Best Lunch Box 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!). It 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 for various foods, and one section being the right size for dips (yay, bring on the hummus!). 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. If you're packing an 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. We consider its volume to be more suitable for toddlers. The manufacturer suggests hand washing the outer box to preserve the leak-proof seal. In general, we suggest handwashing plastic products to avoid the potential of plastic leaching chemicals and to prolong the product's longevity. Considering these factors, 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 and performs well at keeping items chilled when an ice pack is added. We appreciate the bag's generous capacity, making this option a possible fit for the bottomless-pit-kid, and it offers additional storage with a pocket on the outside, plus an interior mesh pocket in the bag's 'upper-deck.' Besides a carry handle, the bag has a removable and adjustable shoulder strap. This is the only contender in our lineup with this feature, and we think this perk may appeal to older children. This bag is lined with food-safe PEVA thermal insulation, which is easy to wipe clean.
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 our hands-on testing, we can confirm that if you don't follow these instructions, the dishwasher's high heat can warp the top. 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. However, if you can overlook its plastic construction and handwashing recommendation, we think this leak-proof and larger option can be an option 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 given the potential concerns about leaching chemicals and to extend longevity. With that said, we think the LunchBlox are convenient and versatile. We recommend them to anyone who wants reusable containers for lunches.
Do your worry your child will accidentally trash 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. When empty, this bag collapses into a sleek profile, which doesn't take up much room in the freezer, yet it can expand to pack all of your child's favorite foods. Simply place it in the freezer at night, and by the next morning, it is ready to transport your child's lunch. The bag is a food-safe, nontoxic canvas with a water-resistant lining that is easy to wipe clean. It has a non-insulated zipper pocket on the outside, 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 empty. We recommend this option to families who want to streamline their lunch packing process with this super handy lunch box bag.
The GOPRENE Lunch Bag is roomy and flexible, making it an excellent option for those who seek capacity. It is the same material used in wet suits (pretty cool!), and it has a zipper closure to keep contents enclosed. It is soft, lightweight, and compact when empty. 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, peezy! Plus, this can cut down on smells that can build over time. This bag is free of BPA, PVC, lead, and phthalates.
The GOPRENE lacks a structured frame, so soft foods not in a container may be squashed, 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. If you can overlook these downsides, we think this machine washable, spacious lunch bag may be an excellent addition for your kid's lunch.
Not a fan of plastic? The LunchBots Bento Cinco is worthy of consideration. It uses healthy 18/8 stainless steel, which is durable, 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.
Although we enjoy the benefits of stainless steel, this product is not insulated and will need an insulated lunch bag and an ice pack to keep contents 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 a flexible carry 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 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 needs to eat a big lunch. Besides that, we think this lightweight kids' lunch box may make an excellent lunchtime companion.
The OmieBox Bento Box (BPA and phthalate free) includes a thermos of food-grade stainless steel construction and vacuum insulated. The thermos is reasonably wide and shallow, making it easy for kids to scoop food and easy for a parent to reach inside and clean by hand. The box has a carry handle and one latch, and the chunky handle on the thermos helps kids open the lid on their own. The double-walled insulated tray has three compartments. One is designated for the thermos if you're planning on using it, and a removable divider is included if you wish to separate foods in one of the smaller sections. The manufacturer mentions that the OmieBox is top-rack dishwasher safe, but handwashing is recommended or, at least, removing it before the drying cycle.
This is one of the heavies options in our lineup, weighing 1.75 lbs empty with the thermos inside. Despite its leak-proof claims, we noticed that some liquid escaped when we tilted it 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, but any amount of leakage concerns us because that means there is potential for mess. The thermos's performance is lacking if you plan to eat warm food after four hours. 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, ranging from the high 80s to low 90s. The trade-off of this sophisticated lunch box is that it has multiple parts to thoroughly clean. Also, the OmieBox has a higher price, which may be a factor. Considering that the OmieBox's selling point is its thermos, which lacked a stellar performance, we think you'll be happier with a different thermos set-up.
With dozens of fun patterns, 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 (one mesh pocket and two slim zipper pockets) are an attractive perk. Plus, the interior has another pocket to hold 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.
The Amersun 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. However, we think the Amersun is mediocre 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. Compared to contenders, 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 large 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, 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 kid's 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 away. 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 that these issues are cosmetic and superficial. They do not influence performance unless you dent the edge or lid, which could compromise 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 this metric, we poured water into each lunch box, closed them up, and shook them around (similar to 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