The Independent's journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission. Why trust us?

14 best kids’ lunchboxes to see your little ones through the school year

Bento boxes, flasks, wraps and double-decker designs trump those from The Apprentice

Katie Gregory
Wednesday 07 June 2023 14:07 BST
<p>Our school-age testers ranked their containers for style, based on how jealous their friends were</p>

Our school-age testers ranked their containers for style, based on how jealous their friends were

Our Top Picks

As if packing the perfect packed lunch wasn’t hard enough, ensuring it is contained in a lunch box that’s up to the job is a whole other task.

Thankfully, the humble lunch box is available in a variety of different designs and styles, so as to cater to every (child’s) need.

There are two-tier lunch boxes to separate snacks from lunches – or sweet from savoury – while insulated options are ideal for hot foods, and cool bags will keep culinary creations perfectly chilled.

If you’re looking for a lunch box for your child to take to school, one thing to consider is portability. Preschool and reception-age kids will need something that’s small enough to carry independently but still big enough to accommodate their sarnies. Meanwhile, older kids will have stronger opinions on design and might need a larger lunch box that incorporates a drinks-bottle holder.

A bento box can be a helpful way of cutting down on packaging – particularly for younger kids. These Japanese-inspired boxes have lots of small compartments to separate food, so they’re good for snacks as well as lunches. If you’re planning to send your child to school with hot food, consider an insulated food flask. Some lunch boxes even combine the two, with extras such as removable compartments, accessories and cutlery.

Finally, there are some seriously clever sustainable lunch box options to consider, from reusable eco wraps to bags and boxes made from recycled materials. Whatever you choose, make sure the size of your lunch box is sufficient. Nothing ruins an afternoon at school faster than finding your Babybel embedded in your banana – except double maths.

If what we’ve just said sounds a tad overwhelming, fear not, as we’ve done the hard work for you and rounded up the best lunchboxes your little ones will proudly take to school.

How we tested

We looked at a range of lunch boxes to find the ones that prevented our food from turning into a sweaty, soggy mess by mealtime. We tested options for hot and cold food – making sure everything stayed at the right temperature from 7am to 1pm as a minimum – and tried out standard lunch boxes as well as bento boxes and flasks.

To narrow down our list of favourites, we factored in price and durability, and awarded bonus points for sustainability. Finally, our school-age testers had the last word when it came to design and style. Or in their words: “How jealous our friends will be.”

The best kids’ lunch boxes for 2023 are:

  • Best overall – Smiggle better together double-decker lunch box: £9.60, Smiggle.co.uk
  • Best for toddlers – Munchkin kids’ lunch bento box: £22.99, Munchkin.co.uk
  • Best for dinosaur-lovers – Joules munch lunch bag: £4.95, Joules.com
  • Best for everyday use – Mountain Warehouse printed lunch bag: £7.99, Mountainwarehouse.com
  • Best for hot lunches – Rachel Ellen x Thermos funtainer food flash: £15, Thermos.co.uk

Smiggle better together double-decker lunch box

Smiggle Better Together Double Decker Lunchbox.png
  • Best: Overall
  • Dimensions: W 24.5cm x H 15cm x D 15.5cm
  • Number of compartments: 2
  • Insulation: Yes, padded insulated lining

Smiggle’s new Better Together collection includes so many lovely lunch options – from bento boxes to drinks bottles – we found it tricky to pick our favourite. This double-decker lunch box won in the end though – in part due to the colourful yet cool design, but also because the two-tier feature works brilliantly.

The smaller compartment at the top is good for separating morning snacks from lunch, but also works for keeping sweet and savoury separate, or for adding bits and bobs, such as cutlery and napkins. The bigger section at the bottom is roomy enough for all your kid’s lunch, including a small bottle or carton, if you want to squeeze a drink in too. It is fairly bulky, and kids will probably need to carry it separately to their schoolbag. But when your lunch box looks this good, you’re hardly going to hide it away.

  1. £9 from Smiggle.co.uk
Prices may vary
Back to top

Munchkin kids’ lunch bento box

Munchkin Kid's Lunch™ Bento Box.png
  • Best: For toddlers
  • Dimensions: W 21cm x L 21.8cm x D 7cm
  • Number of compartments: 5
  • Insulation: No

This bento-style lunch box is designed for kids aged 18 months and up, and has lots of extra features for young children. For example, it comes complete with a tiny stainless-steel spoon and fork that snap into the lid for safe-keeping, as well as a carry handle – a feature most bento boxes don’t have. Size-wise, it has five different compartments, including one that’s big enough for a sandwich and one that just about fits a carton of juice, although we tended to use ours for long items, such as Frubes and cheese strings. The remaining compartments are just right for loose fruit and nibbles, and you can wash the whole thing on the top shelf of the dishwasher – including the removable silicone insert in the lid.

Back to top

Joules munch lunch bag

Joules Munch Lunch Bag.png
  • Best: For dinosaur-lovers
  • Dimensions: W 18cm x H 19cm x D 10cm
  • Number of compartments: 1
  • Insulation: Yes

We like the generous depth of this square lunch box from Joules – you can easily fit various individual pots inside, alongside other bits and bobs, without it being too much of a squeeze. It’s insulated too, and kept our contents cool from breakfast to lunch with the help of a cold pack. It wipes clean well, and the label on the base might keep it out of lost property, if you’re lucky. Our youngest tester particularly liked the dinosaur design, especially as Joules has a matching drawstring bag that’s perfect for PE.

Back to top

Mountain Warehouse printed lunch bag

Mountain Warehouse Printed Lunch Bag.png
  • Best: For everyday use
  • Dimensions: W 19cm x H 19cm x D 13cm
  • Number of compartments: 1
  • Insulation: Yes

This insulated lunch bag from Mountain Warehouse comes in two designs – candy pink with unicorns and rainbows, and navy blue with a colourful dinosaur print. In the current sale, it’s a bargain price, and it’s not bad at full price (£11.99) either. We like the compact square shape that squashes down for storage, and the addition of an adjustable shoulder strap as well as a grab handle. You can detach the long strap if you don’t want it dangling around, but our little tester kept it on and ended up using it as a lunch bag and a handbag.

Back to top

Rachel Ellen x Thermos funtainer food flash

Rachel Ellen X Thermos Funtainer Food Flask.png
  • Best: For hot lunches
  • Dimensions: W 9cm x H 12cm x L 9cm
  • Number of compartments: 1 (290ml capacity)
  • Insulation: Yes, thermos vacuum insulation technology

Thermos has teamed up with designer and illustrator Rachel Ellen to launch a new range of lunch boxes, food flasks and drinks bottles covered in playful doodles. We particularly like the stainless-steel funtainer food flask, which uses Thermos’ vacuum insulation technology. It promises to keep hot food hot for five hours (while still feeling cold to the touch on the outside), and cold foods chilled for seven hours – we’re pleased to say it lived up to those stats during testing. With a 290ml capacity, this flask is just enough for a primary school child’s-size portion of hot porridge or soup, and the wide mouth means you can fill it up – and clean it – really easily.

Back to top

Hype gradient pastel animal print lunch box

Hype Gradient Pastel Animal Print lunch box.png
  • Best: For animal style
  • Dimensions: W 18.5cm x H 21cm x D 10.5cm
  • Number of compartments: 3
  • Insulation: Yes, thermal lining

Hype’s 2022 back-to-school collection includes a long list of super-cool lunch boxes, and this one was our pre-teen tester’s pick of the bunch. Why? We’d like to say it was handy features such as the thermal lining, netted drinks bottle holder, and zippered front pocket – which is perfect for lunch money or top-up cards. However, in reality, it was the all-over animal print, embroidered patch-style Hype logo, and that all-important neon pom-pom that sealed the deal.

Back to top

Omiebox bento box

Omiebox Bento Box.png
  • Best: For hot and cold lunches
  • Dimensions: W 21.6cm x L 19.05cm x D 9.65cm
  • Number of compartments: 3 to 5 (can remove orange shaft to create one compartment and remove bowl to carry separately)
  • Insulation: Yes, double walled stainless-steel bowl with vacuum insulation technology

Want to carry hot and cold food in one lunch box? This bento box-style lunch box has three different interior compartments – one of which holds an insulated stainless-steel bowl. Fill it with whatever hot food you fancy, screw on the lid, and the contents stay hot – and won’t spill all over the other compartments. The bowl is removable, so you can carry it separately – creating more room for extra grub inside the box. This one lost points for price, which we felt was a little high, although, it’s so robust, you’ll get years of use out of it.

Back to top

Packit freezable and foldable lunch food cooling bag

Packit Freezable and Foldable Lunch Food Cooling Bag.png
  • Best: For keeping food chilled
  • Dimensions: W 20.98cm x H 25.98cm x D 11.99cm
  • Number of compartments: 1
  • Insulation: Yes, gel lining

This clever lunch bag doubles up as an ice pack, thanks to a gel lining that keeps everything cool inside. Just fold the bag flat and leave it in the freezer, then take it out when it’s ready to fill with lunch. We found our food was still lovely and cold well beyond lunchtime, and it’s roomy enough to fit a drink or a small bento box, too. The carry handle at the top unclips, so you can attach it to the back of a buggy or a rucksack. The gel lining does make it quite heavy, even before it’s got any food inside, so it’s potentially best for older kids. Packit also does a freezable wine bag for grown-ups.

  1. £28 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
Back to top

Cotswold Eco reusable and washable children’s sandwich and snack wrap

Cotswold Eco Reusable & Washable Children's Sandwich & Snack Wrap.png
  • Best: For wrapping sandwiches
  • Dimensions: Unspecified
  • Number of compartments: 2
  • Insulation: No

When you’re just packing sandwiches – or you want to keep sarnies separate from everything else without using loads of foil or cling film – these clever reusable sandwich bags are just the ticket. Handmade from cotton, they’re big enough to wrap around a full-size sandwich or roll, before sealing with the Velcro fastening. We wiped ours clean with each use and popped it in the wash to give it a full freshen-up after more fragrant sandwich fillings. The patterns could do with an update, as our primary school testers deemed them too babyish, but, for younger kids, these are fantastic – and Cotswold Eco stocks a range for grown-ups, too.

Unfortunately, the space design is currently sold out but Cotswold Eco sells this exact same sandwich and snack wrap in an adorable safari and farm print, too.

Back to top

Hip clutch

HipClutch.png
  • Best: For salad on the go
  • Dimensions: W 20cm x H 24cm x D 7cm
  • Number of compartments: 3 (for salad, dressing pot and cutlery)
  • Insulation: No

This clever circular lunch box is ideal for older kids and adults, and we found it worked brilliantly for salads. The all-in-one set comes with cutlery – including chopsticks – a little pot for dressings and sauces, and a leak-proof bowl that’s big enough for adult portions. We even managed to squeeze in some salt and pepper sachets in the cutlery holder built into the lid, and everything packs together into one neat clutch. Besides the clever design, the Hip clutch is made from 100 per cent ocean-bound plastic – 275 plastic bottles for each one, to be precise – and is also completely recyclable. The whole lot goes into the dishwasher, too, so there really is an awful lot to love about it.

  1. £20 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
Back to top

Huski Home multi-compartment reusable lunch box

Huski Home Multi-compartment reusable lunch box.png
  • Best: For sustainability
  • Dimensions: W 15cm x L 15cm x D 9cm
  • Number of compartments: 2
  • Insulation: No

This compact lunch box is made from discarded rice husks, which pose a potential biohazard risk when not repurposed or disposed of properly. Recycling them creates a non-toxic, melamine-free, and BPA-free material that’s eco-friendly and sustainable, and also happens to work really well when it’s crafted into a lunch box. We used ours with hot and cold food and found it worked brilliantly, particularly as it has two compartments to keep food separated. The top compartment is fairly small, while the bottom one is big enough for a conservative adult portion. Our teenage tester voted this her favourite lunch box of all, although young children may struggle with the fastening on the lid.

This beautiful duck egg blue has sadly sold out but Huski has a range of other colours such as lilac, dusty pink, pistachio and ‘obsidian’ black.

Back to top

Smash Heros clip top bag

Smash Heros Clip Top Bag.png
  • Best: For tiny superheroes
  • Dimensions: W 20cm x H 25.5cm x D 15cm
  • Number of compartments: 1
  • Insulation: Yes, thermal insulation

This top-opening lunch bag is sure to turn heads in the dining hall. Royal blue with a giant sequin lightning bolt, it’s finished with a clip fastening at the front and a bright-yellow handle covered with the word ‘pow’ at the top. Fully insulated and finished with an antibacterial lining, it’s nice and roomy inside and tall enough to carry an upright bottle. All features aside, our little tester was most enamoured with the shiny gold lightning bolt. Our only gripe was that, although the sequins are reversible, they’re too tight for tiny fingers to flip.

  1. £3 from Argos.co.uk
Prices may vary
Back to top

Primus preppen vacuum jug

primus vacuum jug lunch box kids best 2023
  • Best: For hungry teens
  • Dimensions: H 14cm
  • Number of compartments: 1 (0.7l capacity)
  • Insulation: Yes, vacuum insulated double-walled stainless-steel container

We searched for a food flask big enough for older kids and teens, and the preppen vacuum jug ticked all the boxes. It’s got a generous 0.7l capacity, which we found plenty big enough for a hungry grown-up, and the double-walled stainless-steel container kept our hot food hot from morning all the way to dinner time. We were happy to discover it didn’t seem to hold on to any flavours – even a particularly garlicky pasta dish – which is often the downfall of hot food containers. The flask has a wide opening that’s easy to eat from, fill up and clean, and it looks rather lovely to boot.

Back to top

Fjällräven kånken mini cooler

Fjallraven Kånken Mini Cooler.png
  • Best: For label-lovers
  • Dimensions: W 20.5cm x H 26cm x D 9cm
  • Number of compartments: 1
  • Insulation: Yes, foam padding

For older kids who love Fjällräven’s range of kånken backpacks – and there are plenty of them – the kånken mini cooler is a must. This super simple cool bag keeps cold food chilled, and hot food warm, and fits in a kånken mini, or sideways in a regular kånken. We initially baulked at the price tag, and while the quality does feel superior to the other cool bags we tested, there’s no denying it’s a lot of money for a lunch box. That said, it’s built to last, does the job of retaining temperatures brilliantly, and – like everything Fjällräven creates – it looks oh-so stylish.

Back to top

The verdict: Kids’ lunch boxes

Top marks went to Smiggle’s better together lunch box, which won for its handy double-decker design and overall playground appeal. The Primus preppen vacuum jug should be your go-to for older kids, who can use it to tote proper meals to school or university. And special mention goes to the Smash Heros clip top bag, which is so cute it’s worthy of even the hungriest superheroes.

During the school holiday, keep your kids entertained no matter the journey with the best travel toys

Voucher Codes

TUI Discount Code
£100 off all bookings over £1000 - TUI discount code
ASOS Discount Code
20% off everything with this ASOS app discount code
Travelodge Discount Code
5% off all bookings with this Travelodge discount code
The Body Shop Discount Code
20% off everything with The Body Shop discount code
The Perfume Shop Discount Code
15% of all orders with The Perfume Shop birthday discount
Cult Beauty Discount Code
Up to 20% off all orders over £40 - Cult Beauty discount code

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in