Best Lunch Boxes for Kids in 2022: Keeping Lunch Hot or Cool

Family eating lunch with a lunch boxes


Preschool and Kindergarten Lunch | Best Lunchbox for Kids | Healthy Snacks for Kids | Best Water Bottle for Kids | Best Vitamins for Kids | Best Probiotics for Kids | Best Melatonin for Kids | Best Thermometer for Kids | Best Deodorant for Kids | Best Sunscreen for Kids

It's back-to-school time, which probably means it’s time for a new lunch box. If last year's lunch box is beat-up, lost, or woefully out of fashion, this is a great opportunity to check out the latest lunch boxes. In this article, you'll find the best kids’ lunch boxes of 2022. Some keep food hot, some keep it cold, and all are a joy to open.

If you're searching for a lunch box, you probably also have some questions about what to pack. There’s a lot to consider, from main dishes to snacks to nutrient content. And what about a water bottle? Worry not, the ACTIVE Reviews Team has you covered. Check out Best High-Protein Snacks and Best Water Bottle for Kids.

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The Best Lunch Boxes for Kids - Our Top Picks

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Best Overall - YETI Daytrip Lunch Box

YETI Daytrip Lunch Box

SPECS

  • Size: 11" x 9.25" x 5"
  • Weight: 1 lb.
  • Materials: N/A
  • Closure type: Zipper

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The YETI Daytrip Lunch Box might be the sturdiest lunch box we’ve ever seen, and the steep price reflects that. The outside repels water while the inside contains a leak-proof liner, so it should stay in stellar condition for quite a while. That is, unless you've got messy boys. Then all bets are off.

For the most part, reviewers rave about how well it keeps food cool, though some wish it could keep food cool a little longer. But as one reviewer put it, “This is not a cooler, it is a lunch box.” A shoulder strap would have been a nice addition, but all things considered, this is a dependable choice for kids of all ages.

What We Like

  • Sturdy, durable, and cleans easily
  • It can hold a full 6-pack of soda
  • It keeps food cold effectively

What We Don't Like

  • No shoulder strap
  • The large size can be bulky

BUY: Yeti Daytrip Lunch Box

Best Toddler Lunch Box - LunchBots Toddler Bento Lunch Box

LunchBots Toddler Bento Lunch Box

SPECS

  • Size: 4" x 5.5"
  • Weight: N/A
  • Materials: Stainless steel
  • Closure type: Push-down

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This stainless-steel food container earns its name, the “Toddler Bento Box,” from its extra-small divided containers. It's dishwasher-safe and easy to clean. The press-down lid ensures a leak-proof lunch experience, but liquids may seep between compartments inside of the box.

While the size is perfect for a toddler lunch, the product itself isn't designed for toddler hands. This container will require a teacher’s help to open, so this option might be best for older kids taking snacks to after-school activities.

What We Like

  • Stainless steel is a safe metal for food
  • Dishwasher-safe, easy to clean
  • Small size

What We Don't Like

  • Compartments are not isolated from one another, so you can only pack dry foods
  • Press-down closure is difficult for little hands

BUY: LunchBots Toddler Bento Lunch Box

Best Insulated Kids Lunch Box - Hydro Flask Insulated Lunch Box

Hydro Flask Insulated Lunch Box

SPECS

  • Size: 10.6" x 4.4" x 9.6" (modern size)
  • Weight: 1 lb. 8 oz.
  • Materials: Nylon, polyurethane
  • Closure type: Zipper

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Hydro Flask has built a brand around top-tier products that keep food fresh and appetizing. This insulated lunch box lives up to that reputation. It can take a beating while keeping food at the intended temperature. Although the fabric might get a bit scuffed over time, it will remain functional long after purchase. One reviewer even said that this lunch box is better than the Yeti mentioned above.

The Hydro Flask is available in three different sizes: small, large, and modern. Those sizes have caused some confusion among commenters, with one review explaining that the large size was practically a suitcase. Others criticized the small size for being too small. The bottom line: make sure to pay attention while ordering!

What We Like

  • 2 layers of insulation
  • It can take a beating
  • Well-made, comes in beautiful colors
  • Available in different sizes

What We Don't Like

  • Shallow design might not accommodate standard inserts
  • Sizes can be somewhat confusing

BUY: Hydro Flask Insulated Lunch Box

Best Older Kids Lunch Box - DAKINE 5L Lunch Box

DAKINE 5L Lunch Box

SPECS

  • Size: 10" x 7" x 4"
  • Weight: N/A
  • Materials: Recycled polyester
  • Closure type: Zipper

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DAKINE initially made a name for itself with well-constructed gloves, backpacks, and fanny packs. Now, the company is expanding into lunch boxes. In the name of sustainability, DAKINE turns old Coke bottles into tough lunch boxes. One mother reports loving these so much that she’s gone through three of them. Not because they’re flimsy, but because they’ve managed to end up in unretrievable places, like the roof of the school.

Reviewers appreciate the depth of the lunch box. All of the lunch and snacks a child might need throughout the day will fit inside, and it can likely accommodate the containers you currently own. Some reviewers complained about the zipper getting caught, which could upset a sensitive child.

What We Like

  • Made from 100% recycled materials
  • Tough construction
  • Depth makes it more versatile

What We Don't Like

  • Limited exciting patterns
  • The zipper gets caught, which can be frustrating for a young child

BUY: DAKINE 5L Lunch Box

Best Kids Stainless Steel Lunch Box - Bentgo Stainless Steel Lunch Box

Bentgo Stainless Steel Lunch Box

SPECS

  • Size: 9.8" x 7.6" x 1.4"
  • Weight: 1.5 lbs.
  • Materials: Stainless steel and silicone
  • Closure type: Snaps

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Bentgo is all about simplicity and functionality. With built-in portion sizes, leak-proof features, and sturdy construction, Bentgo’s stainless-steel lunch box is a top choice among busy parents. It comes with three compartments, is dishwasher-safe, and includes a ⅔ cup silicone insert for hummus or pudding. It even has five color options. If you’re looking for a way to streamline mornings, Bentgo might just be the answer.

While there is a lot to love about this lunch box, there are some concerns about its hinge and latch quality. Some may come broken or break quickly, while others may be so tight you can't open the container at all. You don’t want your child to experience the dreaded exploded-lunchbox-in-the-backpack nightmare, so we strongly suggest a practice run or two before sending your child off to school with this one. Luckily, Bentgo products come with a long warranty, which some reviewers have needed to use multiple times for this lunch box.

What We Like

  • 5-year warranty
  • Beautiful design
  • Sturdy and easy to clean

What We Don't Like

  • It's a heavy lunch box for a little kid
  • Many reviews of broken latches

BUY: Bentgo Stainless Steel Lunch Box

Best Kids Freezable Lunch Box - PackIt Freezable Lunch Box

PackIt Freezable Lunch Box

SPECS

  • Size 9.75" x 8.5" x 5.25"
  • Weight: 1.28lbs
  • Materials: Polyester with an insulated gel lining
  • Closure type: Velcro flap top

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Never heard of a freezable lunch box? Allow us to introduce you to PackIt. This lunch box contains freezable gel in the walls of the fabric to keep food cool without decreasing sandwich space. The gel is effective enough to handle a long school bus ride on a hot summer day.

While reviewers raved about the ample space inside, one person noted that there may be variability in the dimensions across different designs. Some complain that the Velcro closure wears out quickly or that it makes cooling less effective. Still, with 12.5K reviews on Amazon, only 7% were below 4 stars. Ratings like that suggest this is a worthwhile lunch box.

What We Like

  • Many bold and beautiful designs available
  • This bag folds up for easy storage
  • The freezable gel keeps food cold on hot summer days

What We Don't Like

  • You'll need an additional container to keep food from being smushed (PackIt sells one of those, too)
  • No shoulder strap
  • Velcro closure can wear out

BUY: PackIt Freezable Lunch Box

Best Kids Lunch Box Set - Bentgo Bento Plastic Lunch Box

Bentgo Bento Plastic Lunch Box

SPECS

  • Size: 9.2” x 7” x 2.4”
  • Weight: N/A
  • Materials: Food-grade safe plastics: PP, ABS, and TPE
  • Closure type: Snaps

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Bentgo’s second entry on this list, this colorful, plastic, four-compartment, snap-shut lunch box is best for younger kids. It holds less food than the stainless-steel version above, but it’s great for a main dish and two sides. A word of caution: The inserts cannot be replaced, so if you take them out to wash them, you may want to slap an Air Tag on to prevent you from losing them.

The main concern with a lunch box for smaller kids is ease of use. This container may need to be reassembled after eating, and some kids are going to have trouble lining up the pieces. We recommend practicing at home to ensure your little one has a smooth cafeteria experience.

What We Like

  • Variety of bright, fun colors
  • Leak-proof compartments
  • Purchases support Feed the Children, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization
  • 2-year warranty

What We Don't Like

  • Smaller kids may have trouble reassembling and closing this lunch box
  • Dividers may get lost and are difficult to replace

BUY: Bentgo Bento Plastic Lunch Box

What to Look for in a Kids' Lunch Box

The number one cafeteria complaint from kids and teachers is the inability to access the food parents have packed.

Imagine this not-so-fantastical scenario: The preschooler gazes longingly through the clear plastic of the zip-top bag. They’ve tried everything to get to the first bite of that cucumber and cream cheese sandwich, but that zip is just not unzipping. Before they know it, the bell rings and it's time for recess. 95 percent of that sandwich returns home to a confused parent who thought cream cheese and cucumber was their child's favorite.

It is their favorite! The packaging was the obstacle. So let's chat about what to look for in the ideal lunch box.

Dimensions

There are no specific guidelines when it comes to dimensions, but the lunch box has to be big enough to fit all the food your child plans to eat and comfortable enough for them to hold. It doesn’t hurt if it fits nicely into their backpack, either.

Weight

Generally, we recommend looking for lunch boxes on the lighter side. Food is heavy and kids don’t have well-developed muscles yet. They want to save their energy for playing, not hauling around lunch. Lunch boxes with more features tend to have some added weight, so take a look at your child’s needs before deciding.

Materials

Plastic, natural fabric, and synthetic fabrics like polyester are all common in lunch boxes. If you love a Bento style, you might choose plastic because it's versatile and easy to clean. If you prioritize sustainability, you might choose a lunch box made from natural fabric or recycled material. If you value cleanliness but you're raising kids while working full time and dealing with a million disasters per day, a wipe-clean option made from the best science has to offer may suit you. All are safe and reasonable choices.

Closure Type

For younger kids, zippers are best. They close securely and open easily with minimal motor skill requirements. Snaps work well too, but they are more likely to accidentally flip open and feed the floor rather than the child. As kids get older, they can handle a more complex closure.

Carrying Strap

Many parents prefer a carrying strap, but they aren’t for every child. There are several key questions you should ask when determining whether you need a strap. Does the lunch box fit in your child’s backpack or will it be carried independently? Will your child carry the lunch box around during the day or will it live in a cubby?

Often, lunch boxes are used for non-school reasons as well, so take that into account. If it’s destined for multipurpose use, a carrying strap will make it easy to carry at school and on a family trip to the zoo, for example.

FAQs About Lunch Boxes For Kids


Are silicone lunch boxes safe?

Yes! Silicone is non-reactive, meaning it won’t leach out chemicals when exposed to heat or food items. It is safe to put in the dishwasher, microwave, and freezer.

How often should you get a new lunch box?

It's best to replace your lunch box yearly. Bacteria and mold can grow in the cracks and crevices that you can't clean very well, so a good rule of thumb is to buy a new one at the beginning of each school year. Children also love to express themselves through their lunch boxes, so updating their style can help them start school on a positive note.

Are bento boxes worth it for kids?

Bento boxes are a wonderful way to present food to your child. The bento layout is straightforward and attractive, which may make healthy eating more appealing to young ones. Kids who are on the more selective side will appreciate the built-in separation between food items.

How many lunch boxes do kids need?

Theoretically you'll need only one. But it might be a good idea to grab a backup in case your child frequently misplaces their belongings. If you’re tight on time and can’t clean your child’s lunch box each night, keeping additional lunch boxes at home might make sense, as well.

What material is best for lunch boxes?

This depends entirely on the needs of your family. The best lunch box is one that the child likes, can open and close, and can fit enough food to sustain them through the day. That could be plastic, steel, or fabric.

Preschool and Kindergarten Lunch | Best Lunchbox for Kids | Healthy Snacks for Kids | Best Water Bottle for Kids | Best Vitamins for Kids | Best Probiotics for Kids | Best Melatonin for Kids | Best Thermometer for Kids | Best Deodorant for Kids | Best Sunscreen for Kids

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