Bento box lunches have a number of benefits. My daughter eats healthier food when it’s separated and more colorful. She’s become more interested in assembling her own lunches. Bento lunches can take 15 minutes or less to assemble. And, I’ve been able to put my random Japanese dollar store finds to good use.
However, 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, if known. This is an updated list (I originally wrote this in 2012).
This is the bento lunch box we’re using now and it has so far survived a year’s worth of use. We chose the PlanetBox Rover because it had the most compartments in addition to a small and larger separate container. PlanetBox Shuttle is a smaller size. This is my top pick for convenience.
Pros: My daughter likes the simplicity of it. There are no excess containers and everything is simply placed into the predesignated slots. The entire stainless steel unit and containers can go in the top rack of the dishwasher. It’s really, really easy to clean because the compartments have rounded corners. PlanetBox also makes a leakproof drink container that we’ve so far been happy with.
Cons: The exterior bags could definitely be cuter. It is also the most expensive bento box on this list ($79 for the pictured kit) but you get what you pay for. The lunch can come with magnets and you’re technically supposed to take them off before washing which is a little bit of a pain. I’ve forgotten several times though and they still stick.
Bentology Lunch Boxes
Pros: This lunch box has 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… it’s probably 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.
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.
Pros: The lunch boxes are the same material as matching backpacks, water bottles and even luggage. They are by far the cutest on the market. The bento box is dishwasher safe. It is one container so there aren’t a bunch of little pieces to wash.
Cons: You’re limited to three sections, but you could divide them with other bento accessories (see bottom of this post). It’s not totally leakproof so you wouldn’t want to put yogurt or anything in the covered section.
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.
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.
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.
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, S’well water bottles are all the rage with the tween set at the moment. 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!