What’s your child’s favorite time at school? For my kids, it’s lunch. But sending your kids to school or day care with a packed lunch can be a hassle. You need to make sure you buy a lunch box or bag that your child loves carrying to show off his or her personal style, but is completely functional for Mom.
There are all kinds of different sizes, shapes, materials, and designs for lunch bags. Some zipper, some fold over the top. Designs can be funky or just plain functional. But which to choose? Hint: It’s all about Size!
Here are 3 things to think about when picking your child’s lunch bag – size, ease of cleaning, and safety.
Size Does Matter
Snack vs. Lunch. My son usually eats a hot lunch from school. However, he does take a snack everyday and sometimes he wants a snack that needs to be kept cold, like a yogurt drink, vegetable dip, or certain fruits that taste better cold. So, if you are only packing a snack, then get the smallest bag you can find.
What’s in the Bag?
Figure out what your child will be taking for lunch every day. Pack a typical lunch in your head and guesstimate the space you need. Do they need a drink or will they buy milk at school? If they are bringing a drink, are they bringing a water bottle? If so, will it fit inside the lunch bag to stay cool? How about a juice pack? How will you keep everything cold? Think about what you want to throw in the bag and then you can determine the right size. You don’t want a lunch bag so big that your child needs wheels to drag it to school. But at the same time, you want your child’s lunch all together in one bag and not with separate pieces floating around the backpack getting smashed.
Keeping it Cool!
Does your child want to keep lunch items cold or hot? Then the lunch bag needs to be insulated and it needs a cold source. Some lunch bags come with a chill pack, but most don’t. If not, you can buy one separately but make sure it fits in the lunch bag. Some chill packs are huge. It only needs to keep the lunch cold for a few hours so don’t overdo it.
If you don’t want to buy a separate chill pack, here are some tips for keeping lunch cool. Throw some ice cubes in a plastic baggie. Ask your child to empty the melted water and bring the bag back so you can reuse it the next day. (My kids drink it.) Or, if you have a smaller lunch bag and don’t have the room for extras, save space by freezing the water bottle or juice pack then use it as the chill pack to keep the food cold. If your child isn’t concerned about temperature, then ignore all of this.
If your child likes hot soup then make sure you get a thermos. If you want it to fit in the lunch bag, take the thermos with you when you shop for the lunch bag or measure it.
Waste Free Lunches?
We all want to do our part for protecting the environment and waste free lunches are a great way to conserve. Many schools are encouraging kids to bring waste free lunches. Our kids earn points every time they bring a waste free lunch.
I don’t want to keep adding to the landfill problem with plastic baggies so we try to use our clean butter tubs, and other small plastic containers that we can wash and reuse. However, plastic containers take up space in a lunch bag so make sure you have a large enough bag to hold them all. There are some great waste free lunch containers out there like this one from Kids Konserve.
We all care about our kids’ health and safety. If you are buying a plastic or vinyl lunch bag, just make sure it is lead, phthalate, and PVC free. If your child wants to keep food hot or cold, it needs to be insulated. But definitely make sure to ask if the bag meets all child safety requirements, if it is not labeled as such. Most bags are these days, but just double check the label. We highly suggest aluminum or stainless steel water bottles as an alternative to plastic.
OK, now you can think about design. There are so many cool designs on the market from cute to hip to uber trendy. Beyond the graphics, see which type of bag is easiest for your child to open. For a smaller child, a “fold over the top” Velcro closure may be easier than a zipper. Just like with backpacks, kids will express themselves with their lunch bag. Once your safety and size concerns have been met, Mom, let your child choose the design they love.
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