The Best Lunch Boxes for Kids at Any Age

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: The Kitchn)

I’ll admit: As a kid, I used to get way too excited to go back to school. Some of that may have had to do with the promise of all-new gear — some new clothes, a cool backpack, bright new folders, and a new lunch bag — to really make a style statement on that first day. And while my memories of it are all about how fun it was to get new stuff, now that I’m a mom I know the truth: Last year’s stuff was always totally trashed.

My daughter’s backpack literally has holes in it from being dragged across the playground, and her lunch bag is permanently filthy. Plus, my kids grow out of stuff. Quickly. Yes, even lunch boxes. Their appetites change, their backpack loads change, and so do their tastes. With that (and them!) in mind, here are some of the best lunch boxes for your kid this year — broken out by school level.

The Best Lunch Boxes for Preschool Kids

  1. Skip Hop Zoo Lunchie Insulated Kids Lunch Bag, $15: With a bunch of different animals to choose from, this soft insulated lunch bag has plenty of space for a lunch and water bottle, and opens flat for dining on the playground. My kids and I are partial to this fox.
  2. Wildkin Lunch Totes, $18: Available in cute, friendly designs — including trucks, wild animals, and mermaids — there’s soft-sided box that’s sure to appeal to any youngster.
  3. Built NY Big Apple Buddies Lunch Backpack, $19: This insulated lunch bag — we vote for the alligator but also love the cat — has backpack-style straps to make it easy for a little one to tote, or snaps to clip it onto a stroller frame.
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Nalgene Lunch Box Buddy, $25 (Image credit: Amazon)

The Best Lunch Boxes for Kids in Elementary School

  1. Nalgene Lunch Box Buddy, $25: Made of plastic with a neoprene sleeve, these hard-sided boxes are good for kids who have a tendency to toss their lunch boxes into a locker or squeeze them inside a backpack. This way, lunches won’t get squished!
  2. Bentology Insulated Lunch Totes, $13: On the outside this roomy, insulated bag has a big exterior pocket and pop-out mesh holster for a water bottle; on the inside it has another pocket for a cool pack or a note from dad.
  3. State Rodgers Lunch Box, $38: In cool gold or silver, this soft-sided insulated box has interior pockets for notes or napkins and a reposition-able divider. And actually, who am I kidding? Older kids and adults would love this box, too.
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The Best Lunch Boxes for Kids in Middle School

  1. PackIt Freezable Classic Lunch Box, $20: This soft-sided lunch box has freezable gel built into the walls — stick it in the freezer the night before, and it will keep your kid’s food cool for hours the next day.
  2. Eco Lunch Pack, $20 at Garnet Hill: With designs that are whimsical and also a little on the sophisticated side, these insulated bags are roomy and easy to carry.
  3. Dual Compartment Lunch Bag, $30 at PB Teen: Separate hot and cold foods — or lunch and the pre-soccer practice snack — using the two compartments in this tote. The removable shoulder strap gives your kids options to carry it solo or clip it onto a backpack.
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Waxed Canvas Lunch Bags, $24 at WAAMIndustries (Image credit: WAAMIndustries)

The Best Lunch Boxes for High Schoolers

  1. Waxed Canvas Lunch Bags, $24 at WAAMIndustries: A big step up from a brown bag, these foldover bags are made from cotton canvas rubbed with beeswax for durability, in brilliant hues and neutrals too.
  2. Kate Spade New York Lunch Tote, $30: Is it a purse or lunch tote? It could probably pass as both!
  3. PackIt Freezable Hampton Lunch Bag, $20: Another option from PackIt, this bag also goes in the freezer and holds way more food, which comes in handy for older kids with big appetites and after-school activities.
(Image credit: The Kitchn)