11 Bento Boxes That Make Packing School Lunch the Easiest Thing You’ll Do All Day

published Aug 8, 2022
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Austin co silicone bento boxes in pastel colors from anthropologie
Credit: Anthropologie

Mere weeks into last school year, my daughter seemed to lose all interest in lunch. Every afternoon, I’d tip her lunchbox into the kitchen trash can, a trail of barely touched food sailing into the bag below. In her defense, lunch had gotten routine at best—the same old sandwich and cut veggies her dad packed every morning. No wonder she wasn’t digging in with gusto; I’m yawning just thinking about it. 

This year, however, we’re determined to do a bit better in the lunch department, and we’re relying on a bento box to keep things interesting. A centuries-old staple in Japan, a bento box makes transporting a single-serving of a full meal as easy as can be. For our purposes, think of a bento box as a glorified lunchbox, often with compartments to encourage variety and keep foods separate. 

While some bento boxes (specifically those called kyaraben) contain Pinterest-worthy creations, whipping rice into adorable cats and sausages into octopuses, a bento lunch can be incredibly easy. Fill the compartments with whatever items you have on-hand and voila, your little one has plenty of options to choose from. 

To get you started on your bento journey, we have 11 boxes your kids will love.

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Takenaka has been churning out bento boxes in Japan since 1925, so you can trust that the company knows how to craft a quality product. This colorful box is made sustainably from recycled plastics and 1% of each purchase is donated to charity. With two tiers, this box has some built-in flexibility (you can use them together or individually). It’s also leak-proof and suitable for use in the microwave, dishwasher, and freezer. Best of all, the Takenaka box is odor-resistant, so no lingering smells will put your little one off their lunch.

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Bento & Co

When it comes to the Kao Neko Bento, let’s start with the biggest lure: it’s shaped like a winsome kitten. Made in Japan, this bento box features two removal dividers to keep foods separate, and a lunch band to make sure it all stays put. Microwavable plastic makes this super kid-friendly. This box is on the smaller side, making it perfect for younger kids.

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If you’re the type who is moving away from plastics in the kitchen, consider this dishwasher-safe stainless steel bento from Lunchbots. A plastic snap-on lid adds a dose of color, though the company says it won’t come in contact with your food. It offers five equally sized compartments, making this box a perfect pick for days when lunch looks like a bunch of delicious snacks. And honestly, who can resist that?

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With monbento, kids can choose from five colors and a host of cute interchangeable tokens to further personalize their lunchbox. Featuring two tiers and three compartments, this dishwasher-safe option offers plenty of space to pack up a variety of foods. The box itself is made from BPA-free durable plastic, and the lid features a silicone seal to ensure nothing ever leaks through. Especially great for younger kids, monbento’s boxes have easy-to-use latches to keep lunchtime frustration-free.

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Looking for a plastic-free alternative that’s easier to transport than stainless steel? Enter the 100% food grade silicone bento box. This lightweight option from Austin Baby Collection has a sweet retro feel, with nine watercolor designs to choose from. It’s leak- and- spill-proof, microwave-safe, and BPA- and- PVC-free. The large compartment fits a standard-sized sandwich, cut in half, and each section is individually sealed to prevent any leakage within the box itself—a must for any kid who can’t have their foods touch!

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This is the top pick of Cubby writer Stephanie Ganz, who writes in this post that her kids love this lunchbox so much, they pack their own lunches just to get a chance to fill it up. Yumboxes come in 3- to 6-compartment sizes, and consist of a stainless steel tray inside a BPA-free plastic container. She writes: "The kids love their Yumboxes because they have bright cheery designs (one has a ballet theme, and one is decked out in space stuff), but they also seem to appreciate how easy they are to pack. There’s a set space limit and number of compartments that takes the guesswork out of the process."

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Another Cubby fave, the Rover is a must-have, according to Cubby writer Beth Shea. As she says: "One of the many genius design elements about the Rover is that it’s all one piece. Say goodbye to wasteful plastic bags, multiple storage containers and lids to wash and keep track of, and difficulty opening each packed item. With the Rover, you simply lift the small latch to release the lid, and all the food is at your kids’ fingertips. It’s also dishwasher safe, and made of stainless steel that contains no lead, PVC, phthalates or BPA."

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If your child has ever had a slippery lunchbox sail right off the cafeteria table, then this pick is for you. Made from durable and dishwasher-safe stainless steel, this bento box has a skid-proof silicone sleeve to ensure your kid’s lunch stays just where it needs to—on the table. It’s designed to be easy to open and odor resistant. Another plus? This box includes a small and sealable container for dips and sauces.

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Leave it to a mom to design a bento box that solves one of the biggest school lunch problems: how to safely store both hot and cool foods in a locker. The OmieBox features four compartments for cool or room-temperature foods and a vacuum insulated thermos that keeps foods like soups or mac and cheese warm for up to six hours. Available in six bright colors, the OmieBox also makes use of big handles and latches for easy-opening.

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Pottery Barn Kids

Proving glitter makes everything more fun, this bento box from Pottery Barn has more than just its aesthetics going for it. Crafted from BPA-free recycled plastic, this one has four compartments for a well-rounded lunch. Especially valuable for older kids who need a larger meal, the gold glitter bento box is taller than most options, making packing a full and unsmashed sandwich a cinch.

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Take the guesswork out of back-to-school shopping with a lunch set that has it all: a durable plastic bento box with five lidded containers, an ice pack, and an insulated lunch tote. Best yet, this versatile set gives you some packing options, as you can use the bento box nestled inside the lunch tote—or use the tote on its own.

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