If you need a kids lunch box to pack for your toddler or big kid to go to daycare, preschool, school, camp, or just a day out of the house, here are the best of the best. These lunch boxes will last, are easy to clean, and have a range of price points to fit your budget.
Kids Lunch Box
I’ve been packing toddler lunches and big kid lunches for at least one of my three kids for almost 10 years, and I’ve learned a lot about what makes a great lunch box. It comes down to the material you prefer, ease of washing, durability, price, and the sorts of lunches you prefer to pack in terms of temperature.
I am determined to help you choose a lunchbox that will last so you can make the most out of your purchase—so you get a lot of use out of it and not waste your money.
The lunchboxes here have been vetted by real kids (and parents) in real life and have been tested for three years of school lunches (or more) to ensure they hold up to normal kid usage. I hope that these reviews help you decide which might be the best container to use for your baby, toddler, or elementary-aged kiddo.
(I have a whole separate post on baby lunch boxes, too.)
Sanity-Saving Kids’ Lunch Guide
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Best Toddler Lunch Box: Easy Lunchboxes Snack Boxes
Perfectly size for a toddler lunch, this affordable set of 4 is made of BPA-free plastic. They nest for easy storage, and the top and bottom are easy to wash. The bento-box-style compartments are perfectly sized for toddlers, and they are incredibly handy for packing multiple lunches at once—or for traveling.
This is also a great baby lunch box or a snack container for kids, and is dishwasher safe and easy to hand wash.
Best for: Toddler lunches that don’t need to be reheated, making multiple lunches at once (since you get a set of 4)
Price: Under $13 for a set of 4
Best Affordable School Lunch Box: Easy Lunchboxes
These heavy-duty BPA-free plastic lunch boxes are incredibly handy and gets my top pick for ease of use. We’ve been using the same set for at least 3 years now. Plus, they are easy to stack and store, and they’re super affordable. They are fairly large for just a toddler lunch—for a year I used one to pack lunch and two daily snacks all together for a 1-year-old—so I like these for age 4 and up.
They’re great for kindergarten lunches since the lid seals tightly and is leak proof as long as you don’t pack actual liquids. I like to put silicone muffin tin liners in the large compartment to hold different foods. These are also great for a full day of traveling since they hold a lot of food in a compact container.
Best for: Packing a day’s worth of food in one container, lunches for kids (and adults!) 4+
Price: Under $14 for a set of 4
TIP: There are a few copycat versions of the Easy Lunchboxes and they are NOT as good. They leak and break easily, from what I’ve heard, so go with the real brand!
Best Insulated Bento Box: OmieBox Bento Box
With an insulated 7.5-ounce center compartment to keep cold foods cold and warm foods warm, this is one of my favorite lunchboxes for packing daily lunches with a mix of temperatures. So you could pack warm pasta alongside cold fruit and sides, for example. The insulation works really well.
And on days when you don’t need the insulated part, you can simply remove it and pack a sandwich or whatever bento-box-style lunch or variety of food you’d like to put there.
The pieces of this are easy to remove and clean, so it’s very easy to wash and air dry. You can also get the insulated bag that comes with a shoulder strap to carry it in.
Best for: Packing lunches with some warm food and some cold food, all in one box.
Price: About $45
Best Leakproof Lunchbox: Bentgo
These come in the cutest designs, have handy compartments to make packing lunches easy, and are super simple to wash—the divided tray insert is removable to help. I love how tightly this latches, while still being easy for a toddler or elementary-age child to open. (I pack yogurt in this without issue, it seals so well.)
They also come with a 2-year warranty, which I love as reassurance that you’re getting your money’s worth. Everyone from my toddler to my oldest elementary-age kiddo loves this box, especially since it’s so easy to pack a variety of foods together, including fresh fruit, snacks, vegetables, puffs, apple slices, protein foods and more.
Best for: Packing a mix of foods together in one easy container.
Price: About $30
Best Insulated Kids Thermos: Lunchbots 8-Ounce Thermos
This small insulated thermos is perfect for pasta, soup, oatmeal, pizza rolls, rice and beans, and more. I know everyone always thinks thermoses are just for soup, but I’ve actually never once used it for soup! It’s a good size for toddlers (you may not need to fill it all the way for littler ones), and it’s super durable.
Best for: Packing occasional hot lunches, being able to pack a larger portion of the main hot (or cold) food.
Price: About $25
TIP: This is available in 8-, 12-, and 16-ounce sizes so you can choose the one that works for your kids.
Best Stainless-Steel Lunch Box for Baby and Toddlers: Lunchbots Quad
This is perfectly sized for a toddler appetite. It won’t hold foods like applesauce (the lid doesn’t close as securely as my other picks), but it’s otherwise a great option for little eaters. It’s easy to clean and it’s small, so it packs into a backpack, insulated lunch bag, or a diaper bag nicely.
It’s also lightweight, so it won’t weigh down a backpack or bag.
Best for: Packing little kid lunches or snacks for on the go. This is a great baby lunch box, too.
Price: About $30
Best Stainless-Steel Lunchbox for Big Kids: Planetbox Rover
I find these popular lunch boxes to be too heavy for little kids, but if you’re looking for a stainless-steel lunch box to last through elementary school, this is a great option. The different compartments make it easy to pack a few food groups all together, too.
It’s an investment as far as the cost goes, but it’s one you’ll have to make only once.
Best for: Elementary-age kids wanting a plastic-free lunch box that will last
Price: About $60
Frequently Asked Questions
Stainless steel, BPA-free plastic, and silicone are all good material options that are all easy to wash and care for. Stainless may be the most durable, but it can be heavy and more expensive. This often comes down to a personal decision.
You really only need one per child, assuming you plan to care for it well of course! I like the Easy Lunchboxes sets since I find it convenient to have a few extra in case we travel as a family and us parents need packed lunches too. Or if a kiddo looses one of that set of 4, it’s not the end of the world since they are lower cost.
Yes, though I usually hand wash them since we use them frequently.
It depends on his age but the Easy Lunchboxes Snack Box and the Lunchbots are both good options, especially for toddlers who need to be able to open their box at daycare or preschool on their own.
After that, a kindergartener should be able to open all of these (though if a lid of a thermos is secured on really tightly, they may need to ask a teacher for help.)
Best Snack Containers for Kids Lunches
If you need to send a snack or want to send lunch in individual containers, these are the ones we’ve found to be the best.
- Bumkins Reusable Snack Bags: These are wipe-clean, machine washable, and endlessly reusable. And the patterns are so darn cute!
- Replay Recycled Snack Stacker: We’ve had one set of these for years and I find them to be so great for taking snacks on the go—and for keeping said snacks from getting smushed in a bag. I regularly use these for my elementary-age kiddo’s afternoon snack.
- Lunchskins Bags: If you want a paper bag, these are awesome. They’re paper and recyclable.
- Beaba Clip Containers: This set is also really handy since the containers stack and hold together. We use them regularly, too.
TIP: You can find a full run-down of Snack Containers for kids.
Kids Lunch Box Ideas
I know the biggest challenge of packing kids lunches is the question of what to pack, so these posts will help you will with all of the ideas!
- 25 Toddler Lunch Ideas for Daycare
- 80 Healthy Lunch Ideas
- 50 Healthy Recipes for Lunch
- How to Meal Prep for Lunch
- 15 Easy Bento Box Lunches
- 10 Easy N0-Cook School Lunches
TIP: If you need a lunch bag to keep your packed lunch cool, check out this post with my picks.
Best Tips for Kids Lunchboxes
- Pack the lunchbox with an ice pack (or ice packs) in an insulated bag to keep it cold.
- Add utensils and a napkin as needed.
- Create a routine of taking lunchboxes out of bags when you get home at the end of the day and putting them into the sink—and ice packs back into the freezer.
- Use leftovers for lunches such as pasta salad.
- Let the kids help make a list of their top kids lunches so you always have a place to start.
If you have a favorite lunch box that’s on my list or not, I’d love to know about it—especially if it’s easy for your toddler to open and close all on their own!
This post was first published June 2016.