Daycare provides parents like you with the assurance that your children are getting watched, cared for, and entertained while you’re at work, out for a trip, or spending time with friends. When sending your children to daycare, you may want to find lunch boxes that they can take with them to provide them with food and meals. The type of lunch box you pick will vary on many factors.
This article will examine whether your child needs a stainless steel lunch box, explore the different insulated lunch box and insulated lunch bag options on the market, discuss how these lunch boxes keep food cold and highlight the best kids lunch boxes for your daycare needs. Once you understand the best toddler lunch boxes on the market, we’ll highlight the traits a good lunch bag needs to be worth your time.
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|Skip Hop Zoo Lunchie||A+|
|FlatBox 2-in-1 Reusable Lunch Bag + Placemat||A|
|LunchBots Toddler Bento||A+|
|PackIt Freezable Lunch Bags||A+|
|Wildkin Lunch Box||A+|
|Thermos Novelty Lunch Kit||A+|
Benefits of a Great Daycare Lunch Box
When picking toddler lunch boxes to protect cold food or keep food warm for your children, it is good to understand the benefits that a lunch box or lunch bag may have for your child. The best toddler lunch boxes protect cold food or keep food warm and provide many other benefits. Whether you pick the best lunch boxes or Bento boxes, the following benefits may help you pick these plastic containers for little kids..
Ensures They Have Food
When your little one goes to daycare, a good lunch box ensures that they have enough food for the day. A stainless steel lunch box, a canvas lunch bag, a brown paper bag, or other insulated lunch box models help by collecting all this food in one place and keeping the food cold or warm for hours at a time. The best toddler lunch boxes for kids should last up to 5-10 hours with minimal difficulties.
While you might need ice packs to keep the food cool for that long, these packs are relatively easy to use and can fit into stainless steel lunch boxes or bento boxes. The best kids’ lunch boxes may also have individual compartments where you can place different items. A bento box, in particular, helps you separate your children’s food to ensure that it is appropriately protected.
Controls Your Child’s Diet
Even if your daycare center provides food for your child, you may want an insulated lunch bag or insulated lunch box to control their diet. Some children may have specific dietary needs that toddler lunch boxes can help manage. For instance, a young child with type 1 diabetes may need a controlled diet (and a cool place to store insulin) while they’re at a daycare center.
An insulated lunch bag or insulated lunch box should provide that storage option for your child. But, just as importantly, some children may have allergies that the best toddler lunch boxes can help prevent. For example, a stainless steel lunch bag may protect a child’s food from potential allergens and create a meal plan that minimizes these allergens and keeps your child’s food cool and safe.
Eases the Daycare’s Work Load
Your daycare workers have to put in a lot of hands-on time with your children, including making food every day. An insulated lunch container, kids’ lunch box, or Bento-style lunch box can help take a bit of this workload off their hands. In addition, cold foods, hot foods, and extra snacks stored in dishwasher-safe, insulated lunch bags, or a child’s lunch box may keep their food in great shape for up to seven hours.
Even better, these lunch packing boxes may include an interior mesh pocket that holds packed lunches and all the food your child needs to stay well-fed. In this way, a kids lunch box helps daycare workers by providing a lunch that goes beyond a brown paper bag and which minimizes the extra work your daycare professionals do in a day, minimizing burnout and improving care quality.
Saves You a Little Money
When you use packed lunches in an insulated lunch box, you provide your children with cold foods or hot foods and extra snacks while they’re at their daycare center. Your child’s lunch box can save you money by letting them take inexpensive foods to your daycare center instead of relying on food that you can buy there. A durable lunch box may also last well into their school years.
In those early years of your child’s life, they’re likely to love the same things for many years, including cute and attractive lunch containers with fun animals and cartoon designs. As a result, a toddler’s lunch box may remain useful in their early elementary years. In this way, you’ll likely not have to buy a kid’s lunch box for a few years, saving yourself a little time and money.
The Top 10 Daycare Meal Boxes for Your Children
We’ll highlight many boxes in the following sections and help you choose a great lunch box or insulated bag that makes sense for your child’s needs. We’ll talk about how much toddler lunch it can integrate, how it holds your packed lunch, what kids ages it might appeal to, whether it can last for up to five hours or seven hours, whether you need a larger lunch box, and if a Bento lunch box is right for you.
After this section, we’ll also talk about things you might want to integrate into the best kid’s lunch boxes, including separate stainless steel containers, a reusable ice pack, containers for multiple ice packs, and more. We’ll also talk about Bento designs, including a few on this list, to give you an idea if they’re the best lunch box design for your child’s needs or if you should get another type instead.
This simple budget lunch box will work well as a lunch bag for young children. It will keep food cold or food warm for many hours and lets you add ice packs to create a great lunch experience. The simple material may not have the strength of stainless steel but should last a long time.
Each bag is quite soft, with a simple zipper that most children should easily understand. There’s a small mesh pocket for napkins and utensils and one large compartment for food. You may integrate water bottles, snack cups, and even separate stainless steel containers to make this a great lunch box for packed lunch.
- A soft and light material
- A cute butterfly design kids will love
- The very adaptable design
- It does not have separate containers
- It may be a bit small
FlatBox 2-in-1 Reusable Lunch Bag + Placemat
When seeking out kids’ lunch containers, you need one that holds your food and holds multiple ice pack designs, provides a leak-proof exterior, and a safe dishwasher design. This cute lunch box includes a streamlined design that makes it easy to haul.
Unlike a lunch bag (which inspired its shape), this box should stay strong and secure during the toughest parts of a child’s life. It should also work well with most ice pack models while folding flat on the table for an easy-to-clean placemat you can’t get with other lunch box designs.
- The 2-in-1 design helps keep a daycare center clean
- The material remains fairly sturdy
- You should easily afford this option
- Not quite as insulated as other boxes
- Some children may struggle when laying it flat
If you want to provide cold food for your child, you may want to avoid lunch bags and consider this Bento container instead. It has a stainless steel design that may be top-rack dishwasher safe. It also includes room to hold a water bottle, ice pack, and other items.
Remember that this Bento container is not insulated, which means you’ll have to place it in a fridge. Thankfully, most daycare centers should have this option available for you. But, unfortunately, that means you may cannot just throw it in your child’s diaper bags and expect it to stay cool.
- It includes multiple substantial containers
- The steel may provide some cooling benefits
- Your child’s dry foods should remain quite safe
- This box is not suitable for wet foods
- It does not have insulation
PackIt Freezable Lunch Bags
Last but by no means least, this simple pack provides a unique freezer-safe design that makes it different from the other lunch bags we’ve highlighted. You take the bag and pop it into the freezer about 12 hours before packing it, and it should stay cold all day after you’ve filled it.
Even better, it can easily fold flat after your child is done with it, which makes it easier to pack in diaper bags or other containers. It also comes with a bucket handle that lets you clip it to multiple items, ensuring that you never lose this simple and effective container.
- The freezer-based design works surprisingly well
- Its material quality is also relatively high
- The folding mechanic makes it easy to store
- You might not need those ice packs you bought
- Some might find its container a bit limited in storage
Wildkin focuses its products heavily on young children, and their lunch box is no different. This Wildkin insulated lunch box is one of the best toddler lunch boxes that are not a Bento box. It should keep food colder for a long time with ice packs and provide lunch bags your children will enjoy.
One thing we love about this lunch box is how well it folds flat. The durable and flexible material will fold flat easily for you, making storage easier. Bento boxes or stainless steel boxes don’t have that capacity, making this a good option for your home.
- It should store easily in most small homes
- The fun exterior design should entertain children
- You should find it easy to afford
- The material may seem a little flimsy
- It may be hard to find in some markets
Thermos produces many appealing products for packing lunches, including this cute train-inspired and leak-proof box that should work well for daycare or elementary school children. You may also choose various branded cartoon characters and more and use your washing machine to clean this good lunch box.
While this lunch box may not be dishwasher safe, it should be easy to clean. Even better, its interior container is big enough for separate ice packs, food containers, snack containers, and other items for a cold or hot lunch. Younger kids will love this leak-proof box when you pack lunch for their day.
- It comes with multiple cute designs
- The insulation is surprisingly good
- You should have room for multiple food containers and snack containers
- The material is not dishwasher safe
- It lacks multiple compartments
Bentgo Fresh Lunch Box
Bentgo is one o the most trusted lunch box designers on the market. Whether you use one of their Bento box designs or other dishwasher-safe, insulated lunch boxes, you should have room for a water bottle and multiple snacks. This lunch bag also has a leak-proof exterior.
As a result, this Bento box design provides one of the strongest lunch containers for kids, allowing for easy storage and much more. While it lacks a pocket and isn’t as strong as a stainless steel lunchbox, it should do well with a hand wash or top-rack dishwasher cleaning experience.
- The Bento box design is a classic for children.
- The safe dishwasher design contains a leak-proof exterior
- Its separate containers keep food safe
- The material may not last over a year
- It may seem a bit bland for some kids
If you want a Bento box for your child, this might be the lunch box for your needs. Insulated lunch boxes like these include a leak-proof and dishwasher-safe exterior that works well for elementary school, daycare, and more. They also include an ice pack container for easier storage.
We think this option is probably the best Bento box design because it will last for many years. It includes a stainless steel exterior that makes it the toughest lunch box or lunch bag we’ve highlighted. So if you want a Bento box that will last well into your child’s life, you’ve got it with this Bento box.
- This Bento box uses stainless steel to last a long time
- Its separate containers keep food healthy and safe
- You should find it works better than lunch bags
- The price is incredibly high
- Some children may struggle to haul it
Pottery Barn Kids produces many high-quality items, including this simple and durable lunch box that should work well for most toddler lunch periods. Its dishwasher-safe design integrates durable polyester that should last for many years and provide a simple cleaning surface.
Though this Pottery Barn kids item isn’t stainless steel, it contains a strong material with fun designs, including monogrammed names that will make your kid feel important. Even better, it includes a side pocket where you can store essential items for your child’s day.
- It includes a mesh pocket for water bottles or thermoses
- You should find a design your child loves
- Dishwasher safe material is also eco-friendly with PEVA lining
- The price might be a little high
- It could use more containers
The L.L.Bean Lunch Box
This design might work well for you when it comes to a kid’s lunch bag. Like other insulated lunch boxes, it includes a dishwasher-safe design that works well for younger kids just before elementary school. You may also hand wash this bag to keep it safe beyond a child’s first school year.
While it doesn’t have the kind of cute designs you get with other boxes, it allows multiple ice pack installation, almost like a Bento box. In this way, this lunch bag covers more than a few essentials for younger kids and should clean well in most dishwasher areas.
- A surprisingly affordable option
- It should keep food hot and cold
- We love the easy-to-clean exterior
- Some kids may find its design a little dull
- It may be a bit small for a larger water bottle
Extras You May Want to Buy
When buying a lunch box for your child, you may decide to purchase multiple extras that may make it more useful. We’ve outlined two of these items here, including their pros and cons, to make this purchasing decision easier. Here’s what you need to know about these accessories.
An Ice Pack: Do You Need One?
You might find yourself debating whether you need one of these packs for your child’s lunch container. That’s understandable. After all, these packs may cost over $10 or more for multiple packages and may possess a somewhat limited usage. Some might even have a reasonably short lifespan that may limit their usefulness. However, great ice containers can help in many ways, including:
- Keeping Your Food Cold: Your child may be in their daycare center or school for hours before they get a chance to eat. Thankfully, these ice containers should keep their food in a cool enough state to make it edible and safe later on in the day.
- Minimizing Spoilage Risk: If your daycare center doesn’t have a refrigerator or only limited access, your child’s lunch may go bad before eating it. Thankfully, ice containers like these keep it cool for a long time while allowing simple storage in various containers.
- Providing Cute Styles: At your child’s age, they probably don’t care if their lunch box lasts for hours or what insulation it provides. They simply want something that looks cute. Most ice containers for kids’ lunch boxes integrate fun and colorful designs your kid may love.
These packs may also cause extra wetness in your child’s bag by melting through the day. While most should be leak-free exterior, others may not. Make sure that you research your options carefully here, identifying those packs that won’t cause this problem. If yours does, even though it shouldn’t, put it in a sealed plastic bag to avoid water damage to your lunch box.
Storage Containers: Are They Necessary?
Separate storage compartments may hold individual food options for your child and slip easily into their box’s main chamber. They provide many benefits that make them dang essential, especially for preschool children in daycare centers. Just a few of the most important benefits that you’re likely to get from these unique containers include how they:
- Separate Your Child’s Food: Kids are sometimes picky about whether their food “touches.” For example, they may not want strawberry juice getting on their sandwich. Thankfully, these containers avoid this problem by keeping all your food stored and away from each other.
- Minimize Spilling: When your child takes their lunch to daycare, there’s a risk that the food inside might spill even if your child is careful. This problem can be easily avoided by using separate containers that hold all of these foods and minimize spilling risks.
- Avoid Nasty Stains: Let’s face it: kids aren’t exactly known for their careful eating habits. For example, some kids may eat very messily and toss their food back into a box, making a big mess. Separate containers may help minimize this mess by holding your food away from your box interior.
The only real downsides of these containers include how some children may struggle with them and additional storage needs. For example, some children may need help opening these containers and taking up a daycare worker’s time. And smaller lunch box designs may not work well with these containers, meaning you either have limited size options or can’t use them.
What Your Kids Need in a Daycare Lunch Box
When deciding on what kind of lunch box your child needs, it is important to look at a few different elements. A lunch bag should do more than provide cold food. It should also provide many other benefits and advantages based on a variety of different factors. Whether you want Bento boxes or other containers, make sure that you read through this list of important elements to find the option that works best for your needs.
A Reasonable Price
A lunch packing box or toddler’s lunch box may be available at many different prices. For example, a steel lunch box that works for up to five hours or up to seven hours may be more expensive than a toddler lunch bag from Pottery Barn Kids or other manufacturers with a canvas or cloth design. However, such Pottery Barn Kids insulated bag designs make a good lunch box for most kids.
However, when you pack lunch for your kids, you likely want a box that will last a long time with minimal issues. For example, a toddler’s lunch box with poor-quality material may fail more quickly than one with a better design. So pay attention to these factors, including whether or not your lunch box comes with things like an extra water bottle or interior mesh pocket designs to hold extra snacks.
Any lunch container needs to have strong insulation that will last a long time without causing your food to spoil. This situation is particularly important for daycare centers or other child care services because the child may be in charge of their food for hours. As a result, they may easily make storage mistakes that could cause their food to go back and trigger other concerns with their care.
Should you automatically go with the thickest possible insulation option available on the market? Not always. Some people may find that this insulation is too thick and takes up too much room in their child’s bag. It all depends on how much food you plan on storing and many other factors. Just as importantly, you need to gauge how cool their food stays with this insulation by talking to the child and their daycare experts. Doing so may make this experience smoother and more efficient at the same time.
As you can imagine, preparing a lunch bag for your children is going to be a rather challenging experience if your child is messy. Even a Bento box can end up getting quite messy when a toddler is done with them. Even the best lunch bag or box with a rugged stainless steel interior can become quite messy if you aren’t careful. Thankfully, most kid’s lunch box designs include easy-clean elements.
For example, your lunch box or lunch bag may have a fabric exterior that helps keep food cold while also wiping it down very quickly. Even a Bento-style lunch box or a similar kids lunch box should clean reasonably well with a stainless steel design. You typically want a Bento-style lunch box or a traditional lunch box with a dishwasher-safe design to avoid most problems.
Storage Room and Sealing Elements
Your child’s storage container needs plenty of room to add water bottles, thermoses, food containers, and more. The exact volume that you use may vary depending on various situations. For example, some people may find that a smaller box makes sense for a child because they don’t have a big appetite or have a limited storage room at their daycare center.
Furthermore, you need to ensure that your child’s container includes things like snaps, zippers, buckles, and other closing elements that keep your box sealed properly. You may want to make sure the handle or strap works for their needs even more critically. A large box with plenty of volumes may not be a great choice if it lacks a handle and your child struggles to handle it at their daycare center.
Making a Wise Purchasing Choice
When examining these different lunch box options, you might feel overwhelmed. How do you pick from 10 excellent options like these?
We strongly suggest that you take the time to talk with your child and showcase these different boxes. Your kid will have opinions on which is right for them. For example, they may love a Bento design or prefer a bag with a handle or strap for easier hauling.
Others may want a hardier steel design that looks cool and keeps their food in a healthy state. However, it would be best if you always talked to the daycare center before making any lunch box purchases.
These professionals may have specific rules on what kind of boxes you can bring. For example, steel boxes may be off-limits because of the potential risk of injury that they might cause when handled poorly.
Beyond that, you also need to think ahead in your child’s life when picking one of these boxes. For example, will they like the simple and kiddie designs that some containers possess for their exterior decoration?
Or will they age out of it and find it a bit too “babyish.” Kids are funny like that, so make sure you understand your child’s taste and preferences before buying.
Hey, I’m Joey. I’ve been cooking since I was a little kid and love everything about it. You can find my writing about food, kitchen appliances (such as blenders) and much more. Thanks for stopping by!