Updated on November 9, 2020 by Lyric Fergusson
Is it time to buy your toddler’s first lunch box? We’ve got your covered. 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 for versatility — $$$)
Why it’s great: This Bento box is a great option for those looking to save money and time on repacking snacks in Ziploc bags or Tupperware containers, but still want the versatility of a non-Bento lunch box. The OmieBox comes with 3 compartments of varying sizes that can be arranged in many different ways. The OmieBox is easy to clean AND easy for kids to open and use. The special leak-proof Thermos food jar is also a hit, since it allows for packing hot or cold food items.
Keep in mind: This product is not dishwasher safe, so you need to wash it by hand.
Good for: Families that want to pack a hot meal for their toddlers, and parents looking for a high-quality investment that will last their child through many years of school.
(Best for family outings — $$)
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. 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. It’s easy to use, durable, and easy to clean. (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: It might have a slight neoprene smell. Airing it out or washing it before your first use will solve the problem.
Good for: Families who want a great all-around option for school and family outings alike.
(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! Your child will love the colorful animal designs. It’s also very durable, easy to use, and a great price. The Skip Hop Zoo lunch bags are compatible with both the Bentgo box and the OmieBox for parents looking to add a compartmentalized lunch box to their child’s school gear. Skip Hop bags are also very easy to clean.
Keep in mind: The size of this popular bag is designed to fit and be worn by a toddler.
Good for: Families looking for a cute “starter” lunch bag that can hold many common Bento boxes and containers.
(Best eco-friendly — $$$)
Why it’s great: This lunch box is made of food grade quality stainless steel and is a great eco-friendly alternative to plastic boxes. It’s completely safe for both your child and the environment. It also has a silicone seal that makes it completely leak proof. With this set, you get two rectangles boxes and a smaller oval shaped insert that’s great for keeping yogurt or runnier food out of your solids. There’s plenty of space for a big, hearty lunch, with room for 7 to 8 cups of food. It is also machine washable, making it more convenient to clean.
Keep in mind: Only the top compartment is leakproof, not the bottom. Also, the lid can’t go in the dishwasher because it could damage the silicone seal.
Good for: Families looking for a larger, eco-friendly, bento style container.
(Best for freezing — $)
Why it’s great: Unlike most lunch boxes, this one is safe to go in the freezer. Non-toxic gel is built into the walls that basically serves as the ice pack for your child’s lunch. This means you’ll be able to keep your child’s lunch cold without having to buy a separate ice pack or find room in the box to keep one. When empty, this one collapses down flat, so it won’t take up much room in the freezer or when it’s not in use. This one has a cute astronaut and space theme, but there are a bunch of other prints available, making it easy to find one that you love. It’s a great size and will fit most bento containers with some room to spare.
Keep in mind: This one is only for cold food. It isn’t insulated to keep things warm.
Good for: Families that want their food cold, but don’t want to worry about separate ice packs.
(Best for allocating small portion sizes — $$)
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 #3. 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: While you can put the removable tray in the dishwasher, the outer shell needs to be washed by hand. Fortunately, it usually only needs a quick wipe down since the tray holds all the food.
Good for: Parents who want to experiment with the creative fun of a Bento box!
(Best for big eaters — $$)
Why it’s great: This one has so many great features. It comes with 3 separate containers that can be hooked together to form a tower. What’s great about that is you can portion control however you need. For light eaters, one tier may be enough. My son eats so much that most normal lunch boxes don’t do the trick. There’s plenty of room here if you use all 3 tiers. It’s also completely leak proof and each individual layer is sealed. This means you can put liquids in any compartment, like hot soup during the winter, and it’ll stay warm and won’t leak out. It also comes with a fork, spoon, chopsticks, and a lunch bag with a shoulder strap for easy carrying. The inside of each of the boxes have a removable stainless steel container for easy washing.
Keep in mind: This one is not microwave safe, but if you need to heat your food you can take out the steel liner and put your food in the regular container to heat it.
Good for: Families with big eaters that need more space. Also, those that need a lunch box that will keep their food cold or warm, depending on what it is.
(Best for carrying both hot and cold food — $$)
Why it’s great: This one has two separate compartments, so you can carry both hot and cold food without messing up the temperature of either. It comes with a container that fits in the bottom compartment and is both dishwasher and microwave safe. The top portion is taller and is a great place for snacks and drinks. It also has enough room to add an ice pack to keep it cold. The whole bag is insulated to keep your food at the right temperature. It’s available in multiple fun patterns, so you’re sure to find one your child will love. It also has a handle and a shoulder strap, which makes it easier to carry around.
Keep in mind: This one is a wipe clean only, except for the inside container that can be put in the dishwasher. Also, you’ll need to buy an ice pack separately to lengthen the amount of time your food will stay cold.
Good for: Families that want a lunch box that works for hot and cold food at the same time.
(Most adorable eco option — $)
Why it’s great: Most eco-friendly lunch boxes are plain with very little design, but this bag is completely adorable with bright colors and a cute hedgehog. Beyond its looks, this lunch box is durable and has extra padding and liner to keep it sturdy and prevent it from collapsing and crushing the food inside. It has two separate compartments, so it’s easy to organize and keep lunch and snacks separate. The top section is tall enough for a thermos or small water bottle. You can even purchase a matching water bottle or backpack to complete the set.
Keep in mind: You’ll need to wash this one by hand and preferably just wipe down as needed. If you get it too wet washing it, you’ll have to leave it out to dry overnight.
Good for: Younger toddlers who love hedgehogs and parents that want an eco-friendly lunch box.
(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.
(Most unique — $)
Why it’s great: This one doubles as a lunch box and a stuffed animal! Your child will love playing with their new friend and will never complain about having to carry their lunch. The arms of the animal hook together to create a handle, making it easy for your child to carry it around. The inside pouch is completely insulated to keep your food hot or cold, depending on what you need. It has a velcro closure that’s easy for your child to open and if they can’t open the hand clip, they can just push the arms out of the way to get to their lunch. Plus, it’s completely safe for the washing machine! This lunch box has 4 different animals that your child can choose from, so they’re sure to find one that they love.
Keep in mind: The food pouch is smaller than some lunch boxes, but will definitely fit enough food for a younger child.
Good for: Children that want a lunch box they can play with.
(Most entertaining — $)
Why it’s great: This lunch box has an LED light system that lights up the front picture. Your child can choose their favorite color or set it to change colors. The bright light display will mesmerize your child and the lights should last close to 40 hours, depending on the type of batteries you use. The lights shut can be turned on and off with the push of a button and they’ll automatically turn off after 10 minutes, to save on power. The LED display can also be removed from the lunch box, so your child could use it as a nightlight when they go to bed. The lunch box itself is insulated to keep your child’s food the right temperature and is easy to wipe clean.
Keep in mind: This one is leak resistant, not leak proof, so you’ll need to make sure your child’s food and drinks are sealed tight.
Good for: Children that are tired of regular, boring lunch boxes.
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.
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