Selecting the best bento lunch box for kids in preparation for the upcoming 2020 school year may not be top of mind for many parents. Let me tell you why it should be, even if your school year begins online.
If you’re working from home or looking for ways to stay efficient, it may be easier for you to prepare lunch before the day starts. Why not put it in a bento lunch box that it’s ready to go when the kids (and you) break to eat. This way, you’re not spending time on meal prep in the middle of the day.
Or, even better, let the kids prepare their own bento box lunch first thing in the morning or the evening prior. My daughter became more interested in assembling her own lunches when we started using bento lunch boxes. It became a cross between puzzle and art. What colors fruits, veggies, cheese, and sandwiches look pretty together? How can I make them fit in the compartments? What cute bento accessories can I use?
The end result is that she eats a wider variety of healthy food when it’s prepared and presented in this manner. But, selecting the best kids’ bento box is important because children need to be able to open them easily and avoid messes. I’ve created a list of ones we’ve owned or considered buying along with the pros and cons of each. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
This is the kids’ bento lunch box we’ve been using for the last several years. We chose the PlanetBox Rover because of its multiple compartments and sturdy eco-friendly stainless steel construction. It also comes with a small and a large separate food container for the times that you need to contain something with a lid.
This bento lunch box for kids is my top pick for convenience and sturdiness. I’ve seen adults use it, too, so it can easily last through the teen years.
Pros: My daughter likes the simplicity of the stainless steel lunchbox. It’s an easy bento lunch box for kids to manage because the container is one piece. Flip open the latch and flip the top up to eat. You can zip up a slim ice pack next to the box or slip it into one of the pockets, if necessary.
The entire stainless steel unit and its snack containers with lids can be washed in the top rack of the dishwasher. It’s easy to wipe clean, too, because the compartments have rounded corners.
Cons: It is the most expensive bento box on this list, but you get what you pay for. This kids’ bento lunch box can come with decorative magnets. You’re technically supposed to remove the magnets before washing the stainless steel box, which is a little bit of a pain. I’ve accidentally forgotten to remove them several times before running the dishwasher and they’ve been okay, but it’s better to take them off, of course.
OmieBox Bento Box
OmieBox is a solution for younger kids who like warm meals like pasta in their school lunches. A leakproof Thermos insert in the middle of the OmieBox specifically holds liquids and hot food. The entire box is air-insulated and the seal is also airtight.
Pros: The Thermos insert keeps food warm and room temperature food can be placed in the spaces around it. It has a handle and is designed to be used without a carrying bag, so that’s one less thing to clean.
Cons: It’s a little heavy (1.7 lbs without food) and bulky in the dishwasher. The Thermos section is about 3.5 inches in diameter which may not be large enough for hungrier kids.
Bentology Lunch Boxes
Formerly known as Laptop Lunches, Bentology lunch boxes are a less expensive alternative to a PlanetBox. I also mentioned them as a best bento box for kids option on a recent Fox 5 San Diego news segment.
Pros: This bento lunch box provides a great deal of flexibility. You can leave containers out if you need to create a big space for large sandwiches, leftovers, or anything that’s an awkward shape.
The lunch boxes come in a variety of colors. You can buy extra containers to have on hand if washing them daily isn’t an option. The exterior carry totes also come in a ton of adorable patterns. The kit is also BPA-free.
Cons: The exterior container latch was hard for my daughter to open when she was 3-4 years old. It requires you to push in and up simultaneously, which was a motion that was tough for her to master. Older kids and adults won’t have the same problem. The container lids are not dishwasher safe, and we often misplaced the containers and lids.
If you choose Bentology, you will need to make sure that you pack a leakproof drink container. I don’t view this as a pro or con because leakproof drinks are essential anyway. My daughter’s preschool cubby wasn’t tall enough for her Bentology lunch box to stand up straight. So, she had to lay it horizontally, which meant the drink container wound up on its side (and could spill).
Pottery Barn Kids Spencer Bento Box Containers
The Pottery Barn Kids Spencer Bento Box Container (pictured above) slips neatly into one of their adorable Fairfax Lunch Bags or Mackenzie Classic Lunch Bags. They also now have a stainless steel version of the Spencer Bento Box and a glitter plastic version.
Pros: The lunch bags that these bento containers slip into are made in the same patterns as matching backpacks, water bottles, and even luggage. They are by far the cutest lunch bags on the market, in my opinion. The bento boxes are also dishwasher safe and I appreciate that there aren’t a bunch of little pieces to wash.
Now that my daughter is a little older and has outgrown some of the Pottery Barn Kids patterns, she’ll still use the plain-colored Spencer Bento Box for snacks on the go.
Cons: It’s not leakproof, so you wouldn’t want to put yogurt or anything with liquid in the covered section. Otherwise, we’ve used the container for years and my review is definitely positive.
EasyLunchboxes are great for packing a quick beach or road trip lunch that you need to toss in a larger bag. I don’t love them for elementary school lunches but teens and adults who don’t care aesthetics may prefer them for practicality.
Pros: These are BPA free, get good reviews, very lightweight, and inexpensive. It’s easy to store them while stacked on top of each other.
Cons: They’re not completely leakproof containers, so liquids like berry juice can escape. You’re limited to three compartments and hungry kids might need more space.
Our Kotobuki Panda Tiered Bento Box was a total impulse buy. We love pandas and I already wrote about this little bento years ago.
Pros: It’s a very good 2-layer bento box that’s a perfect size for a snack at the park, but not big enough to serve as a lunch box for most kids. It’s big enough for my lunch, however.
Cons: It’s not secure enough to be thrown around in a backpack. The black strap is easy to misplace and not easy to replace (though a rubber band will do in a pinch).
Bentgo Kids Lunch Box
The Bentgo Kids lunch box is my top pick for preschoolers. It’s pretty easy to open and the portion sizes are about right.
Pros: This is a fantastic toddler bento box because it’s easy for young children to open and manage. It says that it’s appropriate for ages 3-7, but the lower end of this range is likely most appropriate, depending on appetite. The inner tray can go in the dishwasher. Leakproof technology keeps everything in place. Rubber edges protect the box from drops. It’s made of BPA-free plastic.
Cons: It’s too small for older kids and the outer shell needs to be hand washed.
Best Water Bottles for Kids
Truthfully, I find that most kids’ water bottles leak after a while. We had good luck with a Klean Kanteen for a little while, but it started to leak. However, we bought a Zojirushi Stainless Steel Mug in Tokyo that is amazing and does not leak.
Hydro Flask water bottles are all the rage with the tween set at the moment, and they make a 12oz kids’ version. We have several, and, so far, they do not leak.
Kids’ Bento Lunch Gadgets
These are some of my favorite tools for preparing kids’ bento lunches that I’ve accumulated over the years. If you’re going to pick one took to help your kids eat a healthy lunch, get the vegetable cutters! You can use them on cheese, deli meat, and any food that you can cut.
Do you have a favorite bento lunch box for kids or a water bottle that is not listed here? Let me know in the comments!