The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - KIM COOK

A fun part of back-to-school shop­ping is the search for the per­fect lunch con­tainer.

This fall, there are lots of new de­signs for stu­dents old and young, with thought­ful de­tails and ad­dons meant to make lunchtime pleas­ant and palat­able.

Karen Cicero, con­tribut­ing edi­tor at Par­ents mag­a­zine, re­minds par­ents and care­givers to keep kids’ ages and grade lev­els in mind when shop­ping for lunch­boxes.

“If you have a preschooler or kinder­gartener, you’ll want a box that’s easy to open and close,” she says.

“For mid­dle school­ers, you want to make sure it’s large enough to hold their lunch, an ice pack, and snacks they’ll need for af­ter-school prac­tices.”

Also con­sider how easy the box is to clean, and whether it hooks on your child’s back­pack, “which is a good fea­ture so it doesn’t get lost or separated,” Cicero said.

Bento boxes are big among el­e­men­tary and mid­dle school kids, says Cicero. Pop­u­lar for years in Asia, bento boxes are made of plas­tic or steel fit­ted with var­i­ous-size com­part­ments. That sep­a­ra­tion keeps foods from be­com­ing a pile of crumbs or mush.

And with just one con­tainer to wash and re-use, there’s of­ten less waste. There are built-in bento con­tain­ers in many of this sea­son’s lunch­boxes.

Or Bentgo’s col­or­ful, leak-proof bento con­tain­ers come in sev­eral va­ri­eties. ( )

Other en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly op­tions in­clude Russbe’s sturdy, gus­seted re­us­able bags, which come in a bunch of de­signs and sizes. All have leak-re­sis­tant dou­ble­lock clo­sures; they’re al­ter­na­tives to plas­tic bags. (www.reu­ )

Cicero also likes Packit: The whole bag is lined with a gel ma­te­rial, so you can freeze it the night be­fore and food stays chilled all day. There’s a peppy buf­falo check, and a tie-dye pat­tern in the col­lec­tion. ( )

“What’s new is that you’ll see a lot of girls with tra­di­tional boy de­signs,” says Cicero. “Gen­der-neu­tral op­tions in­clude geo­met­ric pat­terns, stars and an­i­mals.”

Uni­corns are trend­ing strongly with girls, she says.

Zaz­ has a nice va­ri­ety; a lot fea­ture rain­bows, too. Tar­get has the Skip Hop Zoo uni­corn-shaped bag, and Gym­boree of­fers a uni­corn-printed box that clips to a match­ing back­pack. (www.tar­ ; www.gym­ )

Photo-printed lunch boxes and bags stand out from the crowd; some are even 3-D. (www.aliex­ )

For younger kids, di­nosaur, galaxy, mer­maid and cam­ou­flage pat­terns in glow-in-the-dark inks are pop­u­lar. Cicero also men­tions quin­tes­sen­tial favourites like su­per­heroes and sports themes. Nike has lunch-size ver­sions of its clas­sic duf­fel bag. ( )

For older boys, con­sider videogame ref­er­ences like Minecraft or Halo 5 lunch­boxes.

Li­censed char­ac­ters are peren­nial lunch­box favourites. This year, a Won­der Woman lunch­box picks up on the movie’s pop­u­lar­ity. And the front of a Star Wars Chew­bacca lunch­box is cov­ered in wash­able fake fur. (www.lunch­ )

Allison Spam­panato, se­nior vi­cepres­i­dent for prod­uct de­vel­op­ment at Pot­tery Barn Kids and PBTeen, is bet­ting on a few stylish de­signs: “Our Emily & Meritt gear fea­tures neon pink and over­size flo­rals, bring­ing two trends to­gether,” she says.

Other graphic stand­outs in that col­lec­tion: a chic, black-zip­pered lunch sack with the word MEOW in white type, and a bold, blackand-white-banded sack.

There’s also a shi­bori mo­tif. Larger-scale ging­ham and polka dots, and icons like sail­boats, bows and hearts are a fresh take on preppy. ( )

Preppy sail­boats dec­o­rate the Macken­zie water bot­tle. There’s a lunch bag and back­pack with the de­sign, too.

Bows and polka dots jazz up a pretty Emily & Meritt lunch bag.

This Emily & Meritt Neon Roses lunch sack com­bines fash­ion for­ward trends in a stylish lunch tote that would ap­peal to any age.


Forgo the plas­tic and foil wrap by stow­ing lunch treats in a wash­able stain­less steel bento box.

Glow-in-the-dark di­nos.

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