9 Lunch Boxes and Bags That Work Too Well to Be This Cute

published Aug 18, 2021
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Credit: SoYoung

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Maybe it’s because I’ve always been obsessed with handbags (see also: purses, totes, satchels, ALL the bags, essentially), but I get a certain pep in my step whenever I’m bag shopping for my kids. My son has three backpacks and he’s not even in Pre-K yet! With lunch bags, though, it’s mission critical to find one that’s both fashionable and functional. It’s less of a vanity play when you have a kid like mine who turns his tiny nose up at yogurt that’s not a perfect 35 degrees Fahrenheit at the point of consumption.

Whether you have a picky, I-like-one-thing-only eater or a noncommittal muncher who likes to graze on a bunch of bites, finding a way to make lunch fun for your munchkins starts with what it’s packed in. Have cute lunch boxes, will eat. 

So, as you’re diving into back-to-school shopping, keep this go-to guide for the coolest lunch boxes and bags handy. Not only do these options look good, they also keep food fresh — which can be the difference between a barely touched or picked-clean bag at the end of the day. I may or may not have ordered one of the Fluf Zipper “lunch” Bags for myself 🤫.

I actually own a SoYoung adult lunch bag and I have all the best things to say about it. So, I can only imagine that their kids’ editions are just as delightful! The llama is adorable on its own, but the bright hues atop a linen exterior is just undeniably chic. We also love that the box is machine washable and includes a removable insulated insert that makes daily cleaning a total breeze. 

Oh! And if you want a sleeker, less bulky ice pack to keep things cool inside, the brand also has no-sweat, nontoxic ice packs in matching prints … just sayin! 

If your toddler has been used to eating out of kid-friendly plateware (you know, the plates and trays with compartments that keep certain foods from touching each other? A major pet peeve for my little guy!) for years, this bento box style provides the perfect transition for on-the-go eating. Five differently sized compartments make it easy to meal plan with balance and food-pyramid-suggested fruit and veggie variety in mind. While my kiddos would love to see that large compartment chock-full of cheddar goldfish, as long as they’re somewhere in the sea of packed snacks, they can deal! 

Feel free to mix and match with the removable compartment tray (sold in three colors — purple, green, and blue). And with easy to open and close latches and leak-proof technology to boot, you can relax knowing your little foodies will be able to do it all themselves! 

*Just a caveat that if you have trouble finding an insulated bag that will fit the box, it’s best that it goes straight from your little’s backpack into the fridge. May even be more suitable for a day trip to grandma’s house than for school.   

Truth be told, we haven’t met a whimsical animal bag that we didn’t like — but there are ones worthy of going totally bananas over! Crafted from a sustainable foam textile free of lead, phthalates, or PVC, this blue monkey lunch bag is a great fit for preschoolers. It’s easy to hold, beyond-adorable to look at, and a perfect comfort item for preschoolers going to school for the first time.

If they’ll only be in school for a few days a week, the rest of the time this bag can be used to tote things around! 

The brand is iconic, truly, so if you had one as a kid (backpack or lunch bag, they’re made from the same tough packcloth), it might be time to share the magic with your minions! Keeping food fresh and drinks cold is what it does best, but the extra two inches you get with the optional expandable design is clutch for out-of-the-ordinary days and leftovers that need to live another day. Having extra goodies on hand for after-school extracurriculars is as easy as letting out the zipper and filling the main compartment with energy-boosting snacks.  

Want to pack light, because you know it’s their favorite hot lunch day at school? This might do the trick! There’s a fully insulated main zippered compartment just like what’s featured in the larger best-selling Rodgers bag, only it’s scaled down to a cute, compact size. Pop in a small juice box or kid’s size water bottle and their favorite palate cleanser (apple or banana slices, perhaps?). You can customize the mod, colorblocked design with up to three initials along the side, for extra personalization — and what’s more, for every STATE bag purchased, the brand supports American children and families in need, in the ways they need it most.  

Okay, so this is a pretty straightforward lunch box. It features a soft, insulated main snack compartment that easily wipes clean: no muss, no fuss. But the black asphalt design with neon chalk doodles is too cute — definitely something that any summer-mourning second grader could get down with come September! Peep the external woven name label on the back and have yours print their name right on the dotted line.

Ice packs are everything, but they’re also a pretty big pain in the butt, too. Can you find one that fits flush inside their bag or box? Have you run out of frozen ones with Friday’s lunch still left to plan for? All of these questions can be answered with one ingenious product. The secret to the PackIt is a special freezable gel built into the walls of the bag. All you do is store the entire bag in the freezer overnight. Once it’s frozen, the bag’s walls generate waves of cold air that chill your kids’ food and drinks from all sides — no ice packs needed. And before you worry that you’ll have to decide between keeping the ice cream carton or making room for the lunch box — don’t! It’s collapsible, so it folds up neatly in the freezer.   

Have a wiley-as-a-fox luncher at home? And, by that, I mean — have you ever had your toddler say that they ate their baby carrots, just to find said carrots floating in their water bottle when you’re cleaning all the contents out later on? #ISeeYou. All of their lunch items can be stowed securely in the roomy main pocket, and as safely as possible, too, because the bags are made with certified organic cotton and a tested food-safe, water-resistant lining. 

Biggest claim to fame with these? They don’t stink. Literally. You know that impossible-to-wipe-clean, funky lunch bag smell that immediately takes you back to elementary school? Well Fluf’s bags don’t come with that unpleasant throwback. Even if you forget to clean your kiddo’s lunch bag out over the weekend, all you need to do is rinse the lining in the sink with soap and water (it dries instantly) and then throw it into the washing machine.

And now we come full circle — back to my personal bag obsession (because this can totally pass for a Parisian-style mini bag). This new lunchbox from Rifle Paper Co., featuring the brand’s signature illustrated florals and gold zipper hardware, is delicious. If you have a teen who will just be starting high school in the fall, we’re pretty sure this purchase would qualify you for “Parent of the Year.” There’s even a mesh zipper pocket inside for a cooling ice pack, utensils, or to leave a love note for your favorite freshman — it’ll bring the smiles, even if it’s just this once …