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La Jolla Mom

How to Choose the Best Bento Lunch Box for Kids

Pros and cons of popular bento lunch boxes

BY La Jolla Mom
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Bento box lunches have a number of benefits. My daughter eats healthier food when it’s separated and more colorful. Bento lunches have triggered an interest in assembling her own lunches, which can take 15 minutes or less.

Buying the best kids bento lunch box helps immensely. I’ve created a list of ones we’ve owned or considered buying along with the pros and cons of each. This is an updated list for 2019 (I originally wrote this in 2012).

PlanetBox Rover

Note: If unavailable on Amazon, you can buy directly through PlanetBox.

This is the bento lunch box we’ve been using for the last several years. We chose the PlanetBox Rover because of its multiple compartments in addition to a small and larger separate container. We also preferred its sturdy stainless steel construction.

PlanetBox Shuttle is the smaller size. These bento lunch boxes are my top pick for convenience and sturdiness.

Pros: My daughter likes the simplicity of it. There are no excess containers (unless you pack the two small bowls with lids) and everything is simply placed into the slots. It’s an easy lunch box for kids to manage.

The entire stainless steel unit and its containers with lids can go in the top rack of the dishwasher. It’s easy to wipe clean because the compartments have rounded corners. PlanetBox also makes a leakproof drink container that we’ve so far been happy with.

Cons: The carrying bags could definitely be cuter. It is also the most expensive bento box on this list but you get what you pay for. The bento lunch box can come with magnets. You’re technically supposed to remove the magnets before washing which is a little bit of a pain. I’ve forgotten and ran them through the dishwasher several times, however, and they still stick.

Buy on Amazon

OmieBox Bento Box

OmieBox is a solution for younger kids who like warm meals like pasta in their school lunches. It offers a leak-proof Thermos insert in the middle for 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.

Buy on Amazon

Bentology Lunch Boxes

Formerly known as Laptop Lunches, Bentology lunch boxes are a great option if you don’t want to spring for a PlanetBox. I talked about it on a recent Fox 5 San Diego news segment.

Pros: This 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 just isn’t an option. The exterior carry bags come in a ton of really cute patterns. The kit is BPA-free.

Cons: The exterior container latch was difficult for my daughter to open when she was 3-4 years old. It requires a fluid in-up motion that was tough for her to master. Older kids and adults won’t have a problem. The containers lids are not dishwasher safe. We often misplaced the containers and/or lids.

If you choose Bentology, you will need to make absolutely sure that you pack a leak-proof drink container. I don’t really view this as a pro or con as it’s a must anyway. My daughter’s preschool cubby wasn’t tall enough for her lunch box to stand up straight. It often laid horizontally which meant so did the drink container.

Buy on Amazon

Pottery Barn Kids Spencer Bento Box Containers

The Pottery Barn Kids Spencer Bento Box Container (pictured above) slips into one of their adorable Fairfax Lunch Bags or Mackenzie Classic Lunch Bags. They also now have a stainless steel version.

Pros: The lunch bags 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 on the market. The bento boxes are dishwasher safe. It’s nice that there aren’t a bunch of little pieces to wash.

Cons: It’s not totally leakproof so you wouldn’t want to put yogurt or similar in the covered section.

Buy at Pottery Barn Kids

EasyLunchboxes

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 school lunches.

Pros: These are BPA free, gets good reviews, very lightweight and really inexpensive. It’s easy to store them stacked.

Cons: They’re not completely leak-proof, so liquids like berry juice can escape. You’re limited to three compartments and hungry kids might need more space.

Buy on Amazon

Kotobuki Panda

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 perfect for a snack at the park, but not big enough to serve as a lunch box for most kids. If your kids have a traditional lunch box,

Cons: It’s not secure enough to be thrown around in a backpack.

Buy on Amazon

Bentgo Lunch Box

The Bentgo lunch box is my top pick for preschoolers. It’s pretty easy to open and the portion sizes are about right.

Pros: Great for young kids because it’s easy for them to open and manage. It says ages 3-7 but I might lower the range a bit 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. The outer shell needs to be hand washed.

Buy on Amazon

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. However, 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.

Need Bento Lunch Gadgets?

These are some of my favorites.

Have a favorite bento lunch box or water bottle not listed here? Let us know in the comments!

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5 thoughts on “How to Choose the Best Bento Lunch Box for Kids

  1. Neat stuff! I’d love to see some photos of lunches, whether in muffin cups or in cute Bento boxes. These are great ideas that I’ll be ready to start trying next year when my daughter starts preschool!

    1. I’ve been collecting photos and will sort them into themes. Again, not fancy, but she eats more so I consider it a victory!

  2. Thanks for this post! Do you know if any of these lunch containers are safe for the bottom rack of the dishwasher? Our top racks fills up really quickly with four kiddos.

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