A lunch box is one of the most important purchases you’ll make for your kids’ school year, unless they prefer to buy their lunch in the cafeteria every day. It’s also ideal for summer camp season when kids often tote their own snacks and lunches. The best lunch boxes for kids are durable, simple to wipe clean or wash, well insulated and easy to pack, including with additional lunchtime accessories.
Once it’s time for your children to shift from days enjoying outdoor toys and kiddie pools to days spent in school, they’ll be using a lunch box possibly every weekday—so it’s important to find the features that work best for you. Our editors love the built-in cooling layer in our top lunch box pick, the versatile PackIt.
These lunch boxes put the classic brown paper bag to shame, boasting insulating layers to keep things cold (they typically do this better than maintaining heat), convenient pockets, handles or straps, fun designs and bento-style organization.
After looking at various lunch boxes and considering size, durability, features, customer reviews and more, we’ve compiled the best lunch boxes for kids to take to school. (We even have a recommendation for a baby bottle bag for daycare.)
Best For: Those who need a classic lunch box with kiddie designs. (It’s also great for parents who always forget the ice pack!)
This lunch box has one feature you’ll notice immediately on its product page: It has a ton of designs available, from geometric patterns to unicorns to sharks, so your kid can easily find something they like. Another notable aspect is its built-in cooling that uses a freezable, non-toxic gel, which means no more worrying about packing that leaky ice pack. To get this bag ready for school mornings, simply toss it in the freezer overnight.
This is the only lunch box our parenting editor, Rose Gordon Sala, purchases for her school-age children. “It’s super functional, lasts several years each time and my kids love the designs,” she says. “Plus, it eliminates the need for an ice pack, allowing more room for their lunch items.”
The handle of the PackIt Freezable Classic Lunch Box has a plastic clasp so that your kid can attach it to their backpack (or elsewhere) for hands-free carrying, as well as an exterior zip pocket for napkins or lunch notes. If it gets messy, you can spot clean the outside and wipe off the inside. The bag is PVC-, BPA-, phthalate- and lead-free.
Best Insulated Lunch Box
A Longtime Favorite That Keeps Lunches Cool
Best For: Kids who need an insulated lunch box that’ll last for years
L.L.Bean is always a reliable source of well-made, long-lasting bags of all types, and this insulated lunch box is no exception. It’s made from the same material as the company’s popular backpacks, so you know it’ll last a long time. The lunch box is well-insulated to keep food cold, and the inner mesh pocket holds an ice pack to keep it out of the way. (If you use L.L.Bean’s flat ice pack, which keeps food cool for 4–6 hours, you’ll save even more room.)
The lunch bag comes in many patterns, from flowers to camo to crocodiles, and some of them are also available in the brand’s backpacks. In fact, these are made from the same durable material. Monogramming is $8. The L.L. Bean lunch box tests safe for lead, phthalates, PVC and BPA. As with all of the company’s products, if you’re not 100% satisfied with it, you can return it up to a year after purchase for a refund.
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Best Cute Lunch Box
A Fun Lunch Box With A Kid-Favorite Character
Best For: Little Hello Kitty fans in search of an insulated lunch box.
This lunch box isn’t just cute, with its rainbow, happy sun and of course, Hello Kitty character—it’s from Thermos, so it’s well-made, too. Plus, an unusually high percentage of its customer ratings at Amazon are 5-star—almost 90%. (If you think this would be a good lunch box for your kid but they’d prefer another design, the brand’s other fun options for kids include Baby Yoda, JoJo Siwa and Minecraft.) The box has a padded handle and a full-zip lid; it’s insulated and PVC-free.
This option may not last as long as some of the others on our list, but if your child’s top priority is how their lunch box looks, this could be a great choice.
Best Bento Box
A Super Organized Option That’s Dishwasher-Safe
Best For: Kids who prefer small bites (and those who don’t like their foods to touch).
Bento boxes have become popular among kids and adults for good reason: they keep meals well-organized without requiring several small containers or snack and sandwich bags (making them eco-friendly, too). Bentgo specializes in this sort of lunch box, and this one is designed for kids aged 3 to 7. This bento box has two easy-to-open latches (important for little kids) and is leakproof, “drop-proof” and free of BPA, vinyl, lead and PVC.
The tray of the Bentgo Kids Brights Lunch Box has five compartments that range in capacity from 2 tbsp. for the dipping sauce container to 1/2 cup for the largest section. The tray can be frozen, microwaved and washed in the dishwasher on the top rack.
Best Lunch Bag
A More “Mature” Looking Style For Teens
Best For: Kids who want a nondescript, more grown-up lunch bag.
When your kid eventually reaches the age when they may not be eager to advertise their special interests on a lunch box, this lunch bag from Adidas offers a more “adult” alternative than their old Disney or dinosaur selections. Some of the color options here are more subdued, like the gray one pictured, while others are brighter, such as the yellow/gray and black/mint green color combos.
The Adidas Excel Insulated Lunch Bag has one larger main compartment, a small bottom one, a divided front pocket for an ice pack and a mesh pocket on the back. It also has a clip for attaching to a backpack. The bag can be gently washed by hand and the lining wiped clean with soap and water. It may not be large enough for those packing a substantial lunch.
Best Neoprene Lunch Bag
An Insulated Lunch Bag With Lots Of Cool Designs
Best For: Kids who want a lunch bag rather than a lunch box and like colorful, eye-catching designs.
Neoprene is a good fabric for lunch bags, as it’s insulating, durable and washable. This neoprene option is part of KicksBySammy’s back-to-school collection of lunch totes—and it’s a large one, with tons of unique, kid-friendly designs. Many soft-sided lunch boxes are made from materials that aren’t machine washable, but this one is, which is definitely a handy feature for stains and spills.
This lunch tote has a soft handle and zips closed. Because of the bag’s upright design and height of 12.5 inches, the company also recommends it for carrying baby bottles. Personalization is included in the price—and note that because each item is made to order and not mass produced, the brand’s products are final sale.
Best Lunch Bag For Babies
A Daycare Bag To Hold Everything Your Little One Needs
Best For: Parents who need a roomy, organized bag to carry bottles and baby food to daycare.
The Momcozy Insulated Baby Bottle Bag makes it less stressful to pack your baby’s daycare essentials every morning, as it’s larger than many baby bottle bags and provides more than one compartment, which isn’t always the case. (The two main sections can be changed to a single main compartment by removing the middle layer, which allows for bottles over 6 inches.)
Thanks to its thick insulation, this Momcozy bag can maintain temperatures (warm or cold) for up to five hours, and you can double the insulating feature by adding a hot or cold pack. It fits up to six bottles and has side pockets plus a small zipper pocket in the front. It also has a detachable shoulder strap with a plastic clasp.
How We Chose The Best Lunch Boxes
We reviewed many products when searching for the best lunch boxes, and we took note of parents’ customer reviews, especially those that referred to durability and ease of cleaning. We also looked for kid-friendly design, both in appearance and practicality. Most of our picks are in the range of about $15–$25.
What To Consider When Buying A Lunch Box For Kids
If you’re shopping for kids’ lunch boxes and lunch bags online, the number of options can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve put together the buying guide below to help you sort through the selections and choose the right lunch box for your child (and the right one for you, if your kid isn’t old enough to pack and clean their own lunch box).
Ease of Cleaning
Many kids’ lunch boxes and lunch bags aren’t machine washable, so make sure the lining is at least described as “wipe clean”—either with water or soap and water. Sometimes a lunch box’s outer material will be indicated as “spot clean” only, and in that case, darker colors might be more practical.
If your kid likes to bring a new lunch box to school every fall, you can get away with buying a product that isn’t meant to last for years. If that’s not your plan, classic brands like L.L.Bean are good bets. In general, check customer reviews for parents’ comments on how particular lunch boxes hold up.
Pay close attention to the measurements of the lunch boxes you’re considering, especially if you plan to pack particular food containers, a large ice pack and/or a water bottle. Some lunch boxes have outer pockets for extra room.
Most lunch boxes close with a zipper. If you buy a bento-style lunch box and plan to pack sauces or similar items, make sure it’s leakproof. You still might need to purchase an additional insulated lunch box to hold a bento box, especially if you’re trying to keep things cold vs. warm.
Everything your kid could possibly want on a lunch box or lunch bag is out there somewhere, whether that’s solid colors, geometric prints or their favorite animals, characters and video games.
Lunch box features may include one or more pockets, a handle or strap, and clips that attach to backpacks. Bento-box trays may be freezable, microwaveable and dishwasher-safe, while some lunch bags are machine washable.