Bento boxes are a common sight in Japanese classrooms. On a superficial level Japanese school lunches might not seem all that different from the average American schoolroom. After all, a lunchbox and a bento box are containers kids use to carry their lunch to school. However, bento boxes have been catching on in the west over the past few decades for good reason. There’s enough benefits to bento boxes to make the switch worth it for any parent.
Benefits of Using Bento Lunch Boxes for Kids
One of the most significant benefits of a bento box comes from its organization. Most bento boxes differ from each other in small but notable ways. Bento boxes are typically designed around the idea of a well balanced meal. Parents traditionally plan a child’s lunch around single servings of carbs, proteins, fruits and vegetables. This type of organization ensures that children have a wide selection of foods for every meal. In turn, it also helps promote a healthy mix of the nutrients that growing children need. Especially creative parents often let their artistic side shine by putting additional emphasis on visual appeal.
In Japan people often complement perfectly laid out bento boxes as being nearly too pretty to eat. Bento boxes traditionally lend themselves to designs which help nourish both the mind and body. The end result is vastly different than the typical western lunch box which usually just contains a sandwich, piece of fruit or similar loose items. Bento boxes take a more unified approach to meals. Each item is usually selected to work with those in other compartments within the box.
Some bento boxes come with thermal designs which can help retain heat. It’s more common for parents to stock a bento box around foods which are meant to be eaten cold. For example, rice balls with filling are more commonly packed in a bento than standard heated rice. Some bento boxes are specially designed around the presence of an ice pack which will keep food properly chilled over the course of a day.
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Bento boxes are also usually intended for solid or heavily viscous foods. Dips or peanut butter are commonly seen in bento boxes while soup is not. This is especially true for bento boxes intended for younger children. The younger the child the less care they’re going to put into keeping a bento box right side up. This means that bento boxes meant for children will usually be spill proof to some degree.
Bento boxes typically handle drinks in a very different way from western lunch boxes. A lunch box typically comes with a thermos for drinks. While some bento boxes have a thermos area it’s usually intended for soups rather than drinks. When parents want to pack a drink they typically send along a pouch in the bento box. Some bento boxes also have straps which can be used to attach a secondary container for drinks.
Bento boxes usually display some of the most significant differences from western lunch boxes in the interior layout. A bento box is typically split into multiple containers. Each of these containers will accommodate different food choices. Some bento boxes might even include useful extras like eating utensils or bowls.
It’s clear that bento boxes have a lot more thought put into their design than standard lunch boxes. And there’s a good reason why it seems like there’s such a big difference between the two. Lunch boxes became popular in the west about seventy years ago. In contrast, the modern idea of a bento box had already been around for about a hundred years at that point. People have had a significantly longer time to adapt bento boxes to a wide variety of needs. The end result is that one can usually find a bento box which offers features which are perfect for any child’s needs.
Of course it’s not always easy to sort through the wide variety of options to find the best bento box. However, the following options feature some of the best designs on the market. Each of these options brings something new to the table and should help parents decide on the best bento lunch box for kids.
The Best Bento Lunch Box for Kids – Reviews
Bentgo Kids is designed to meet the needs of children between 3 and 7 years old. This bento box puts special emphasis on the needs of younger children. Bentgo Kids is designed around the fact that younger children are usually quite rambunctious. But even the most energetic kids won’t be able to put a dent in this bento.
Bentgo Kids uses a leak proof lid which protects food from any outside threats. Likewise one doesn’t need to worry about the contents of Bentgo Kids leaking out if it’s turned upside down. This bento box is also designed around the fact that children are going to make a mess while eating. The removable and dishwasher safe interior is easy for parents to clean up. What’s more, the BPA free design ensures that there’s no need to worry about contamination stemming from the cleaning process.
Bento Kids sizes each compartment to fit specific types of food. The largest compartment is sized for sandwiches. This compartment isn’t large enough for a full sandwich. However parents can simply cut a sandwich in two in order to fit the entirety of a sandwich into the bento’s container. The next three compartments are somewhat smaller. Parents will typically pack each of these compartments with fruit, vegetables or other snacks. The central compartment is the smallest and is intended for dips or sauces. This compartment is often ideal for kids who only like vegetables with a dip. Some parents also like to use it for peanut butter.
Bento Kids also has enough space to fit a freezer pack. If a parent decides to go with that option it will typically keep the bento chilled for about eight hours. It’s important to keep in mind that the bento doesn’t ship with a freezer pack. These can usually be obtained fairly inexpensively though.
Yumbox consists of two separate components. The Yumbox’s shell houses an interior removable tray. Yumbox is designed for younger kids and takes their energetic nature into consideration. It’s a bento box which is slightly smaller, lighter and able to hold up to greater than average stress. This makes it an ideal choice for younger children who might be a little overwhelmed by other bento options.
The interior tray features fun space themed illustrations which can help engage children in their meals. Yumbox’s interior presents kids with five separate areas for food. Children will also find a smaller central area which is perfect for dips or peanut butter. Each of the main compartments is roughly sized for 1/2 cup portions.
Yumbox doesn’t have an interior area for storing ice packs. However, one can pair a Yumbox with an insulated carrying bag. This combination gives parents the option of nestling the Yumbox between the bag and an ice pack.
Yumbox makes an ideal choice for younger children who aren’t used to bento boxes. The durable design can hold up to the stress young children place on their possessions. And the wide variety of colors ensure that parents can find one which their kid will love to use. Finally, the leak proof design means that it’s even compatible with more viscous foods such as yogurt or applesauce.
Ozazuco highlights the versatility of bento boxes. One of the biggest benefits of bento boxes over western lunch boxes has always been in its organization. Ozazuco’s design puts a heavy emphasis on efficient optimization of a child’s meal.
On opening up the bento box one will notice that it has three separate compartments stacked on top of each other. This design helps parents keep various types of food separate from each other. Nobody wants juice from apples to soak into their crackers. Rice should never fall into orange slices. And cereal should never soak up the flavor from an omelet. Even adults have trouble with flavors and textures mixing together in that manner. And every parent can attest to the fact that most kids are particularly picky eaters.
Ozazuco’s modular design also makes it easy to work with hot foods. Bento boxes are usually intended to be used with cold or chilled foods. However, the Ozazuco’s microwave safe compartments make it easy to select some items which need heating. For example, one could fill the bottom container with stir fry and heat it up when needed.
Ozazuco also includes a fork, spoon and receptacle to hold them. This takes care of the near inevitability of children forgetting to grab eating utensils for food which requires them. Parents can also remain confident that their kids will always have exactly what they need to enjoy a healthy and delicious lunch.
This added level of complexity and customization isn’t always a perfect fit for every child. Kindergarten or first graders in particular might find Ozazuco’s design a little intimidating. The larger size of this bento box also makes it a better match for older children. Filling up an Ozazuco will usually provide too much food for the youngest children. But if a child can handle these particular traits of the Ozazuco then it’s a solid contender for best bento lunch box for Kids.
Homespon puts a heavy emphasis on versatility and size. Both of these factors make it a solid choice for middle or high school age children. If one wants significant options in a bento box than Homespon has a lot to love.
The first thing people usually notice about the Homespon is its solid construction. The bento box is made of food grade polyethylene and stainless steel. This impressive frame houses seven separate food containers. It also holds both chopsticks and a spoon.
The base consists of a 600 ml container. A 300 ml container rests on top of the bento box’s base. Next up is a 1.4″, 200 ml fruit dish. A 300 ml soup container sits on top of the fruit layer and beneath a second 200 ml fruit tray. Finally, the bento box is topped off by a top which can be flipped over to create a 300 ml bowl. One can see why all of this might be intimidating to younger children. However, most of the containers can be mixed and matched according to need. For example, one could stack the base with just a fruit dish and bowl to make a slimmer package.
This level of customization also makes Homespon’s offering perfect for kids who might need to use it in situations other than a school lunch. For example, the larger size and number of containers means that one could easily adapt it as a dinner option for camping. Kids can even share the same bento by having each of the containers for themselves.
This bento box is especially useful for kids who like soup. The insulation in Homespon’s bento can usually keep soup warm for about four hours. This usually matches up quite well with the amount of time between heading off for school and a child’s lunch break.
OmieBox stands as something of a compromise between all of the other options. It’s not as complex as the highest end bento boxes. However, it’s not as simple as beno boxes aimed at the youngest age groups. Instead OmieBox aims to provide a selection of useful features while still retaining a minimalist aesthetic.
OmieBox consists of three compartments and two temperature zones. These temperature zones are one of the defining features of OmieBox. It allows for a large amount of freedom when putting meal options together.
This particular bento was designed by a mother whose son wanted a variety of finger foods along with a hot entree. Other bento boxes didn’t meet her needs so she wound up developing her own. The need for warmed food has resulted in a unique bento which diverges from some of the more common design principles. The most obvious of these changes can be seen with the insulated thermos compartment.
The OmieBox’s insulated thermos is shallow with a wide mouth. This form factor makes it easy for kids to eat out of. While the rounded corner of the thermos makes it easy for parents to clean. If a child isn’t interested in a hot meal that day then the thermos can be removed to make space for additional food. The area normally occupied by the bento’s thermos could instead be used in its entirety or separated into new sections with an included divider. If the thermos is removed then the additional space is a perfect fit for sandwiches.
Kids using the thermos section can expect its air insulation to keep temperatures consistent for around four hours. This should be long enough to last through a student’s lunch break. People who want their food cold can fit an ice pack into the bento for an even longer period of temperature control.
For a break room that always has long microwave lines, this Leestar bento box is perfect. It features three compartments that heat food up in about 20 minutes, providing a hot meal without breaking the bank. This lunchbox can be powered by a normal outlet or a vehicle’s power port, which means a hot meal wherever one happens to be. However, there is an exhaust port that must be opened or trapped steam will cause the lunchbox to deform. After the meal, this bento box will need to be hand washed. A metal fork, spoon, and chopsticks are included, so there is no need to worry about including silverware that does not fit. One issue is that this bento box cannot be refrigerated, so any leftovers must be moved to a different pan. Another complaint is that it is not able to hold enough food to satisfy everyone’s appetites. While the lunchbox’s design is sleek with a retro flair, it does not include anywhere to store the charger cords when traveling. The cheerful pink and white exterior is sure to cheer up even the dreariest Monday. Because this bento box is only for warm food, it is probably not very well suited for school lunches. However, this bento box would be perfect for a student at university, worker in an office, or someone who drives a great deal for work.
This stylish bento box is useful for bringing salad to work or school with plenty of toppings and dressing. Designed for salad, it features a big bowl for greens, four compartments for toppings and a pourable dressing container. While it works for carrying and storing salad, it is not designed to toss the salad in the container. The big bowl is advertised to fit four cups of greens, but it really only is able to hold two cups of greens. Because the big bowl bottom is the only part of this bento box that can be microwaved (and only for three minutes), this is not the most versatile bento box. It is really only for salad, but can work for other items that can be eaten cold. Except for the lids, this bento box is dishwasher safe which means easy cleanup. The lids have a silicone gasket that needs to be hand washed. This silicone gasket is important to keep the salad greens and toppings fresh. Also included is a matching plastic fork that snaps into the top. This plastic fork is a lovely bonus and is good quality for what it is. For people who eat salads and who do not mind tossing a salad slowly by fork, this is a fantastic bento box. It is also a popular option for school lunches, as they can color coordinate for different children. Anyone who needs a shakeable salad container or is looking for a bento box to warm food in will be disappointed. It does come in eight colors including a sophisticated marble.
The Sistema bento box offers a tantalizing glimpse of food within while a colored lid adds a cheerful pop of color. With three compartments, two removable trays and a screw-top container, there are plenty of options for a wide variety of snacks. However, foods with gravies, sauces, or exorbitant amounts of juices will leak from one compartment to the others due to the thin plastic construction. One benefit of this thinner plastic dividers is that more food fits inside! However, the five ounce screw-top container is the only leak proof compartment of this bento box, which does limit the kinds of foods that can be carried in this bento box. Another drawback is the lack of silverware or place to store silverware in the lunchbox. Some offices do provide silverware, so that might not be a big drawback depending on where this lunchbox travels. One of the best parts about this bento box is that the trays can be removed and the box can still be snapped shut, offering more versatility. For easy clean up, this bento box is top-rack dishwasher safe. Some shared that it takes up so much space in the dishwasher that it is easier to wash by hand. The “multi” color selection makes for a fun surprise. The bento box that is shipped will either be any of four cheerful colors: blue, pink, purple or green.
For a bento box with a traditional Japanese aesthetic, the Grub2Go offers lots of inviting features. An elastic strap holds the 2 separate layers and utensil tray together, and there is one compartment divider. A fork, knife, and spoon are included. While there are no chopsticks, it is possible to modify a pair of chopsticks to fit into the utensil tray. The elastic strap does not work if only one layer is taken, meaning that both layers and the utensil container must all be taken on adventures. Because the layers have silicone seals, this bento box is mostly leak-proof. However, if it is placed on its side, it will leak a small amount of fluid. This bento box is dishwasher, freezer and microwave safe, so it is perfect for lots of different kinds of food. There are vents that need to be popped open for microwave use or the lid will become deformed after being used regularly in the microwave. In addition, this bento box is microwave safe for three minutes. Using the microwave might not even be necessary, as it keeps food warm between one and six hours, depending on factors like how hot a food was when placed in the bento box and how cold it is. This means microwave use might not even be necessary!
Every bento box faces the tradeoff between being leakproof and having an easily removed lid. The Kinsho is on the ultra leakproof end of this tradeoff, which means the lid can be very difficult to remove. However, it will not leak anything into a lunch bag, even if it is placed on its side for an extended period of time. After long periods of heavy use, the lid wears out a little, causing food to migrate from one partition to another partition. It does not leak from inside the bento box to outside the bento box, making it exceptionally convenient for school lunches. It comes with five partitions and a utensil slot, although the utensil slot can be used for slim snacks such as carrot sticks. Of course, other utensils like chopsticks could be packed instead of the included spoon and fork. Two boxes are included in this order, so meals can be prepared two days at a time or for two different people at the same time. Except for the lid, all parts are dishwasher safe. If the lids are washed in the dishwasher, they will change shape and no longer fit on the box. For school lunches or rugged work assignments, this bento box is perfect. It is a little smaller and has a lid that is difficult to open, but it provides excellent quality for a fair price.