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.
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 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.
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!)
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.