Updated on May 12, 2020 by Lyric Fergusson
Whether you’re looking for a lunch bag for family picnics at the park, lazy summer days at the beach, or your little one’s first day of daycare or preschool – you’ll need something that is both fun and durable.
As the first of many back-to-school decisions to come, your toddler will probably want to have a say too! Here are some of our favorite options to carry a day’s lunch in style and to keep your tot excited about the next adventure.
The Best Toddler Lunch Boxes For All Ages
(Best budget option – $)
Why it’s great: These adorable zoo character bags are a quick hit with both parents and kiddos alike – and for good reason! Preschoolers love the colorful animal designs. Parents appreciate the price, durability, and ease of use. The Skip Hop Zoo lunch bags are compatible with both the Bentgo box in #3 and the OmieBox in #4 for parents looking to add a compartmentalized lunch box to their child’s school gear. Parents also say the Skip Hop bags are very easy to clean.
Keep in mind: The size of this popular bag is designed to fit and be worn by a toddler, so a Skip Hop Zoo bag may not be quite large enough for some older preschooler’s lunches.
Good for: Families looking for a cute “starter” lunch bag that can hold many common Bento boxes and containers.
(Best basic option – $)
Why it’s great: Why fix what isn’t broken? This classic-style lunch box will provide many days of school lunches for your little one. Parents appreciate the ease of use, durability, and ease of cleaning. The Wildkin insulated lunch box appears to be the perfect size for most families, and parents love that it is high-quality enough to endure a run through the dishwasher or washing machine. What a great option for those busy school nights!
Keep in mind: Some parents eventually ran into trouble with the zipper, so be sure to encourage gentle use.
Good for: Parents who just want the basics with no fuss.
(Best for allocating small portion sizes – $$)
Why it’s great: This fun Bento box is great for easily portioning out snacks, sides and entrees in just the right portion sizes for little mouths. Using a lunch box with compartments is the perfect trick for toddlers who have trouble opening their own food packages. Plus, the Bentgo box can easily fit into many popular lunch bags such as the Skip Hop Zoo bags featured in #1. The fun compartments encourage creativity in lunch-packing and delight picky eaters. Overall, this popular box is a simple and great way to pack a healthy lunch!
Keep in mind: As a handful of reviewers have noted, the plastic material of the lunchbox needs to be washed and dried carefully to avoid mold. The plastic snaps are also subject to damage with rough use – so be sure to handle with care. (Although on the plus side, the company is willing to replace damaged boxes.)
Good for: Parents who want to experiment with the creative fun of a Bento box!
(Best for versatility – $$$)
Why it’s great: This Bento box is a great option for those looking to save money and time on repacking snacks in Ziploc bags or Tupperware containers, but still want the versatility of a non-Bento lunch box. The OmieBox comes with 3 compartments of varying sizes that can be arranged in many different ways. Parents say the OmieBox is easy to clean AND easy for kids to open and use. The special leak-proof Thermos food jar is also a hit since it allows for packing hot or cold food items.
Keep in mind: Some parents have encountered issues with the hot food container not keeping food warm, but others say that following the instructions will indeed result in success. Like the Bentgo box in #3, the OmieBox parts must be hand-washed carefully in order to avoid mold and other issues.
Good for: Families that want to pack a hot meal for their toddlers, and parents looking for a high-quality investment that will last their child through many years of school.
(Easiest to clean – $)
Why it’s great: Toddlers love the vibrant firetruck design and the secret pictures that are hiding under the flaps of the truck. Parents like this lunch bag’s easy-to-clean materials and its excellent durability for the price. The Thermos brand has been trusted for generations to keep food and drink items cold until lunchtime. In addition, the size of this lunch box is perfect to fit both a matching Thermos and a hearty lunch.
Keep in mind: As with some other lunch bags, the zipper can get stuck over time, so you’ll want to be sure to teach your toddlers how to open them carefully.
Good for: Toddlers who love firetrucks and parents looking for a simple but fun lunch box option!
(Best for keeping lunches cold – $$)
Why it’s great: Parents love that this freezable lunch box can be folded down at night and placed in the freezer for an even colder lunch the next day! This eliminates the need for bulky and expensive ice packs that commonly get lost. The size of this lunch bag is perfect for fitting the Bentgo box featured in #3 and the interior easily wipes clean at the end of the day.
Keep in mind: The walls of the lunch box will eventually start to “sweat” throughout the day, so you may not want to pack any items that could be effected by condensation. Some parents also found the PackIt to be a bit too heavy compared to other toddler lunch box options.
Good for: Families who want a convenient option for cold lunches on the go!
(Best for family outings – $$)
Why it’s great: While still being just the right size for preschool, the open design of this GOPRENE lunch bag is perfect for fitting those larger or bulkier items you might use on a day out. There is plenty of room for both a Bento box and a water bottle or thermos. When empty, this lunch bag folds flat for easy and convenient storage. Parents love the ease of use, durability, and ease of cleanliness. (This bag can even be thrown in the washing machine!) The double-stitched seams, metal zippers and thick material make this bag the perfect candidate to stand up to the wear and tear of even the most rambunctious toddler.
Keep in mind: While this bag doesn’t garner very many negative reviews, one parent did complain of a neoprene smell.
Good for: Families who want a great all-around option for school and family outings alike.
FAQ’s about Toddler Lunch Boxes
1. What type of lunch box should I buy for my toddler?
While some parents and kids love the fun and creativity of a Bento-style lunch kit, others prefer a simple lunch bag they can just throw their own containers and packaging in. One downside to most Bento lunch boxes is the restrictions of the compartments, so if you’re looking for something that will accommodate larger or odd-shaped items – a Bento-style lunch box may not be the best option for you.
2. What material is best for a lunch box?
When it comes to selecting the best products for your family, it is always best to look for products that are free of BPA, PVC, lead and phthalates whenever possible. Second to searching for non-toxic materials, you will also want to select a lunch box that is easy to clean. Typically this will be a lunch box with materials such as polyester, canvas or neoprene.
3. How should I care for my toddler’s lunch box?
While every lunch box has different care instructions, ranging from hand-wash only to being able to just throw it in the washing machine – you’re probably going to want to clean your toddler’s lunch box every day. For a Bento box, that will likely consist of hand-washing each part and setting them out to dry each night. For a lunch bag, you can just wipe down the interior daily with a baby wipe or a combination of vinegar & water spray. If you’re strapped for time in the evenings, you’ll definitely want to consider ease of sanitation in your lunch box selection process.
4. What should I pack in my toddler’s lunch?
Every family is going to be different, but in general you’ll want to include a healthy entrée, a fruit or applesauce, some sort of vegetable side, and maybe a small healthy dessert. Remember that portion sizes for toddlers are much smaller than you’re used to, and toddlers are most likely distracted at their preschool’s short lunchtime – so pack light for the first few days until you can get a good idea of what they are actually eating at school.
Picking out your toddler’s first lunch box can be an exciting and fun time as they take some of their first steps to venturing out on their own! With so many choices out there on the market for lunchtime, it can be a bit overwhelming knowing where to start. We hope the list above will help you make the decision as you browse to select just the right one for your family.