Kids Lunch Boxes and Bags Buying Guide

If you had a Superman, Pac-Man, Care Bears or other character lunch box when you were a kid, you understand that certain appeal that comes from having an eye-catching lunch box. Lunch boxes, though, have come a long way. While you’ll still find character-covered boxes abound on any kid-packed elementary school bus, other box – and bag – choices have made it possible to find one that’s perfect for your child’s unique style.

To explore the options when it comes to buying a lunch box for your kids consider these tips and questions that you might ask your child when shopping.

Reusable box or bag

It used to be the choice was either a metal or vinyl lunch box or the classic brown paper bag. Nowadays, youngsters can opt for a bag, but made out of fabric so it will last all year long. The appeal of a bag is that it takes up less space in overcrowded backpacks when compared to a box. Plus, cloth bags come in a variety of designs and colors. The Children’s Place has affordable, splashy lunch bags for $6.96 online (shop at retailers for in-store pricing). But lunch bags are also available at most large retailers.

Soft-sided or hard-sided

For kids who prefer a lunch box, the next question is whether they want it soft-sided or hard-sided. You’ll find boxes made of fabric, metal or plastic. Keep in mind that fabric boxes will be easier to fit into a backpack but that also means whatever is inside may be squished, too. That’s right, your 8-year-old’s favorite PB&J sandwich may end up a soggy mess. Hard-sided lunch boxes offer more protection for edibles prone to falling apart like chips, fruit and cookies. Target offers Circo Crushproof lunch boxes designed to – you guessed it – keep kids lunches in tact with a stiffer, polyester exterior. The lunch boxes, sold for $14.99, come with a clip so it can attach to the backpack on the outside.

Give it some character

Your kids may not even care about what her lunch box is made out of as long as it has her prized character emblazoned on the front. While superheroes and fairytale favorites still reign, this year one of the hottest faces on boxes are the smiling yellow faces of the Minions. Find Despicable Me‘s Minion characters on a stand-alone fabric lunch box at Walmart for $9.88 or purchase it along with a backpack. To display her Minion affinity your child can sport a Minion Backpack and lunch box combination, available at Target for $19.99. Kids can also find boxes to showcase their love of sports teams, cartoon characters, animals and more – even those made to look like hamburgers!

Personalize it

Another trend in lunch box design is to have your child’s name right on the bag. Instead of using a permanent marker to write your child’s name strategically some place on the box or bag you can order one with your child’s name printed or stitched on it. Several online retailers stock personalized bag include, which has both solid color bags for $29.99, soft-sided Little Critter Lunch Bags starting at $18.74 (both have stitched names), or Color for School Metal Lunch boxes for $24.99 (name is printed).

World inspiration

Lunch box designs from other countries are now becoming standard here in the U.S. A staple of Japan, bento boxes come in various shapes, sizes and materials. What makes bento boxes appealing to kids – especially picky eaters – is they separate out one ingredient from another in their own compartments. This layout also feeds creativity when it comes to packing ingredients since foods don’t tend to shift as much as your child is taking his lunch to school. You can purchase bento boxes to place into your child’s lunch box or buy them as kits. Bentology offers a bag and plastic box combination for $39.99 (or buy a set of four box containers for $12.99). Planetbox also combination kits available starting at $34.95, but the bento boxes are made of metal, meaning you can add magnets to the outside before tucking the whole kit into a cloth lunch bag. For tweens and teens, bento boxes come in more grown-up versions, like those from Wayfair ($20.99), that make packing sushi and dipping sauces simple.

Don’t forget accessories

Beyond the box, you may want to coordinate the accessories that go into your child’s lunch bag like thermoses and drink containers. Reusable bags for lunch fixings are another option. Spbang offers reusable snack bags in a number of colors made out of environmentally friendly materials that you can write on with non-permanent markers. Clean the snack bags out with a quick trip through the top rack of your dishwasher. Prices start at $9.99 per bag and they’re available online or at local retailers like Holiday Market (Royal Oak), Whole Foods (Troy) and Restyle Child (Birmingham).

Metro Parent picks

Children’s Place Hearts Lunch Box

Insulated, 100 percent polyester canvas lunch box with an easy-to-grip handle.

Target’s Circo Crushproof Lunch Box

Carabiner included with lunch box attaches to most backpacks. It’s crushproof, which means it can hold up with no problem!

Personal Creations Solid Embroidered Lunch Box

Personalize his lunch box with this website! These solid-colored bags are designed to fit hot and cold containers. Mesh pockets hold utensils, napkins and bottled water.

Bento Kit – Lunch Bag and Bento Kitty

The pattern alone makes this one a hit! Kitty lovers will be pleased to carry this one around. Pack bento inside this bag and use the front pocket for napkins and utensils.


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