Back-to-School Lunch Box Essentials for Your Preschooler

There’s nothing worse than the worrisome feeling that strikes after you’ve dropped your kid off at school only to realize you forgot to pack something in their bag. Whether it’s that required icepack to keep lunch cold or a plastic spoon so they can actually eat the soup you took all morning to prepare.

Making sure you have all those little back-to-school essentials ready to go for your preschooler can make all the difference.

We’ve definitely had a few mishaps in the past. Nothing major. Just little things here and there that we forgot to pack or didn’t account for until we saw a pattern….

To save other parents the stress, I’ve included all those lunch box products a preschooler will need to make them MORE likely to eat their lunch and help parents keep their cool.

Sanity-Saving Preschool Lunch Items

Must-have lunch box items for preschoolers to make packing lunch easier and fun! (The shape cutters were real sanity-savers for our picky eaters!)

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1. Lunch bag

Start with a lunch bag or container of course — look for one that is insulated to prevent food from going bad. You’ll need something that is small enough to fit in your child’s back pack and easy for them to carry like this Skip Hop lunch bag. They are pretty popular and come in a variety of animal options. We’ve had ours for a little over a year and plan to re-use it next year.

But if you need something a little more spacious to fit in containers or bento boxes, another good option is this bag which also has a side pouch you can attach a sippy cup to. Something like this works perfectly if you need to include an extra drink for your child — like our toddler needed for nursery school.

2. Bento box/Sandwich container

Plastic BPA-free containers that have little sections will save you time and patience in the morning. No need to grab zip-lock bags when you can use these affordable bento boxes that separate the main dish from the snacks.

Best advice on this one is to simply note measurements as some bento boxes can take up all the room in those kiddie lunch bags, leaving little room to pack a drink or tall sippy cup.

3. Ice packs

Most preschools mandate an icepack be included in your child’s lunch box. This will help keep lunch cold and edible on those warmer days when there is little room in the already-packed teacher’s lounge. Just make sure you don’t choose a super bulky one that can make it tough to fit that bento box in.

Amazon has some fun and perfect size options to choose from like these cute penguins that worked well for us!

4. Sippy cup

If you aren’t packing a disposable juice box for your child, an insulated sippy cup with a cover is a must for the lunch box.

I can’t count the times my kids’ bags reeked of sour milk from sippy cups leaking. Save yourself the headache and buy one like this one that is perfect for school!

5. Insulated food jar

If your child prefers soups, oatmeal or pasta, an insulated food jar may work better in the lunch bag. It will prevent leaks and keep food at the preferred temperature. Find one that is small and includes a utensil for easy eating like this one by Skip Hop.

6. Utensils

If your kid prefers pasta, make sure to pack a kid-safe utensil in the lunch box.

Although the sharper, steel forks tend to work better for picking up pasta and meats, I’d rather my kid have a plastic fork at school around other kids…because you never know when they’ll end up playing with their food and potentially hurting another classmate. This Take & Toss flatware set is definitely a smart choice for the cafeteria!

7. Silicone muffin cups

Silicone muffin cups or liners are seriously all the rage when it comes to packing a kid-friendly lunch. They make it so much easier to include an array of your child’s favorite snacks into separate containers when you don’t have a bento box or pre-sectioned food container.

My kid is definitely not the sandwich type – so these liners make packing snacks much easier. Buy them here in your favorite color!

8. Sandwich shape-cutters

If your child is like most kids and going through the picky-eater stage, use shape-cutters to make food fun to eat! We bought this pack that included dino-shapes and stars my sons love. Use them on sandwiches, cheese, coldcuts and other foods you want your kid to eat.

9. Labels

You’ll have to label just about everything your child takes to school if you want any chance of seeing it again. That includes lunch bags, boxes, sippy cups and containers. Save yourself some stress when that permanent marker isn’t cutting it and invest in these cute little labels that works well on various surfaces.

I never realized how important this was until we found ourselves, buying and buying replacement items throughout the year. Again save yourself the hassle and start off the year on the right foot.

I’m sure there are a ton lunch box favorites we’ll encounter as our children grow, but for now, these are definitely our top picks for making preschool lunch successful and letting mommy worry about something other than what she forgot to pack in juniors lunch bag in the mornings!

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