Whether kids are returning to school or starting for the first time, the best bit about a new term has to be choosing your school bag, pencil case, lunch box and other essentials.
Playground paraphernalia is big business nowadays with stationery shops, online stores and even your local supermarkets cashing in on the action.
A school backpack is very much a personal choice, from selecting a more petite companion to carry your favourite toy, drinks bottle and lunchbox at nursery or reception, to a carrier that can bolster books galore and even a laptop for senior school.
While they’ll want something that looks stylish at the school gates, it’s important not to overlook comfort, especially when they reach big school. The straps need to feel sturdy and strong, and the bag needs to fit comfortably on your back.
Many have additional chest straps which is particularly handy when copious coursework and a walk home is on the cards. And of course it needs to fit all their school particulars, so make sure it’s big enough for the job, but not too oversized that it swamps the child!
In our search for the perfect backpacks, we also took into account helpful extras like hidden compartments for pens, pencils and so on, water bottle holders and handy built-in name tags.
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Trixie mini backpack
The brand creates products of kids’ dreams by capturing their wonderful imaginations, and this is well demonstrated in the utterly adorable Mr Lion mini backpack. Our four-year-old tester couldn’t wait to fill it with her favourite toys and try it on. Not only does it look good, Trixie only uses organic cotton and carefully thought out manufacturing, to be as kind to the planet as possible. The organic cotton has been coated to make it water repellent too – and if things get really messy simply pop in the washing machine. The simple drawstring and Velcro closing means it’s easy for young ones to use independently and it looks so cool resting on the back of a young explorer. There’s also a larger version for slightly older kids.
Jem + Bea kids eco backpack in khaki
The cutest monster we ever did see, say hello to this mini backpack from changing bag experts Jem + Bea. Modelled on its popular “Jamie silhouette” changing bag, this compact version is sustainably crafted in a regenerated nylon – Econyl – created from disused fishing nets and ghost nets lost at sea. It’s the perfect size for nursery goers, or those in early year education and we love the contrast colouring of the adjustable straps. The craftsmanship of this little backpack is one of the best we tested.
Hype cloud fade backpack
If there’s one bag company that’s flooding the corridors of senior schools, it’s Hype. A self-funded business that made its route in 2011 after winning a T-shirt competition, the brand’s collection of bags make a cool choice for men, women and even the youngest of the tribe. With hundreds of designs, the hardest part is settling for just one – we love the purple pom pom and travel inspired cloud design on this style. Fitting 18L, it’s perfect for older kids, or if you want something smaller there’s a mini 4L version.
Smiggle block backpack
Australian based Smiggle – amalgamation of smile of giggle for those of you who wondered – is a catalyst in the kids’ stationery and accessory world, making it big in bag to school merchandise. They’ll be making a bold return to the classroom with this backpack, adorned with metallic leopard print detailing on the front and straps. You’ll find three zipped compartments for all their bits and bobs; plus the main compartment comes with a double zip for easy access. Unzip to find an internal name label, which our tester was proud to sign. The bag also comes with a built-in drink bottle sleeve, nicely padded adjustable shoulder straps and carry handle.
Sophie Allport space kids backpack
Mini space enthusiasts will reach new heights with this rocket-shaped backpack by Sophie Allport. Complete with flame and rocket fins, the detailing in this makes it a fun option for young ones. It’s also made from a durable wipe-clean material which is useful when mucky explorers go on intergalactic adventures.
Santa Cruz classic strip backpack
Fitting 17L, this sturdy backpack from skating brand Santa Cruz is a smart choice for senior school. With an internal pocket and separate section for a laptop or books, plus a concealed pocket at the front, school paraphernalia has space aplenty, and the chunky padded straps and additional back support cushioning will help them to carry the load. Reflective taping has also been cleverly added to the design and the logo.
My 1st Years personalised heart print infant backpack
We simply love My 1st Year’s free personalisation service and this infant backpack is sure to put a spring in your little one’s step. Perfect for kids aged three plus to around five years, there’s adjustable padded shoulder straps, two compartments and a hook to easily peg away. Simply add their name (up to nine characters) and you’ve got your own bespoke bag for nursery.
Liewood Allan backpack in confetti mix
Danish brand Liewood continues to make the coolest designed pieces for kids, and this is true of its collection of Allan backpacks. The ideal size for kids aged four to seven, the straps can be adjusted and there’s an additional chest strap to distribute the weight. Made from 100 per cent recycled polyester, we just love the Nordic design and feel of this backpack. For younger ones there’s also a “Saxo” line which offers smaller versions.
M&S kids’ dog water repellent school backpack
Puppy lovers will go barking mad for this backpack from M&S. It has everything your school student needs; extra compartments inside for stationery and other items, a water bottle holder; name tag, plus additional padding in the adjustable straps and back panel alongside an adjustable chest strap to ensure a comfortable carry. It’s also been designed with a water repellent finish to help keep the contents dry.
Skip Hop zoo pack bee
Putting the buzz into back to school is this cute backpack from Skip Hop, a brand known for its adorable animal adorned bags and lunchboxes. Perfect for early years when homework is less demanding, there’s an insulated front pouch, a mesh side pocket which is perfect for a water bottle and an easy to clean lining. We just love the friendly face which will have kids skipping to the school gate.
The verdict: school backpacks
We fell in love with Trixie’s adorable range of kids’ bags and the Mr Lion mini backpack has become our four-year-old testers new best friend – it’s comfy, cool and perfect for early years. We were also big fans of Jem + Bea’s venture into kids’ bags with the eco backpack, garnering green points for being a great sustainable choice. But for older kids, Santa Cruz’s classic backpack will make carrying books and beyond a doddle.
For more back to school reviews, read our round-up of the best kids' school shoes
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