Looking for the best kid-friendly lunch box? Don't worry; we've got you covered. Our review ranks this year's top 10 kids' lunch boxes and provides the details you need to narrow down the choices. We researched the market before purchasing the most popular and promising contenders to send through extensive testing to determine the best. We focused on essential factors like versatility, leak-proof capability, and ease of cleaning. Packing a healthy lunch can make a difference in your child's day, and if you're packing school lunches regularly, you'll want a top-notch lunch box. We are confident that our lineup includes an option that will work for you and your kiddo.
Launching the LunchBots Bento Cinco to an overall winning spot in our review is its eco-healthy makeup and quick cleanup; toss it into the dishwasher worry-free. Made of 18/8 stainless steel, this contender is downright sturdy and will likely last years. Plus, LunchBots offers a lifetime warranty against any manufacturer's defects. There are various lunch box sizes available to suit your needs, but we tested the LunchBots Cinco with five compartments and decent-sized portions to satisfy the hunger of tots to younger children. The manufacturer states it is free of toxins and chemical linings. Typically, stainless steel is heavier than plastic; however, this option (weighing .92 lb. empty) is less than some plastic options in our lineup, making it a nice compromise between a healthier material and weight.
Unfortunately, no product in our lineup is perfect across all metrics, and LunchBots is no exception. We value insulation and protection against leaks; however, this option lacks those design features. You can get around the lack of insulation by using an insulated lunch bag with an ice pack; however, not being leak-proof dramatically influences what you pack, which will likely need to be dry foods. Also, this contender's price is high, but considering its eco-healthy material, construction, and longevity, we think it is worth the investment. We've used LunchBots with our own families and highly recommend this solid lunch box to family and friends.
With design features we admire, including its generous size, is the Bentgo Deluxe Lunch Bag, making this option a possible fit if you're packing lunch for a growing child or teenager. It's super easy to open and close, wipe clean, and thanks to the bag's liner (food-safe PEVA thermal insulation), it shines at keeping items chilled when you add an ice pack. The outside pocket offers additional storage, and there's an interior mesh pocket in the bag's 'upper deck' for lighter snacks and items. In addition to the bag's carry handle is a removable and adjustable shoulder strap, a perk that may appeal to older children.
The bag itself is not leak-proof, and, let's face it, messes are undesirable. Therefore, we suggest using leak-proof lunch boxes, water bottles, or containers when packing. Nevertheless, we think this bag is an all-star option and recommend it to families who seek insulation and high capacity, especially when striving to pack enough food to satisfy an older child's hunger.
The PackIt Freezable Classic Lunch Box offers a built-in ice pack unique feature. With insulated, re-freezable gel walls, you don't have to worry about your child accidentally tossing the ice pack when dumping wrappers in the trash. It collapses into a sleek profile when empty, expanding to hold all your child's favorite foods. Place it in the freezer at night, and it is ready to go by morning. The lunch box is made of food-safe and non-toxic canvas on the exterior and a water-resistant liner inside. It features a non-insulated zipper pocket on the outside for small items, and the easy-to-carry handle has a buckle so that you can attach it to a backpack. With many eye-catchy designs available, one to suit your child's personality.
The PackIt is heavier than other insulated lunch bags in our review (weighs 1.47 lbs empty), so this might not be a good fit if weight is an issue. Nonetheless, we've enjoyed this option with our own families and think it streamlines the lunch packing process with its handy built-in ice pack design.
Tip: Is your child heading off to Kindergarten? Practice eating a school lunch. Set a timer and make sure your child can open and close everything you send along with them. Also, discuss what to do with trash. Since school and lunchtime will be a new experience for your child, this exercise can help them feel prepared.
Why You Should Trust Us
We completed market research and purchased each product to conduct extensive, side-by-side testing for our review. We believe the best products should be easy to use, easy to clean, and include eco-healthy materials. These metrics were the framework of our testing, and each product's score in these individual metrics contributed to the product's overall score and ranking in the competition and influenced our award inner picks. To simulate real-world experiences, we packed lots of lunches and snacks and traveled with these options. Also influencing our evaluations include user feedback and observations of kid testers using the kids' lunch boxes.
Over the past decade, BabyGearLab has tested various baby-related gear and created thorough reviews for our readers. Leading this review is Molly Bradac, Senior Review Editor and nanny with over 15 years of experience. Drawing from her experience, including countless days of packing lunches and snacks for outdoor adventures, Molly can provide recommendations for your family and needs.
Analysis and Test Results
FInding a functional and fun lunch box for little ones doesn't have to be a headache. We've tested several options so you can find something parent and child approved for busy days on the go and at school. We evaluated each kid's lunch box for ease of use, cleaning, and materials.
If material matters to you and your budget can stretch, we think the LunchBots is worth consideration. This stainless steel option offers durability, quality, and longevity; plus, it's super easy to wash; in our opinion, this factor alone is worth its weight in gold. Although this option is more expensive, we think its long-term use and quality are worth the investment.
Ease of Use
When it comes to kids' lunch boxes, they should be easy to use. Plain and simple. However, we soon realized many features collectively form a highly functional kids' lunch box, such as thoughtful organization, decent capacity, leak-proof protection, insulation, versatility, and level of ease to open and close. Unfortunately, not one product in our lineup was a slam dunk, offering every feature, and this is somewhat a result of comparing products that vary in design intentions. But we did score the lineup to see who has the most.
The Bentgo Deluxe Lunch Bag ranks high in this metric with many convenient features. This insulated lunch bag offers generous capacity and versatility. The design includes organization, such as an exterior pocket for smaller items, like napkins and utensils, and an interior mesh pocket in the bag's 'upper deck' for lighter snacks. The lunch bag is super easy to open and close, and besides the carry handle, it has a removable and adjustable shoulder strap. The bag isn't leak-proof; however, most lunch bags do not offer this feature, so this isn't an issue unique to this product. Therefore, we suggest packing wisely with leak-proof lunch boxes, water bottles, or containers to reduce the potential for leaks.
The Skip Hop Zoo Stainless Steel Lunch Kit ranks low in this metric. Compared to the competition, this option doesn't offer valuable features. The small box holds 8 oz, and the larger container holds 12 oz. However, this lunch kit will likely not satisfy a growing child's hunger. Instead, we believe this snack-sized set is more suitable to complement your child's lunch.
The Amersun Kids Lunch Box is the only contender with a side mesh pocket, and we imagined transporting a kids' water bottle, like the CamelBak eddy Kids in this pocket. However, we discovered that this pocket is too small and doesn't stretch to accommodate any water bottle. It's more suitable for flexible items, like a packet of nuts, a granola bar, etc. Also, the zipper on the Amersun has a squared-off design, which causes it to get stuck at an angle, requiring some fiddling to fix. There is no doubt that this stylish bag is eye-catchy and will transport food, but we think it isn't awe-inspiring and believe other contenders in our lineup perform better.
To test and evaluate a kids' lunch box's leak-proof ability, we poured water into each, closed them up, and shook them around (similar to what a kids' lunch box might experience in a backpack). Any escaped water resulted in a failed performance, even a drop. Perhaps we have high expectations, but we believe a leak-proof design should be trustworthy because any mess is undesirable, especially if it occurs in your child's schoolbag with papers. The kids' lunch boxes that conquered this challenge include the Bentgo Kids Lunch Box, Kinsho 6 Compartment Bento Box, 3 Sprouts Bento Box, and Skip Hop Zoo Stainless Steel Lunch Kit. Although a leak-proof design is not always a must, it does provide the opportunity to pack wet or dry foods.
Despite its leak-proof claims, the Omiebox didn't shine in this test as some liquid escaped the box when we tilted it on its side. We did push its tolerance and leak-proof ability by filling each compartment with a fair amount of water. However, we believe any amount of leakage concerns us because there is potential for mess, which may influence what you pack.
A few contenders in our lineup include silverware, such as the Munchkin Lunch Bento Box and Kinsho. The Munchkin Lunch Bento Box offers stainless steel kid-friendly utensils, which conveniently snap onto the silicone lid; you can either stack the fork and spoon in one slot or separate them. The Kinsho has white plastic utensils. Remember that these utensils are easy to accidentally trash when tossing wrappers and leftover food. If this occurs, replacement silverware is available through the company.
What you pack your child for lunch may or may not need insulation and an ice pack. To test insulation, we placed a cold sealed yogurt cup and the same sized ice pack inside each fabric lunch bag, except for the PackIt as it has freezable walls, and took a temperature reading four hours later (about the time your child will begin eating their lunch). The lunch bags did not drastically differ in temperatures but varied by a few degrees. The Bentgo and PackIt had the lowest temperature readings. It is important to note that an ice pack's size influences temperature, so our results may differ from yours. But, we were satisfied with these contenders' results.
We were also curious about how well the thermos in the OmieBox Bento Box performs at keeping food warm, so we took a temperature reading of its content four hours later. Interestingly, it did not have a temperature reading that suggests warm food. In our opinion, we understand why this built-in thermos option is attractive, but considering its performance, we think you'll be happier with a different thermos set-up.
Friendly reminder: If you're keen on purchasing containers or a bento box with an insulated lunch bag, check and compare dimensions before purchasing.
Ease of Cleaning
Considering how frequently you will be washing your kid's lunch box to ensure it is ready for the following school day, we highly suggest a dishwasher-safe product to make this feat easier on you and your sanity.
Among the competition, the LunchBots Bento Cinco is an all-star, high-ranking contender. Honestly, it doesn't get much easier. Toss it into your dishwasher without fretting over high heat and potential warping.
According to the manufacturer, the Skip Hop Zoo Stainless Steel Lunch Kit is a dishwasher-safe stainless steel contender; it has adorable designs and might not last the test of time in the dishwasher. Therefore, we suggest handwashing this product or selecting a stainless steel option with no graphics, like the LunchBots Bento Cinco.
Ranking the lowest are the fabric lunch boxes, such as the Amersun Kids Lunch Box, Bentgo Deluxe Lunch Box, and PackIt Freezable Classic Lunch Box. These options are not machine washable. Although they have easy-to-wipe clean interior liners, the task takes more effort than dishwasher-safe products, and they don't get as clean, allowing the potential for smells and stains to develop.
The manufacturer says the bottom is top-rack dishwasher safe for the Kinsho 6 Compartment Bento Box, but handwashing the lid is best to lengthen the leak-proof seal's lifespan. From user experience, we can confirm that the dishwasher's high heat can warp the box's cover if you don't follow these instructions. If you go with this option, please keep this in mind.
Like the healthy foods and snacks you pack in your child's lunch, we believe you should grant the same thoughtfulness and effort to the lunch box itself. Therefore, we considered the product's material with the Earth and health in mind for eco-health and noted any manufacturer's mention of free ofs.
The benefits of stainless steel may "steal" your heart away. This material is an excellent alternative to plastic, and it is considered non-toxic and healthier, which we think is essential as its holding your child's food that they will consume. Also, stainless steel has the potential to last longer than plastic. Therefore, contenders of this makeup rank the highest, including the Skip Hop Zoo Stainless Steel Lunch Kit and the LunchBots Bento Cinco.
However, plastic is not our preferred material choice, mainly due to the potential of chemicals leaching into food. It's also considered less durable, being more susceptible to scratching and staining than its stainless steel counterparts.
Tip: Let your kid help make lunches, it exercises their freedom in the kitchen, and they may discover excitement about food.
Brown paper bags are a memento from a bygone era in today's modern age, where lunches keep their cool longer than ever. Today's selection of kids' lunch boxes is huge, with a type for almost any goal or need. The kind and size of lunch box you want will depend on how much food your child needs to pack and whether or not that food needs to remain cold. Do you need a simple insulated bag? Or a food storage kit to keep things fresh? Depending on your child's age and needs (school, outdoor adventure, or a trip to the grandparents' house), we feel confident there is a lunch box for you in our detailed review. You will soon be packing a well-balanced, appetite-satisfying lunch for your kiddo to enjoy.