COOL, CREATIVE AND EASY-TO-CARE-FOR LUNCHBOXES
Afun part of back-to-school shopping is the search for the perfect lunch container. Should it be square with a zip, with space for lots of tasty items? A smart little purse-like affair? A sack? And what about the pattern? When you’re going to be spending every lunch hour with it, it’s important to get it right. This fall, there are lots of new designs for students old and young, with thoughtful details and add-ons meant to make lunchtime pleasant and palatable.
Form and function
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. Many lunch-kit collections can be coordinated with backpacks, water bottles, and hot or cold insulated containers.
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.
No more zippered baggies, plastic wrap or foil to pollute the environment. There are built-in bento containers in many of this season’s lunchboxes. Or Bentgo’s colorful, leakproof bento containers come in several varieties, including an insulated bowl with a siliconelined snap lid and its own fork and spoon.
Ditch the disposables
Other environmentally friendly options include Russbe’s sturdy, gusseted reusable bags, which come in a bunch of designs and sizes. All have leak-resistant double-lock closures; they’re alternatives to plastic bags. 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. “Our school has a zero-waste policy, so we try to pack most food in a thermos or containers. Snap lids are easiest for the kids to open,” says Toronto mom Amy Tse.
Kristy Lucenti of Brooklin, Ontario, says her young son picked out a PBKids’ car-themed lunchbox that matches his backpack. “I found a set of Rubbermaid containers that fit nicely in his lunch bag,” she says. “His school is strict on zero waste, so the containers are very convenient.” She puts morning and afternoon snacks in the smaller containers and his lunch in the big one.
“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. Zazzle.com 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.
Other popular patterns? Cute cats and fun food
Pottery Barn Kids has a lunch sack shaped like a kitten’s face; it wouldn’t look out of place on a 20-something’s office desk.
Photo-printed lunch boxes and bags stand out from the crowd; some are even 3-D. For younger kids, dinosaur, galaxy, mermaid and camouflage patterns in glow-in-the-dark inks are popular. Cicero also mentions quintessential favorites like superheroes and sports themes. Nike has lunch-size versions of its classic duffel bag.
Crocodile Creek has designs with jungle, robot and backyard animal themes. And Hanna Andersson offers soft lunchboxes in whimsical designs including a galaxy and spaceship, fluttery butterflies, race cars, and smiling suns with rainbows. For older boys, consider video-game references like Minecraft or Halo 5 lunchboxes. Licensed characters are perennial lunchbox favorites. 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.
Allison Spampanato, senior vice president 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, black-and-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. — AP
This photo shows bows and polka dots that jazz up a pretty Emily & Meritt lunch bag from Pottery Barn Kids. — AP photos This photo shows a Emily & Meritt Neon Roses lunch sack from Pottery Barn Teen that combines fashion forward trends in a stylish lunch tote that would appeal to any age.
This photo shows steel bento boxes.
This photo shows glow-in-the-dark dinos that make for a fun lunch box from Pottery Barn Kids.