Best Lunch Boxes for Kids
The Bentgo Kids Lunch Box is one of our favorite options, and we think you'll quickly understand why. It is easy to open and close with only two latches, particularly for a preschooler, and it is leak-proof (cue happy dance!). The product feels durable, long-lasting, and thanks to its drop-proof design (rubber-coated edges), we believe it has a greater chance of surviving bumps and falls. The tray has five compartments, and one section being the right size for dips. The removable tray is top-rack dishwasher safe, and if you have more than one Bentgo, you can mix and match tray colors, adding more fun to lunchtime. The overall lunch box is free of BPA, vinyl, lead, and PVC.
If you're looking for insulation, this option may not be for you; so, if you're packing a food item that requires to be chilled, place this box inside an insulated lunch bag. Friendly reminder: make sure you check and compare dimensions before selecting an insulated bag. The box's capacity is limited and may not be enough for an ever-hungry older child. Therefore, we consider its volume to be more suitable for toddlers. The manufacturer suggests handwashing the outer box to preserve its leak-proof seal. In general, we support handwashing care instructions for plastic products as we believe this can prolong a product's longevity and avoid the potential of plastic leaching chemicals. With that said, we recommend this easy-to-use lunch box for preschoolers or those who are not big lunchtime eaters.
Sporting some convenient features, the Bentgo Deluxe Lunch Bag ranks high in our review. It is easy to open and close, wipe clean, and thanks to the bag's liner (food-safe PEVA thermal insulation), it excels at keeping items chilled when you add an ice pack. The bag's generous capacity makes this option a possible fit for the bottomless-pit-kid. 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, a removable and adjustable shoulder strap is included, making this contender the only one in our lineup with this perk and one that may appeal to older children.
The bag itself is not leak-proof, and, let's face it, messes are undesirable. Therefore, pack wisely using leak-proof lunch boxes, water bottles, or containers when sending items with any liquid content along. Besides this drawback, we think this bag is an all-star option and recommend it to families who seek insulation and space, especially when striving to pack enough food to satisfy an older child's hunger.
We think the Kinsho 6 Compartment Bento Box is a sensible option as it combines some important lunch box qualities: it is leak-proof, a decent size, lightweight, and includes a fork and spoon. The pre-portioned tray is double-walled and has six compartments (the most of any other contender in our review), and extra spaces can encourage food variety. The plastic (BPA-free) contender has a clear lid with four latches we consider straightforward and user-friendly.
The manufacturer mentions the lunch box bottom is top-rack dishwasher safe, 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. The white utensils are easy to overlook and accidentally trash when tossing wrappers and leftover food. If this occurs, replacement silverware is available through the company. If you're packing the utensils, they occupy one of the compartments, so, in this case, the tray has five sections. The box and utensils are plastic, which is not our favorite material. However, if you don't mind its plastic construction and handwashing recommendation, we think this option may work well for older children.
If all-in-one trays are not your jam, consider the Rubbermaid LunchBlox. This lunchtime solution may be suitable for those who want reusable, individual storage containers for sandwiches, snacks, veggies, fruit, and more. This kit includes one larger box, two smaller ones, and an ice pack at an affordable price. We appreciate these handy containers for their leak-proof and stackable abilities. Oh, and not to forget, these containers are dishwasher safe.
These containers lack insulation, so if you're packing a food item that requires cooling, you'll need an insulated lunch bag. Although they are dishwasher safe, we typically recommend handwashing plastic products given the potential concerns about plastic leaching chemicals and to extend a product's longevity. We think the LunchBlox brings versatility to the world of kids' lunch boxes and recommend this option to anyone who wants multiple reusable containers to pack lunches.
Do you worry about your child accidentally throwing away an ice pack? Ease your mind with the PackIt Freezable Classic Lunch Box. Thanks to its insulated re-freezable gel walls, this bag is an ice pack and can keep your food and beverages cold. This bag collapses into a sleek profile when empty, which doesn't take up much room in the freezer, yet it can expand to pack all your child's favorite foods. Place it in the freezer at night, and by the following day, it is ready to transport your child's lunch. The bag's design includes food-safe and non-toxic canvas on the outside with a water-resistant liner inside that is easy to wipe clean. It has a non-insulated zipper pocket on the exterior, and the easy-to-carry handle has a buckle so that you can attach it to a backpack.
The PackIt has a couple of downsides to consider. The bag is not leak-proof, and it is heavier than other insulated lunch bags in our review, weighing 1.47 lbs when empty. We recommend this option to families who want to streamline their lunch packing process with this super handy lunch box bag.
The 3 Sprouts Bento Box may not have many bells and whistles, but this plastic option is cute, leak-proof, lightweight (weighs .45 lb empty), and dishwasher safe (top rack). The three compartments are deep, and the snap-on lid is user-friendly. The lunch box's plastic material is free of lead, PVC, BPA, and phthalates.
There's not much to dislike about this simple lunch box, except that it lacks insulation, and it may not have enough capacity to satisfy a big appetite. Of course, volume depends on your child's hunger, as everyone is different, but it is a factor to consider if your child tends to eat a big lunch. Besides that, we think this lightweight kids' lunch box may make an excellent lunchtime companion.
The GOPRENE Lunch Bag is roomy, lightweight, and flexible, making this option excellent for those who seek capacity yet want a bag that can collapse flat when empty for easy storage. The bag is free of BPA, PVC, lead, and phthalates, plus it is made from the same material as wet suits (pretty cool!), and the design features a zipper closure to keep contents enclosed. It also has a handle for easy carrying. What is unique and appreciated about this option is its ability to be washed in the laundry - easy! Plus, this may cut down on smells that can build over time.
The GOPRENE lacks a structured frame, so soft foods that are not in a container may be easily squished, and it has no storage pockets. Although this may or may not be a deal-breaker for you, additional storage pockets can be an attractive perk, especially for utensils and napkins. If mess and spills occur, it needs to air dry, which can take some time. Nonetheless, we think this machine washable and spacious lunch bag may be an excellent addition to your kids' lunch box arsenal.
Not a fan of plastic? The LunchBots Bento Cinco is worthy of consideration. It uses healthy and durable 18/8 stainless steel that is easy to clean (toss it into the dishwasher) and reusable for years to come. The LunchBots company offers a lifetime warranty against the manufacturer's defects. The box has five compartments with decent portions to satisfy the hunger of tots to 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 roundup, making it a nice compromise between material and weight.
We enjoy the benefits of stainless steel, but this product is not insulated and will need an insulated lunch bag and an ice pack to keep perishable food items cold. It is also not leak-proof, nor are the compartments as a liquid can leak from one area to another, so the box is best for dry foods. Also, the LunchBot's price is worth consideration. However, given the pros of its construction and longevity, we think this option is worth the investment. We recommend the LunchBots to eco-minded families who value non-plastic material and plan to pack dry foods.
The Munchkin Lunch Bento Box is the only option in our review with stainless steel kid-friendly utensils, which conveniently snap onto the silicone lid; either stack the fork and spoon in one slot or separate them. It is easy to open and close with only one latch, and the Munchkin features an easy-to-carry flexible handle. This box (BPA-free) is top-rack dishwasher safe for easy cleaning, plus the silicone gasket can remove from the top lid to make cleaning more thorough. The manufacturer recommends this option for children 18 months and older.
With many likable features, especially for the younger crowd, we were hoping the Munchkin would check off all the boxes; however, it doesn't. It is not leak-proof, which is a bummer. It is also heavier, weighing 1.53 lbs empty, which isn't ideal for younger tots to carry. Plus, it lacks insulation, so if you're planning on packing a food item that requires cooling, you'll need to use an insulated lunch bag and an ice pack. But, if the Munchkin's stainless-steel utensils and one latch override these drawbacks, we think this kid-friendly box is a decent option.
The OmieBox Bento Box is the only contender in our lineup that features a vacuum insulated thermos for a warm meal at school. The box is free of BPA and phthalate, and the thermos is of food-grade stainless steel construction. We greatly appreciate the thermos' broad and shallow design, making it easy for parents to reach inside and clean with a sponge. The box has a carry handle and one latch, and the thermos' chunky handle helps kids grip and open on their own. The double-walled insulated tray has three compartments. One section is for the removable thermos (if you plan on using it), and the box includes a removable divider if you wish to separate foods in one of the smaller compartments. The manufacturer mentions that the OmieBox is top-rack dishwasher safe but suggests handwashing to prolong the product's longevity.
Although we like the idea of this lunch box, we did notice a few downsides. With a sophisticated lunch box comes multiple parts to clean, and it is one of the heaviest options in our lineup, weighing 1.75 lbs empty and with the thermos inside. Despite its leak-proof claims, some liquid escaped when tilted on its side during our hands-on testing. To be fair, we did push its tolerance and leak-proof ability by filling each compartment with a fair amount of water. Still, any amount of leakage concerns us because that means there is potential for mess, and it may influence what you pack. We also do not consider the thermos's performance to be outstanding. While hands-on testing, we placed hot noodles in the thermos and took the food's temperature about four hours later with a digital thermometer. The results ranged from the high 80s to the low 90s, which is not as warm as you'd expect. Also, OmieBox has a higher price, which may be a factor. 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.
With dozens of fun patterns available, there is bound to be an Amersun Kids Lunch Box that catches your little one's attention. This lunch box sandwiches a 4mm thermal sponge layer with water-resistant fabric on the outside and food-grade aluminum foil on the inside. It has additional storage pockets on the outside (one mesh pocket and two slim zipper pockets), plus the internal mesh pocket holds an ice pack, utensils, or other items. The carry handle has a buckle, so you can attach it to another bag or backpack if that's helpful for your child.
This option is not leak-proof, which is not uncommon for fabric lunch bags. We imagined transporting a kids' water bottle, like the CamelBak eddy Kids in the mesh side pocket. However, while hands-on testing, we discovered that this pocket is too small and doesn't stretch to accommodate a water bottle of any size. We think the mesh pocket is more suitable for flexible items, like a packet of nuts, a granola bar, etc. Lastly, the zipper 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 very impressive and believe other contenders in our lineup perform better.
The Skip Hop Zoo Stainless Steel Lunch Kit includes two stackable stainless-steel containers with plastic lids. When assembled, both containers are leak-proof, even when experiencing tipping and shaking. The small box holds 8 oz, and the larger container holds 12 oz. This set is on the lighter end of the spectrum (weighing .71 lb. empty), which is not surprising given the kit's small size. The Skip Hop is free of BPA, PVC, and phthalates, and we also appreciate that it is dishwasher safe.
This lunch kit will likely not satisfy a growing child's hunger. Instead, we believe it is more suitable to hold snacks to compliment your child's lunch. If you would like to use only one container, one lid fits either box. However, keep in mind, it does not clip into place, making it less secure than options with latches. It is also non-insulated. Although this lunch kit isn't oversized or insulated, we appreciate its material and recommend it for snacks.
Why You Should Trust Us
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 14 years of experience. Drawing from her experience, including countless days of packing lunches for kids of various ages, Molly can provide recommendations for your family and needs. We purchased each product in our review, sent them through rigorous, side-by-side testing before rating and ranking the competition.
Analysis and Test Results
To test performance, we evaluated each kids' lunch box for material, ease of cleaning, leak-proof ability, and insulation through hands-on testing, simulating situations that these options would experience in the 'real world.'
Metal or plastic, which is best? Well, this may depend on your goals and needs, so we took a close look at each option to evaluate material pros and cons to kick start your selection process.
The benefits of stainless steel may "steel" your heart. This material is a nice contrast to plastic, and it is considered non-toxic, durable, and easy to clean. Toss it into the dishwasher without worry of warping, a perk we appreciate as busy parents and caregivers. However, stainless steel can show fingerprints and possibly dents from a severe fall or bump. Keep in mind; these issues are cosmetic and superficial. They do not influence performance unless you dent the edge or lid, compromising the ability to close and open properly.
Plastic options tend to be lightweight, which is helpful when your child is carrying around an already heavy backpack. However, this is not always true. The Munchkin is mostly plastic yet weighs more than the LunchBots, a 100% stainless steel option. Most of the plastic options in our lineup are colorful and feature fun graphics, which are kid-friendly. However, plastic is not our preferred material choice, mainly due to the potential of chemicals leaching into food. They are also less durable, being more susceptible to scratching and staining than stainless steel counterparts.
Ease of Cleaning
During the school year, you will be washing your kid's lunch box daily to ensure it is clean and ready for the next day. A dishwasher-safe product can make a big difference in this feat, and we consider the LunchBots to be truly effortless. You can place it in the appliance without worrying about high heat and potential warping. On the contrary, the OmieBox has multiple parts to hand clean, resulting in a task that is not as enjoyable to complete.
Among the insulated lunch bags, the GOPRENE is machine washable, a perk that no other contender offers. Toss it into the washer and let it air dry after. This ability can help cut down on stains and lingering foul smells that may develop over time.
To test and evaluate this metric, we poured water into each lunch box, closed them up, and shook them around (like what a lunch box may experience in a child's 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 lunch boxes that conquered the challenge include the Bentgo Kids Lunch Box, Kinsho 6 Compartment Bento Box, Rubbermaid LunchBlox, 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.
Depending on what you pack your child for lunch, it may or may not need insulation and an ice pack. But, if you're looking to keep some items fresh, an insulated fabric bag is your best bet. For this metric, we focused on testing the insulated fabric lunch bags' performance as they are often the vessel that will carry perishable items with an ice pack. We placed the same ice pack inside each bag, except for the PackIt as it has freezable walls, along with a cold sealed yogurt cup, 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, whereas the GOPRENE had the highest. It is important to note that an ice pack's size influences temperature, so our results may differ from yours.
We were also curious about how well the thermos in the Omiebox 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.
Gone are the days of brown paper bags. Today's selection of kids' lunch boxes is vast and wide, with an option for almost any need. Depending on your child's age and lunch box needs (school, outdoor adventure, or a trip to the grandparents' house), we are confident there is a product for you in our review. You will soon be packing a well-balanced, appetite-satisfying lunch for your kiddo to enjoy.
— Molly Bradac