When it comes to lunch boxes for kids, the options can be overwhelming. Since they’ll be away from you when they use their lunch box, you want to make sure your child has the best lunch box for their needs and that it works seamlessly.
But where do you start? Should it be insulated? Leak-proof? Good for cold food? Bento style?
It’s a lot to think about, and with all the things moms have to do to get ready for back to school season, we’ve decided to take this one off of your plate.
We’ve searched high and low for the best lunch boxes for kids and we have narrowed it down to our five top-rated options. We’ve chosen them to fit a variety of needs so you’re sure to find something that works well for your kiddo.
OUR TOP PICKS
Younger elementary ages
Older elementary ages
Stackable and customizable
How to choose the best school lunch box
When choosing the best lunch box for school, remember to think about a few key parameters to make sure you’re getting the right lunch bag for your child’s needs. Think about:
- Leak proof design
- Food safety
- checkEase of use
Insulation is one of the main factors you should consider when buying a lunch box. Do you have a child that prefers a nice warm cup of soup for lunch or do they prefer a cold lunch most of the time?
Decide ahead of time which your child would prefer and then make sure that the lunch box you are considering has the ability to accommodate their preferences. Choose something with good ratings for thermal control for hot foods and look for lunch boxes for kids that include ice packs for lunches that need to stay cold.
Kids are rough with their belongings. Remember, they won’t be thinking about walking in a straight line or holding their lunch bag in the perfect position to prevent leaks when they’re on their way to school. With younger kids especially, there’s likely to be a lot of running, jumping and playing going on.
Choose a lunch box that will be able to handle the tips and turns and won’t leak out all over their lunch bag or backpack. Older kids will probably be more conscious of how they carry their lunch boxes but it doesn’t hurt to be extra vigilant and get one with a leak-proof design for them, too. After all, no one wants soggy books!
No matter what kind of insulation or leak-proof design you need, the most important feature is safety. Be sure any lunch box meets current food safety standards. This means they should be free from harmful material like BPA and lead.
All kids’ lunch boxes are not created for every age. Some are tailored toward older kids because they may be harder to open. Before buying, check for age specifications so you can be sure your little one will find her cool new lunch box easy to use at school without frustration.
Choose a high quality lunch box that won’t need to be replaced every year. Read reviews, recommendations, and specifications to determine if the lunch box you’re considering will stand the test of time. If you’re buying a lunch box that is specifically made for younger kids, it should still be durable enough that you’ll be able to get a few years of use out of it before upgrading to a big kid lunch box.
Upkeep is one quality that is often overlooked when parents are considering the best lunch boxes for their kids. Even though kids are the ones that will be using them during school, remember that you will be the one cleaning, prepping and taking care of them at home.
To save your sanity, try to choose a lunch box that is easy to clean (preferably dishwasher safe), easy to pack, and easy to maintain. Make it easy on yourself, mama. You deserve it.
Price is the last consideration we like to mention because although it can play a part in which lunch box you buy, it shouldn’t be the only factor. Often times, you get what you pay for and that can mean getting a cheap, poorly made lunch box because it didn’t cost very much or getting a better quality lunch box that cost a bit more but will last for years. That doesn’t mean a higher price always means better quality, though.
Be aware of the specs of the model that you like and be sure to compare them to what you can get from other brands and products to help you determine if the price is right for you.
Related: The Best Water Bottles for Kids
What are the best lunch boxes for kids?
Using the criteria above, we’ve researched and found our top five lunch boxes that covers every school age. You’ll find a summary for each lunch box, our pros and cons, and what we love most about each one.
1. OMIEBOX BENTO BOX
Best for: Ages 7 and under
The OmieBox boasts a unique setup that is designed to keep separate food both hot and cold at the same time. That means packing warm soup in one compartment and keeping yogurt cold in another compartment are now options.
For those picky eaters out there, the OmnieBox’s leak-proof design is made to keep foods separate within the container. So no more worrying about your child’s food touching and them not wanting to eat it.
With its easy to remove insulated thermos, the OmnieBox is a great option for younger school kids. Opening the thermos and lifting it out are made easy with the OmnieBox’s chunky handle and the need for a separate lunch bag is eliminated with the OmnieBox’s carrying handle.
The lunch box has three separate compartments: a smaller 10-ounce compartment, perfect for cheese cubes or small sweet treats; a 15-ounce compartment, large enough to fit a good helping of fresh fruits and veggies or even a juice box; a square 25-ounce compartment, perfect for sandwiches or wraps or to use the 7.5-ounce insulated and removable container to keep soups or pastas warm for up to four hours.
The OmieBox is made from food-safe material that is FDA approved, BPA-free, and phthalate-free.
WHAT WE LOVE
Our favorite feature is the OmnieBox’s double insulation. It’s the perfect way to send warm comfort food like soup or mac ‘n cheese while also sending fresh fruits and veggies that need to stay cool. This is a handy feature to ensure you’re able to send a well-rounded lunch to school with your kids.
WE DON’T LOVE
The size of the OmnieBox makes it a great option for younger kids, but may not be big enough to include enough food for a hungry older kid.
2. NEW TOMORROW BENTO LUNCH BOX
Best for: Ages 7 and up
The New Tomorrow bento lunch box is a highly durable option for big kids and adults. It comes with two 3-compartment lunch boxes and a coordinating spoon for each box.
New Tomorrow’s lunch boxes each have three compartments that can hold a combined 1-liter of food! Older kids should have no problem getting full from the amount of food that can be packed in this lunch box.
Its total seal technology tightly locks the lid in place and ensures there is no leaking within the container between compartments and no leaking on the outside. This means no more wet lunch bags or backpacks. Since the New Tomorrow Bento lunch box uses total seal technology, it is recommended for kids ages seven and up, so although you can be completely sure that there will be no leaking, younger kids will not be able remove the lid without a lot of struggle or assistance.
With its durable plastic material, the New Tomorrow lunch box is made to be freezer safe, the bottom food container is microwave safe (remove the lid first), and it is dishwasher safe. It is recommended that you hand-wash the lid to preserve the seal. It’s also made from food-safe material that is BPA-free.
WHAT WE LOVE
The leak-proof seal of this lunch box is, hands down, or favorite feature. While some other lunch boxes claim to be leak-proof, this one will live up to the hype. Keeping food juices from spilling into other compartments and other bags is a must when kids carry their lunch to school. We can’t be with them to tell them to hold their lunches steady so they won’t leak, so the next best thing is to have a lunch box that does the work for them and keeps everything neatly separated and leak-free.
WE DON’T LOVE
With all of the great features of this lunch box, one thing we would love to see it incorporate is insulation. So warm lunches can stay warm and cold lunches can stay cold.
3. PLANETBOX ROVER BENTO LUNCH BOX
Best for: All ages
Planet Rover has made a great alternative to the plastic lunch box. With its stainless steel design there’s no need to worry about food staining the inside or smells being absorbed on the inside of the lunch box. When the lid is removed, it stays attached to the base, which is a great feature to keep kids from misplacing the top.
This bento box comes with a variety of accessories including the 5 compartment stainless steel lunch box, a lunch bag to carry the lunch box and water bottle (water bottle not included), two small containers with lids to seal away wet foods or liquids so they won’t spill onto other food, and a set of decorative magnets that kids will enjoy decorating the top of their lunch boxes with.
The Planet Rover bento lunch box is not insulated so it is not recommended for hot foods. It’s the perfect lunch box for sandwiches, fresh fruits and veggies and other cold meals.
Free from phthalates, PVC, BPA, and lead, the Planet Rover is a food-safe lunch box. It is also dishwasher safe for easy cleaning.
We recommend using the Planet Rover for kids of any age that need to carry a lunch to school. With its easy open attached lid design, it’s great for younger kids to use and its large 5-compartment capacity will hold enough food for older kids to have a well-balanced lunch.
Bonus: Planet Rover’s website allows you to customize the design of your magnets by uploading your own pictures and having them printed and shipped to you! Customize your magnets here.
WHAT WE LOVE
All the features of this lunch box are great but we think kids will really love the decorative magnets that come with it. When you order your Planet Rover lunch box, you’ll have the option to choose a design for your magnets. There are several designs to choose from, so order more than one for fun variety each day.
WE DON’T LOVE
It’s cool to have so many magnet choices, but it would be even cooler to have the option of carrying a hot lunch that stays warm until lunch time. Since Plant Rover’s lunch box doesn’t have that capability, kids will have to carry a separate thermos for hot food.
4. NALGENE LUNCH BOX BUDDY
Best for: Young elementary age
The Nalgene Lunch Box Buddy is a classic lunch box. Unlike bento style lunch boxes, it has no separate compartments inside. Instead of predefined spaces for food, it comes with an adjustable ice pack that keeps food cold and that can be configured three different ways within the lunch box to separate food the best way you determine.
Features of the Nalgene Lunch Box Buddy include the Neoprene sleeve that acts as an insulator to help keep food cold inside, its super durable design which allows it to be tossed around and roughed up while keeping the contents safe inside, and a detachable lid that is meant to serve as a plate, essentially creating a neater eating space.
The Neoprene sleeve also includes a sewn on handle so you have the option of packing the Lunch Buddy in a lunch bag to carry or just using the handle to carry it without a separate bag.
The Lunch Box Buddy is BPA and BPS free and is safe to go in the dishwasher. The included Neoprene sleeve is safe to toss in the washer when it gets dirty.
Since Nalgene’s Lunch Box Buddy uses one large compartment, there is plenty of room for enough food to feed little ones and big kids alike. We think it will work fine for either age group, but the fun vibrant colors that it comes in may be more appealing to younger kids.
WHAT WE LOVE
Because of its design, the Lunch Box Buddy is super easy to clean. There are no seamed corners for food to get stuck in and the box can be tossed in the dishwasher with the regular dishes and the cover can be tossed in the wash. Busy moms know how much sanity this will save, and for that reason it is one of our favorite features.
WE DON’T LOVE
Unfortunately the Lunch Buddy is not leak-proof. There are no seals to keep food from leaking out of the box, so you will have to use the included small containers or purchase separate smaller containers to fit inside the box for wet foods that could leak.
5. RUBBERMAID LUNCHBLOX
Best for: Older elementary age
With RubberMaid’s LunchBlox, you can organize your kid’s lunch anyway you choose! Thanks to the separation of each container, you never have to worry about food touching or leaking on to each other. LunchBlox are designed so you can pack and stack the containers to fit almost any size lunch bag for easy, convenient carrying.
The RubberMaid LunchBlox kit comes with one large sandwich container, two containers for side dishes and an ice pack that conveniently snaps onto any container to help keep the contents inside cold. What makes the LunchBlox design so innovative is that no matter what pieces you mix and match, they all snap together to save space and keep lunches nice and organized. This also means they will fit a wide variety of lunch bag sizes because they can be taken apart and reassembled in many different ways.
RubberMaid LunchBlox can be used in the microwave, the freezer, and all pieces are dishwasher safe which means easy cleanup for mom. They are made from food-safe plastic that is BPA free and come in a variety of fun colors.
RubberMaid LunchBlox will work for any age, however, since there are so many pieces to keep up with, they may be best for older kids. Each container has its own lid that is easily removed and we think kids would even have fun packing and stacking their own lunches with these!
Note: RubberMaid also has a handy front opening bag that fits these LunchBlox perfectly and allows them to be stacked high if needed. You can choose colors and patterns of this lunch bag here.
WHAT WE LOVE
We love the stacking ability of the LunchBlox. The fact they can be placed together to fit any shape lunch bag and that you can add on more LunchBlox to customize your setup is a huge plus!
WE DON’T LOVE
Although LunchBlox comes with a convenient ice pack, they aren’t necessarily made to keep warm food warm, so when lunchtime rolls around that mac ‘n cheese that you packed may already be cold.
With a bit of forethought, you can make this your child’s best back-to-school season yet with the perfect lunch box and accessories to start the school year off right!