12 best kids' lunch boxes
Whether they take a packed lunch every day or just need a lunch box for the occasional school trip – here’s our pick of the top options
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The kids’ lunch box market has moved on from the handheld plastic boxes most of us will remember from childhood. Today, many kids’ lunch boxes are technically more lunch bags, made of a waterproof canvas fabric. Where plastic boxes do still exist, they tend to be smaller and of a bento box-style.
We tested these lunch boxes on a group of children aged four to 12. For them, as is often the case with kids, the primary consideration was whether they liked the look of the lunch box or not, followed by how many separate compartments it had.
But parents should also consider how easy the lunch box is to clean, how easy it is for your child to carry, do you prefer a lunch box that will fit in their school bag or can they carry it separately?
Plus, you should think about what kind of lunch your child usually has, as if they have salads or pasta lunches – some of these lunch bags will need a separate box inside them, where as some won’t.
Another factor is how often your kids have packed lunch. As if you’re buying something for everyday use you’ll, need something more durable and functional than if they only have a packed lunch on an occasional school trip or camp.
You also might wonder if your children even need a packed lunch box. It's true if they’re having wraps or sandwiches you can just use plastic freezer bags, but a lunch box is a good way to cut down on single use plastic and a decent lunch box can last your child several years, though make sure you or they label it clearly.
Trunki Lunch Bag Backpack: £12.99, Tipu
Trunki revolutionised family travel with their rideable wheelie suitcase and backpack booster seat and last year they launched a lunch bag range which is proving just as beloved.
Our young testers were obsessed with this lunch bag, which could be worn as a backpack or shoulder bag. It fits a decent-sized lunch inside it, plus a small water bottle, without leaking, and it also has a mesh inside lid for an ice pack.
Other design styles include a yellow bee, a red lady bird, plus pink and blue Trunki designs.
Smiggle Now You See Me Double Decker Lunch Box: £17.50, Smiggle
All the testers under 10 were big fans of this lunch pack from Aussie stationery brand Smiggle.
They loved the bright, bold design and the separate compartments brought them surprising amounts of joy, while also making it one of the roomiest lunch boxes on test.
The pack is well-insulated, with a BPA-free lining, and we found it super-easy to clean after each use. It has a clear name label you can fill in on the top deck and it also felt like a sturdy, durable lunch box that would last a good few school years.
More expensive than some of the other lunch boxes but nonetheless a top choice. Also available in black, pink, purple, and light blue designs.
Rex London Miko the Panda Lunch Bag: £3.95, Rex London
The cheapest lunch bag on test but sometimes the simplest ideas are the best, as shown by the fact this is a popular choice at our testers’ school, especially with kids under eight.
The inside is foil-lined for insulation, and it’s roomy enough to fit a sandwich or wrap, a couple of pieces of fruit, a carton of juice and a snack pot. But it also folds up easily in a drawer so would work well for occasional use.
Our young testers found it easy to zip and unzip and lightweight enough to carry around easily. It comes in other brightly-coloured designs featuring unicorns, dinosaurs, tigers, elephants, crocodiles and clouds.
John Lewis Children’s Floral Print Lunch Box: £12, John Lewis
Some of the older testers liked the design, while other younger testers preferred the alternative blue shark print of this simple lunch box from John Lewis.
It has a comfy handle and roomy interior including two separate compartments for food. The kids found it easy to unzip, while we found it easy to keep clean.
We liked that it felt more robust than some of the other lunch packs on test.
Becky and Lolo Dinosaur Kids Lunch Box Personalisable: £17.97 Becky and Lolo
Younger kids love seeing their name on stuff, so the idea of a lunch box which would have their actual name written on the side was a big hit with our testers, especially those under eight.
The lunch box was lightweight and easy for kids to carry. We liked the mesh pouch for an ice pack on hot days and the Velcro fasteners which would keep a small water bottle in place.
The designs which can be personalised include unicorns, monkeys, horses, animals and spaceships; they also do plain red and navy packs.
Bentgo Kids Leakproof Children’s Lunch Box: £14.99 Amazon
The Bentgo Lunch Box is a good choice if you want to give your children some chopped up vegetable sticks and a dip, along with a wrap or sandwich for lunch.
There is also space for chopped up fruit. The concept went down really well with our younger testers, while we liked the removable tray which made it easy to clean and the fact it didn’t leak.
On the downside it’s quite heavy, and the portion compartments, though deep, weren’t that big – fruit that isn’t chopped up, such as apples, bananas or satsumas would need to be carried separately. Also available in purple and blue.
Rachel Ellen Girl On Bicycle Lunch Bag: £11.99, Rachel Ellen
These lunch bags from Nottingham-based brand Rachel Ellen were popular with some of our older testers who liked the hand-drawn illustrated design and shiny PVC coating.
They were spacious enough to hold a decent packed lunch and a small water bottle, while the inside fabric was BPA and phthalate-free and easy to wipe clean.
The lunch bag is lightweight and has a handle for easy carrying. Other designs include Friends and Fairies.
Maruko Black Cat 2-Tier Bento Box: £17.50, Sous Chef
The Maruko Bento Box, which comes with a fork and red elastic band, proved very pleasing to our older testers, especially those who had salads and veg and bite-sized food rather than the traditional sandwich lunch.
It’s not massive but you can make the most of the two layers to get lots in. It’s made of plastic but also seemed quite delicate and not something you would want to drop too many times on a hard school canteen floor. Also comes in a white rabbit design.
Kikki K Lunch Bag Superheroes: £10, Kikki K
Our testers liked the subtle superhero design of this lunch box from Scandi-inspired brand kikki K, and the fact it sat nice and flat in their school backpacks, though it could also be carried by the handle.
It has a useful mesh pocket for small snacks or an ice pack and it could just about fit a small water bottle inside though it would make carrying the rest of their lunch a squish. We found it easy to wipe clean after use.
Sistema Quaddie Lunchbox: £5, Tesco
The Sistema Quaddie didn’t massively excite our testers, especially when compared to the other more kid-centric designs on test, but we think it’s a quality product at a very reasonable price.
It’s durable, easy to clean, lightweight and we like the top pocket where you can separate out chopped fruit or other snacks without needing to use unnecessary plastic freezer bags.
The seal is strong enough that you can put sandwiches, wraps or salads in the main compartment without using foil or plastic. Also available in purple, green and pink.
Quechua Cool Box Lunch MH100 For Hiking: £9.99, Decathlon
This lunch bag from Decathlon’s outdoors brand Quechua is actually designed for hiking but we thought it was a good kids’ packed lunch option, especially if you want to keep things really cool.
We found it spacious and liked the water bottle pocket on the side. Our testers found it easy to carry thanks to the shoulder strap and clip fastener; they also liked the bright design.
Paperchase Mermaid Squad Yay Lunchbox: £6, Paperchase
The older testers liked this bento-style box from Paperchase. It’s lightweight and compact but deep enough to fit sandwiches, wraps and fruit in; it can also be used for salad and pasta-type lunches.
It has one layer and is secured by a purple elastic band, which again our testers liked. And the plastic is BPA free.
The Verdict: Best kids' lunch boxes
Our younger testers loved the Trunki Lunch Bag Backpack, while the slightly older kids were big fans of the Smiggle Now You See Me Double Decker Lunch Box. Both of which we found top functioning, highly durable products.