of this options. You little one will love is because of the interesting materials on the outside, and parents love the quality of materials used on the inside.Read more
Everyone loves a mermaid print for its hypnotic effects when you run your hands over it, so it was hard for even us to resist the siren call of this material. It comes in a solid silver sequin with black trim that will transform into rainbow sequin when you run your hands over it.
The interior offers users a large central pocket that is insulated to keep food cool (or warm). It has a mesh pocket along the top that is designed to hold a freezer pack or a bottle of water or juice, as well as a pocket along the back side.
The nylon material on the inside and back side of this design is made to be incredibly easy to wipe down. The bad news is that due to the sequins on the front side, this is not going to be something that you are going to be able to toss into the washing machine.
This style is just a tad bit bigger than most. It stands to be about 8 inches tall, and is just over 11 inches long. What parents really like about this design is that it's almost 5 inches deep- perfect for thermoses or bigger tupperware.
What we liked most about this design is that it comes in at a price point that is just slightly less expensive than some of the other soft nylon designs out there on the market.
If your child wants everything and everything they own to have the mermaid sequin print, this design is going to be a great choice that parents can feel good about, and it comes in at a really affordable price point.
Uses licensed property such as Star Wars and Disney for their prints
Keeps foods cool or warm with their isotec lining
Some users had trouble with the zipper
There were some users that felt it has a strange smell
This is a brand that has been helping pack meals for your kids, your parents, your grandparents, and probably even your great-grandparents since their founding in 1904. We loved this option because it comes from a trusted brand, and it is offered in a ton of different designs that are fun and unique.Read more
The great thing about this design is that it has a lot of licensed brands that you might not see elsewhere, like Marvel character, Disney princesses, Star Wars, and Hello Kitty. If your little one wants to carry around their favorite superhero, this is going to be your best option.
The inside of these designs is pretty simple. It has a large central compartment that is going to be large enough to fit your standard size sandwich with sides, or even some of your smaller tupperware or a thermos.
What makes this design stand out from the rest is the material that is used. Thermos uses their special Isotec insulation to make sure that cool foods say cool, and warm foods stay warm for longer periods of time.
This unit is going to be just a little bit smaller than most. It measures to be 10 inches long, 7 inches high, and about 4 inches deep.
From what we have researched, this design is going to be one of your best value. It uses high-quality materials only found with a Thermos product, but it comes in at a price point that is much lower than some of the higher end soft nylon designs.
If you are in the market for something that comes from an incredibly trusted brand that has been in the business of packing meals for over 100 years, we feel that this is going to be one of your better values.
Parents can add their child’s name to the front of the bag
Matching accessories available at an additional cost
A little more expensive than most
The styling and functionality of this design from DIBSIES is pretty simple, but what we liked most about it was the ability for parents to have their child’s name printed right on the front, so that they always know which bag is theirs.Read more
Parents will have the option from selecting from different styles such as a shark or car for boys, and ballet shoes or an owl for girls. There is a blank spot that runs along the top where parents can order a custom made option with their child’s name printed right into the fabric.
The inside of this design is slippery and easy to clean. It has a strap on the inside that will help keep water or juice bottles from rolling around, and it also has a mesh pocket along the top that will also hold additional items such as notes or money to buy other things in the cafeteria.
Parents can feel good about the materials used to make this design. It is made entirely of nylon that is considered to be PVC, BPA, and phthalate free.
The measurements of this design are 7.75 inches long and just 2.5 inches deep- making it one of the smaller options out there on the market.
The cost of this design is a little bit higher than most when you take into consideration the simplicity of the product. However, we feel that the ability to personalize the exterior to make it special makes it worth the slightly higher price point.
If you are looking for something that is going to be just a little bit different than others out there that will give you the option to really personalize it, we feel that this design from DIBSIES is going to be an excellent choice.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
The difference between a pack that your little one is excited about boils down to one simple factor: style.
They do not care how safe the materials are or how well it will be able to hold up over time. All they care about is the cute characters and fun colors that they come in. While these details are very important, we also wanted to ensure that we selected designs that had more simple palates and patterns (such as plaid or polka dots) that are going to be able to grow right along with your child throughout their school years. While the simple design with the fire trucks might be perfect for your kindergartener, it might not be ideal when they hit the 5th grade when they feel they are too old and grown up for fire trucks! If your little one will only carry packs with recognizable characters on them from Marvel or Disney, your best option is going to be one of the big and reliable name brands such as Thermos. Thermos offers parents the high quality materials that you would want, but gives your kids the characters that they love.
How a pack is built is going to determine how much food you will be able to fit into the compartments.
We personally love the bento style because it allows parents to create a perfectly balanced meal with all of the nutrition that they need to make it through the day, and kids love that all of the food is neat and organized in a visually pleasing way. Bento styles are going to allow parents to craft the traditional sandwich meals, but it is also going to allow them to get a little more creative with noodles or rice dishes. For the soft pack designs, we were drawn more toward the thicker options that would allow parents to pack their own tupperware or thermos for special meals. One important thing to look for on the traditional soft designs is a mesh pocket on the top lid. This pocket may not seem like it can hold much, but it is perfect for holding an ice pack away from your food to keep it nice and crisp all morning. Outside pockets are also great because parents can throw in some change so that their child can buy a treat in the cafeteria, and the money won’t come into contact with their food.
Making sure that each product is made from durable yet safe materials is one of the more important things that we considered.
The hard and soft plastic designs are each considered to be incredibly durable in their own right. The harder, bento style containers typically have stainless steel hinges, and are surrounded by a thick layer of durable rubber that can take a couple of hundred tumbles off of the monkey bars with ease. They can be tossed around and none of the food inside will be affected. The softer plastic materials aren’t going to run the risk of breaking, but users will have to be a little more conscious about the contents inside (because no one likes a squashed sandwich!). Each of the hard plastic and soft plastics designs of the product on our list have been FDA approved for food consumption, and are free of any harmful chemicals such as PVC and BPAs, so you can feel good about every meal that you pack.
Size is going to be important, because it is going to determine how much food you are going to be able to fit inside.
As your little one grows, so will their appetite- so you are going to want to make sure that you have enough room for all of their treats. While the length and height of each unit varied, the depth was one of the more important features that we considered. While a shallow depth of about 2 inches is going to be ideal for basic meals of sandwiches and chips, it isn’t going to work very well with a thermos. We liked designs that were about 3-5 inches thick, because it meant that they were going to be big enough not only for a good sized thermos, but parents would also be able to fit in specialized tupperware for those extra fancy meals. If you are option for a more neutral design that is going to grow with your child, it’s important to make sure that the dimensions of the product are also going to be able to grow with their appetite as well!
As always, we feel that it is important to save you a little bit of money when we can.
The good news here is the price tag on even some of the higher end models that come with a gel insert to keep food nice and fresh comes at a really affordable price point, and is an extra great value if it is something that your little one can carry for multiple school years. While name brand options such as Thermos are often at a higher price point, we also wanted to include a few of the more affordable options that come in at a price point that adds up to a few purchased meals in the cafeteria. These designs are going to be a little thinner and might not last for multiple school years, but they are going to be a great value if your little one changes their mind on the type of pack they like to carry from year to year.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Before you jump right in and buy the design that has the sharks of bunnies, take into consideration how often you are going to be willing to purchase a replacement. If you opt for a cute cartoon character, odds are your little one may grow out of it and want something that appears to be a little more grown up. Selecting a design with a pattern like polka dots or stripes is a great way to pick something that is going to be fun and cheerful, but won't be a design that your child will wake up to dislike one day.
If you have a troublesome eater that won't touch any food that has touched anything else, the bento design may be your best option. Parents also love this design because it displays food in a fun way, and keeps all food groups separate at all times- which means no more chocolate pudding on your goldfish crackers!
Whether you select the hard plastics version, or the softer plastic, you can feel good that each type of material is going to be safe to eat from. Each option that is found on our list (as well as the majority out there on the market) are FDA food certified and are BPA and PVC free.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: What are some benefits to packing a meal instead of having my child buy one from the cafeteria?
No one ever remembers the love that the cafeteria worker put into heating up their tray meals, but everyone can usually recall the meals their mom or dad packed for them when they were younger. Packing a meal not only saves you a little bit of money over time, but it is also a great way of reminding your little one that you love them even when you are not there with them at school. Plus, you can ensure that you fill your bag with treats they you know they will love and will actually eat, when the same cannot be said for meals that the cafeteria provides. Many of these bags found on our list are offered in fun and uniques designs that can get even the pickiest eater just a little bit excited for meal time.
q: What type of material will keep food cold or warm?
This is something that parents struggle with, because they often make an amazing and fresh meal in the morning, but by meal time the apples are often browned and the sandwich is a little mushy. Basic plastics containers are going to to a great job at keeping food warm- such as a thermos filled with soup or macaroni and cheese. However, to keep those food cool, you may have to go just a step further. The insulted materials that are used to make these products are perfect for trapping in temperatures. Therefore, if you want to keep food cool, it may be in your best interest to employ the use of a simple ice pack. Almost every soft design out there on the market has a mesh pocket on the top flap that is designed purely for that purpose. If you are really concerned about your sliced apples turning brown, another way to combat that is to toss them with just a little bit of lemon juice to keep them perfect until meal time!
q: Is the use of plastics safe for food storage?
Many people will tell you the the best way to store your food is in glass. Glass is ideal because it is nonporous, and it is easy to pop into the microwave for a quick heat up. However, sending your little one to school with a glass container is a recipe for disaster. So, are the plastics used for these products safe? All of the designs that were found on our list have been marked as safe for food storage by the FDA. Furthermore, most products are also listed as being free of things like BPAs, PVC, lead, and phthalates. This means that you can feel good about packing your little one a meal in one of these products.
q: What is a bento style container?
You might have noticed that some options out there advertise as a bento style container. On the surface, this merely means that there are separate compartments that parents can place all of the different food groups without worrying about them bleeding into each other. However, a closer look at what bento means reveals something a little deeper. Bento originated in Japan, and can be traced all the way back to the 1100’s! The visual appearance of the bento is one of the most important features. If you simply look up the word bento in an image search, you will find some really stunning creations. For kids, this sometimes can mean that the parents craft little faces in the food, or create fun shapes out of fruits, vegetables, and even sandwiches. Using tools like cookie cutters for your fruit and sandwiches can turn a boring lunch into something really special!
q: Are they easy to clean?
If you have ever packed or received a meal in one of these types of containers, you are well aware of the patented smell that they can create over time. Plus, things have a tendency of leaking or being spilled on the inside, so you want to be sure that you get something that is easy to clean. For the most part, all of these designs on our list are pretty easy to simple wide down with a cloth. For harder stains, you can even opt to soak it in a sink with hot and soapy water to really combat those bad odors and stains. The surface of these insulated designs is pretty nonporous, which means that a simple wipe down after every use is going to be enough to keep it nice and clean. Most design that use nylon can also be tossed into the washing machine, but be sure that you use cool water, and let it air dry overnight before using it again.
q: Where are all the action heros and cartoon characters?
The problem with superheroes and cartoons characters is that that are very expensive to gain the rights to use. When you purchase a design with a comic book character on the front, a good deal of the money that you spent went towards the rights to use their likeness, and not towards the quality of the products used. Big companies such as Thermos are going to be your best option for selecting a design with a famous character along the front, because they are an established brand of over 100 years that has already invested a good deal of money and research into their materials so that they can afford to put Darth Vader on the front of their bags without the hefty price tag.