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Litterless Lunches: Top Picks for Elementary School Kids

Our family is finding that my son’s litterless lunch needs as a elementary school kid are vastly different than what my daughter, in grade 8, prefers. In my introductory post, I listed a slew of factors that play into what works or doesn’t work for any particular family’s litterless lunch needs.

For elementary school kids, my experience with both my son and daughter has been that:

  • Kids love “kits” with fun images, shapes, sizes, and bright colours
  • Cold lunches are the way to go, since food cannot be microwaved
  • They are provided with three breaks in the day when food can be eaten
  • They like to eat the same foods, day in and day out
  • Containers need to be easy to open for small hands that might not be very dexterous
  • Lids for containers can be easily lost, never to return home again
  • Many containers are not really spill-proof, as advertised

Now, having noted my own experience, I’ll also note my own bias for:

  • Dishwasher safe
  • Cute kits that are fun for kids (they’re only young once, right? :))

Okay, all set now? Enough with the preliminaries! Here are my top two picks for elementary school kids.

#1: BENTO SET, by Bentology

Bentology (formerly called Laptop Lunches) was an early entry into the litterless lunch game. Founded in 2001 by a California-based mom, its products were designed specifically for the elementary school kid. Since then, however, teens and adults are frequent users and the product variety allows for this age spread.

Full kits are also available that include the Bento Set (pictured below), an insulated lunch bag, and a stainless steel fork and spoon.

Bento Lunch Box

The Pros of the Bento Set:

  • Good price point: $22 at Terra20 (online or in-store)
  • Outer box and all inner boxes are dishwasher safe (but top rack only)
  • None of the products contain phthalates, bisphenols (BPA or BPS), lead, or PVC
  • Self-contained unit that limits chances for lids getting lost
  • If lids do get lost, replacement items can be bought separately
  • Bright, fun colours (and a variety of choices)
  • The inner boxes are sized such that they offer a great deal of versatility in what you can put in them (plus, you can leave some out, as shown in the photo below)
  • When Mom or Dad gets super-bored of packing lunches, you can change things up with some “creativity tools” such as dividers shaped like cupcake wrappers and toothpicks with dancing pandas on top

The Classic 6-piece Bento Set

The Cons of the Bento Set:

  • Younger children might find the outer box difficult to open, as well as the lids to the inner containers
  • The size (9 x 7 x 2.5 inches) is such that it might not fit in every lunch bag and my kids weren’t attracted to the available designs on the Bentology bags
  • There is a space for utensils, but Bentology utensils don’t come with the set
  • Plastic is better than disposable, but if you are anti-plastic, this kit isn’t for you (see the PlanetBox below instead)

#2: PLANETBOX, by 3rd Stone Design

This one is the latest rage and these kits are flying off the shelves at Terra20! The face of the company is a couple in California with two young girls, while the company behind PlanetBox is a product development firm that specializes in consumer and medical products and devices. Clearly, a great deal of design and testing went into the development of PlanetBoxes.

The one I’m recommending (pictured below) is a Rover set and is the middle size of three available size options. But it’s a very close call between it and the size up (called the Launch). Because of the PlanetBox’s unique shape, you really have no choice but to purchase a PlanetBox bag. This particular set comes with an insulated carrying case and magnets.

IMG_20150808_123733

The Pros of the PlanetBox:

  • Stainless steel, which means absolutely no leaching and no lingering odours
  • Dishwasher safe (top or bottom rack!)
  • 5-year guarantee
  • Almost lid-less design, which means no lids to lose
  • The design and look of the PlanetBox is a kid-magnet
  • Speaking of magnets, the kit comes with magnets to decorate the steel (see photo below of my son’s favourite magnets)
  • Stainless steel lasts forever, but if you need a replacement bag, you can buy the bag separately
  • Also very helpful is that you can buy a whole spectrum of magnets on their own, so this would allow you to change up the look to give each school year a fresh start or accommodate changing tastes as your kids age (you can even upload your own photos and design custom magnets!)

Features of PlanetBox lunch kit

The Cons of the PlanetBox:

  • High price point: this Rover kit is $60 at Terra20 (in-store only)
  • Does not include the cooler bag. Since the space for the cooler bag is a custom size, it would be nice if it was included in the set. It sells for $8.
  • Not a great deal of flexibility in terms of what you can fit in the compartments, and I’m not sure it would be enough food for every child (you can, however, upgrade to the Launch set at Terra20 for an extra $10)
  • If your child is a huge yogurt fan, I don’t think the dipper container here would suffice

So, there you have it — my top two litterless lunch picks for elementary school-aged kids. Are you surprised? What do you like or not like about these options?

Disclosure: Terra20 is remunerating me for the time spent to write these litterless lunch posts. I was not given any specific editorial direction nor any products, and I’m free to share my opinions–good, bad, and otherwise.

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Comments

  1. One of my students had the metal kit. Lovely EXCEPT when hot foods were put into that round container it was quite difficult to open sometimes. And I am a pro at opening things in lunch kits. But otherwise it was pretty awesome. I think she had the larger one.

  2. I really love the colourful boxes in the Bento Lunch Box. And the magnets are pretty cool in the PlanetBox! We are always looking for eco-friendly ideas in our home. :)

  3. Great breakdown. I have to say neither of those catch interest for me and my four children. The first one comes with so many little containers I would have to handwash them and that is now happening, LOL. The second one like you mentioned wouldn’t be big enough for the appetite my kids have. Looks like Glad is keeping my attention.

  4. Oh gosh, I LOVE that PlanetBox! Heck, I want one for myself, lol! The Bento Set would probably be much more my nephew’s speed for exploring what goodies his parents made him for lunch though. Can’t beat how colourful that set is either! :)

  5. SO tired of the million and one lids and containers that I have to wash every day. This year we are trying Sistema bins. There are so many option with this company and we bought a cube box that has dividers built in. One box to wash!

    • I really love Sistema too (watch for my upcoming teen choices picks :))! I looked long and hard at the cube box. I decided that it would require hand-washing. Let me know how your new system ends up working for you. (For myself, I want the Sistema salad bowl that comes with a spot of dressing and a built in fork!)

    • See that is what I didn’t want Brenda 16 little containers each day to wash. Sistema bins? I need to check them out. I have found much love in the reusable sandwich bags. I just throw them in the wash and they are not flooding my kitchen.

      • With 4 kids, I need to take your advice and look more closely at the reusable sandwich bags. I bet they would save SO much storage space in my lunch drawer. Do you wash them in the dishwasher or the washing machine?

  6. Bento boxes are SO the way to go! My kids love using theirs. They think opening all the separate containers is super fun. I like that they don’t create any litter and they are easy to fill and clean.

  7. Jacqueline says:

    I see my boys loosing all the components to the bento box on week 1. I love the plantex box but not the price. And I find with theses things u have to buy a certain type of lunchbox. I know in JK and SK the kids need to separate their lunches afternoon / morning…..how would that work. Guess I am just not in live with being bound by a fixed lunch kit – I would always be trying to fill all the little containers!:)

  8. So funny – I was JUST scouring the net for good bento boxes for my little preschooler. It’s like you read my mind! :) I am nutso about the Planetbox (whoohoo – now I know what it’s called and where to find it – thank you!). The magnets are definitely a bonus. But I love that she won’t have to worry about individual lids and I can get long term use out of this just by changing the magnet themes. I like the bento set box too as it can separate the food especially since my little one is a yoghurt fan. But I think we can work around that – especially since we put her yogurt right next to the ice pack in a separate section of her lunchbag anyway. Thanks for posting.

    • Great; so glad that this run-down was helpful for you!! Out of all the choices available for younger kids, these were my top two picks. (I shared the pros and cons to help people make the best choice for their needs.)

  9. Our bento lunchbox is a must have in our family! It makes packing lunch so much easier and I love knowing that we’re not creating garbage everyday at lunchtime.

  10. Love this post!! I’m thrilled that you guided me through this litterless lunch dilemma. I had no idea what my options were or where to get them. I got the planet box rover at terra20 and I’m seriously looking forward to making lunches with it! Love having one thing to throw in the dishwasher and Chloe loves the kit and magnets. We’re suckers for pretty things and convenience!
    Thanks Julie!

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed our Terra20 outing! I always love going there and wandering around. And I’m totally with you — something cute and pretty sure helps make a boring chore for Mom less so! :)

  11. I like the ones that give you multiple uses. The set configuration lunch boxes work if you are only serving the same things over and over.

    • Well, I think there is quite a bit a variety that you can do. But my experience is that younger kids do tend to like the same types of food over and over again (unlike older kids and adults). But for sure, not everyone likes the “kits” format.

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