The Best Bento Boxes, Supplies & Tools To Take Your School Lunches From Boring To Blast-Off! | Back-To-School Guide 2018
We’re back with the latest installment of our Back to School Guide which highlights the coolest bento boxes, snack containers, water bottles, and other rad accessories and tools you can use to make school lunches exciting. Yep, that’s right, we said it: exciting.
While we don’t claim to have magical powers, we hope these items will inject some fun into the packing process, and at the very least, make your kids’ lunch so exciting that you’ll get nothing back but an empty bag.
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PIN to pack an awesome lunch!
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best bento boxes
Want a surefire way to pack a healthy lunch for your kids (and get them to actually eat it!)? Any one of these amazing bento boxes where you can portion veggies, fruits, dairy and grains appropriately will do just the trick.
There are plenty of bento box options on the market – an overwhelming amount, in fact – which is why we’ve done all the legwork for you to narrow down your decision. There were many factors that went into making our “best of” list, including:
- Quality – if you’ve read our about page you know that we’re big on “quality over quantity”, so investing in 1-2 superbly made boxes will save you in the long run. High-quality materials, hinges and closures means you’ll be able to use them over many years with multiple kids.
- Material Safety – you’ll soon see the overwhelming amount of stainless steel on our list – it’s one of the only materials that’s 100% non-leaching, and is super sturdy and non-breakable. That being said, we have included some BPA-free plastic alternatives for those not wanting to go the stainless route.
- Kid Functional – we’ve tested our picks to make sure they pass the child open/close test – meaning that the lids and locks can be easily operated without any adult assistance. Some of them may take a few minutes of practice with your supervision, but that should be all it takes for them to be independent come lunchtime.
- Compartments – we’ve included a variety of boxes with different sized compartments so you can choose the one that best fits your child’s age, stage and appetite.
LunchBots Bento Trio
LunchBots is one of our go-to brands for high-quality stainless steel bento-style containers. They’ve got them in all sizes with up to 5 compartments, but this Large Trio is our favorite for lunch time. The main section is big enough for a full sandwich, and the 2 smaller compartments are perfect for a side of fruit and veggies. The lid is also made of stainless steel, and is easy for kids to open and close (though please note it is not leak proof, so leave the yogurt outta this one).
This sleek stainless steel bento is the mac daddy of them all, and the one we use for our own kids (and they’re still going strong after 4 years of heavy wear ’n’ tear). The Rover seem pricey, but when you consider that you get the bento-style main box, 2 containers with leak-proof lids (great for dips & dressings), an insulated carry bag and a cool set of magnets your kids can use to decorate their box, it’s actually a fantastic value. We love that you can fit a whole sandwich in the main compartment, plus have room for plenty of “sides” to fill those hungry bellies at lunchtime.
If your child isn’t a big fan of sandwiches and prefers a selection of “snacks” for lunch, meet your new bestie, the YUMBOX. Its 5 smaller compartments (each a ½ cup) are perfect for packing a variety of foods, and the cute illustrations on the tray remind your pre-coffee self to pack a balanced meal containing all food groups: Fruit, Vegetable, Grains, Protein, & Dairy. Go ahead and pack applesauce, yogurt or juicy watermelon too as the YUMBOX lid creates a leak-proof seal.
Now if you’ve got a hang-ry tween or teen on your hands, we suggest the slightly larger YUMBOX Tapas which comes in 2 different versions: one with 4 compartments (offering enough room for a sandwich) and another with 5 compartments.
The OmieBox is an innovative new insulated bento box that can store hot and cold food side-by-side. It has 2 temperature zones so entrees keep warm in the stainless steel thermos, while sides like fruit and veggies stay cool thanks to the double-walled, air-insulated tray. For kids who like a hot meal at lunch, this is the perfect all-in-one solution – but for those times that a PB&J is requested instead, the thermos insert can be easily pulled out – opening up a world of lunch time possibilities!
One of the most innovative features of the Bentgo are the internal hinges and rubber coated edges that make it a great choice for younger kids who are more likely to drop, well, everything. The 5 interior compartments are leak-proof and well portioned for a Kindergartner’s appetite, with the largest able to hold a good sized half-sandwich. We also love that the Bentgo’s tray is removable and dishwasher safe for easy clean-up.
If you’re looking for a lighter, more streamlined bento – try Bentgo’s Tray option which is essentially the interior compartment + a snap-on lid. It won’t be leak-proof like the original Bentgo, but it’s a less expensive and lighter weight option we’d certainly recommend for older grade school children who no longer need all of the protective “armor”.
Kids love the ECOlunchbox’s cool nesting design and nifty side latches. When they unstack their lunch, they’ll find that the bottom of this non-toxic stainless steel container fits a full-sized sandwich, while the top layer is great for salads, fruit and other fun sides. The Three-in-One also comes with a smaller pod that can turn it into a dual compartment.
If you have a style savvy tween or teen that may not want a lunchbox that screams “kid”, Bentgo’s All-in-One Stackable lunchbox is the perfect solution. Its sleek and modern design will not only look great in the caf, but is incredibly functional with 2 stackable containers with lids, built-in plastic silverware and a cool stretchy strap to secure it all together.
Black+Blum Lunch Pot
The 2-pot design and watertight seals of this super cool lunch container allows you to pack some awesome lunch combos. Think yogurt and granola, soup ‘n’ salad or even cereal with milk! It comes with a fun spork and the smaller pot will fit into the larger one for compact storage when the lunch bell rings.
reusable snack containers
These handy reusable containers are the perfect size for a mid-morning or after school snack. Just think of all the plastic baggies you’ll save – good for your wallet, and for the environment!
- Pottery Barn Kids Spencer Stainless Steel Storage Containers: We love the entire line of PBK Spencer Stainless Steel food storage containers, but these dual ones get bonus points for the super cute kitty and car decals on the lids.
- Lunchbots Pico Duo: This one’s the perfect size for snack time for preschool through elementary – it’s separated into 2 compartments and is completely stainless (even the lid).
- Sugarbooger Good Lunch Sandwich Box: This whimsical sandwich-shaped container can be used for a full sandwich, ½ sandwich + ½ snack, or 100% snack.
- Stasher: This genius solution to the plastic bag is made of 100% pure silicone and complies with FDA and European food-grade standards. You simply pinch-press the seal to provide an airtight seal, and they’re dishwasher, microwave and freezer safe! They’ve even partnered with Pottery Barn Kids to create some classic kid-friendly designs. Our favorite is the snack-sized Stasher to use for crackers, fruit and chopped veggies.
- Planetbox Shuttle: Our top choice for older kids who need a heartier snack before after-school activities begin. The large compartment fits 2 cups of food, and the smaller section fits 1 cup. It also comes with a carry bag and dipper container which can fit neatly inside.
- YumBox MiniSnack: A leakproof solution for snack-time perfect for yogurt and dips. The large compartment can fit ¾ cup of food, while the smaller side fits 1/3 cup + a small section for dips or a treat.
- Ukonserve Nesting Containers: This trio of stainless steel containers are our favorites for single serving snacks. The fun, colorful lids (available in a wide variety of color combinations) can be a little tricky for the smallest hands at first, but tend to get easier with continued use.
- Hutlzer Berries To-Go: These small raspberry and blueberry shaped containers are perfect for storing a quick nibble of delicious berries. The integrated strainer disc at the bottom helps keep them firm, not squishy.
- Kinderville Silicone Snack Pouch: A great option to those fabric snack baggies that get stinky and are impossible to wipe clean are these silicone snack pouches which can be easily flipped inside out and quickly rinsed. Or throw them in the dishwasher for a full sanitize.
For a quick overview of just how easy back-to-school supply shopping can be, take a peek at how TeacherLists.com operates:
best thermos + drink containers
- U Konserve Stainless Steel Insulated Food Jar: Sick of packing sandwiches? How ‘bout a tasty hot lunch packed in this stainless steel, leak-proof thermos instead. Your kids will be psyched to get some still-hot pasta, soup or nuggets thanks to the double-walled, insulated design. Comes in 16oz and 12oz sizes.
- Pottery Barn Kids Mackenzie Hot & Cold Containers: Don’t need a thermos quite so big? These 10oz ones from Pottery Barn are available in a ridiculous amount of colorful designs, including rainbows, unicorns and super heroes. They can even be personalized.
To keep your kid’s lunch extra toasty in their thermos for longer, fill it up with hot water (boiling even!) and let it sit for a few minutes. Then pour it out and place their lunch inside. ‘Cause no one likes to dig into lukewarm soup.
3. Asobu Juicy Drink Box: If you’ve got a juice-drinker who likes the novelty of a juice box, but you’d prefer to save some money by buying the big carton (and be a little more eco-friendly too), check out the Asobu Juicy Drink Box. Fill it up with their favorite drink and they’ve got that cool juice box feel, with a silicone straw and neat sliding cover. Refillable, eco-conscious and cost efficient. Win-win-win!
4. Beatrix New York Cozy Can Water Bottle: We are totally infatuated with Beatrix NY’s stainless steel water bottle “cans”, and your kids will be too. They’ll feel super grown-up drinking from them, while their beverage will stay cold for up to 8 hours! Cool indeed.
RELATED: Check out more of our favorite Water Bottles by visiting 5 Safe, No-Leak, Easy-to-Clean Water Bottles for Big Kids (yes, they do exist!)
best accessories + tools
- Ipow Silicone Molds: These silicone baking cups are perfect for creating your own additional compartments in any lunch box – particularly if your child doesn’t like their foods touching. The bright colors will boost the fun-factor of any lunch, and they can also double as muffin liners.
- CuteZCute Bento Food Picks: Stick some of these these animal food picks into your child’s not-so-favorite foods and you’ll be shocked at how it disappears. They’re great for adding a bit of pizzazz into the same ol’ lunch favorites too, and they make a great “fastener” for wraps and burritos.
- To-Go Ware RePEat Bamboo Kids Utensils: This fun set of kid-sized bamboo utensils is perfect for slipping inside your kids’ lunchbox. The storage pouch fits the spoon, fork and knife inside, and it has a neat carabiner on the back (and carabiners are just cool).
- Kids Konserve Squiggle Sweat-Free Ice Pack: Seriously the best ice pack we’ve ever used. Not only does it keep lunches cold, but it doesn’t sweat thanks to the cool cover made from recycled plastic bottles. So lunches stay chilled and dry all day long.
- LunchBots Dips: If your child likes to dip everything into ketchup like ours, you’ll need some of these these 1.5oz never-leak containers. Pop them into any lunchbox filled with extra dips, condiments or even a special treat.
- Fred & Friends Bites & Pieces: Got a puzzle or Tetris lover? This Bites & Pieces sandwich cutter will turn their sandwich into a game that they’ll play with and eat.
- Marley’s Monsters Reuseable Cloth Napkins: Bring some grown-up-ness to the caf with these incredible eco-friendly handmade cloth napkins. Customize the 100% cotton flannel from a multitude of kid-friendly designs and simply throw in the wash when it’s time to give them a clean. We doubt your child will actually place them on their lap, but it will hopefully keep their sticky peanut butter fingers from being wiped on their pants.
- Vacu Vin Forks: Your kids will go crazy over these colorful “monsters” which sit atop of stainless steel mini forks. Fit them inside any bento box for a fun (and non-toxic) utensil. (note: although not sharp, these do have more of a pronounced fork, so we’d recommend them for middle school children and up).
- Egg Molds: Speaking of adorable, how can any child resistant sinking their teeth into a bunny or bear shaped boiled egg? Simply place a still-warm shelled egg into this mold, close and put into cold water. Totally magical.
- Humangear GoBites Uno: If you’re trying to streamline your child’s lunchbox, the GoBites Uno is the only tool you need – use it to stab as a fork, and then simply flip it around to scoop with the spoon! Kids think these are pure fun.
- Kikkerland Woodlands Bag Clip, Set of 6: Up your lunch game by popping one of these darling Woodland bag clips in your child’s lunchbox so they can seal-up any leftovers, and you won’t be left cleaning up the crushed popcorn out of their lunchbox.
- YotoGo Yogurt Sleeve: This nifty neoprene sleeve will perfectly fit a greek-yogurt sized container, and includes a mini ice pack and spoon. Perfect for throwing into a backpack for a quick snack.
- Kai Chuboos Vegetable Cutters: Have a hard time getting your child to eat their veggies? Try these adorable veggie cutters which turn boring carrots, cucumbers and celery into fun elephants, penguins, and dolphins. Or try turning cheese and ham into dogs, cats or pigs. Kids just can’t resist!
- Crusty’s All-Stars Sandwich Cutters: We love these sandwich cutters because not only do they turn our boring PB&Js into inspiring creations, but they don’t waste half the sandwich in the process. And this set comes with 7 designs that are great for boys and girls, and can even be used as cookie or pancake cutters!
- Fred & Friends Utensils: Your kids will find these silly Robot utensils from Fred & Friends are just too fun to not pick up and use.
Lunch box notes have come a long way since our day when our moms wrote sweet words and reminders on our brown paper bags. While you still can’t beat a handwritten note, these well-designed easy-to-print lunch box notes will still let your child know you’re thinking of them…and have plenty of room for a little extra love on the back.
- Tinyme – Free Lunch Note Printables
- Enchanted By Design – Watermelon Secret Message Scratch Off Lunch Box Note Cards
- Vonn Lou Designs – 6 Hand Illustrated Unicorns/Rainbow Lunch Notes
- Skip To My Lou – Cute Lunch Box Notes
- Meyer Market Designs – 12 Assorted Lunch Notes
- Enchanted Prints – Back to School Lunch Notes
- The Crafted Sparrow – Printable Lunch Box Notes
8. Wine & Glue – Printable Lunch Box Jokes
9. Skip To My Lou – Cool Lunch Box Notes
10. Fresh Picked Whimsy – Back-to-School Lunch Box Free Printable
11. King Protea Press – Scratch Off Gem Lunch Notes
12. Today’s Mama – Printable Lunch Box Memos
13. The Dating Divas – Lunch Box Notes for Kids
14. DIY Candy – Monster Lunch Box Jokes
15. Pink Rainbow Designs – 20 Motivational Messages
16. Capturing Joy – Fruit & Veggie Lunch Box Jokes
And of course we’d be silly not to highlight our very own Interactive Lunch Box Notes printable. These notes are packed with a pencil and require your child to fill them out over their lunch break. They’ll answer a different fun question each day that will give you some insight into exactly what happened in the cafeteria, how they enjoyed their lunch, and even future meal requests.
They’ll leave the completed note in their lunch box for you to discover, and it can serve as a great icebreaker for finding out more about their day.
Head over to our full post for the free download, and give them a try – we had rave reviews from our kids!
Check out all of our Back To School Guides:
- The Hottest Backpacks For Grade Schoolers, Tweens & Teens
- Everything Your Pre-Schooler Needs For Back-to-School, In Just The Right Size
- Cool Lunch Bags & Lunch Boxes For Keeping Your Kids’ Lunch Cool
- The Coolest Star Wars Back-to-School Supplies For Your Jedi-in-Training
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