Blog post category: Preschool gear

Back to (Pre)school: Backpacks, Lunch Gear, and Nap Mats, Oh My!

Top picks for preschool backpacks, lunch gear, and nap mats | TotScoop

Time for your little one to leave the nest and fly, fly away to preschool?  Dry your tears and check out these ideas for top-rated preschool gear.

Contents:

Preschooler backpacks

You’ll probably need a small bag to send along an extra layer, a change of clothes, etc.  I’ve seen plenty of parents just use a plastic bag, but if you want something sturdier or that your preschooler can carry him or herself, check out these adorable preschooler-sized backpacks. (Note: Make sure to inspect your kid’s cubby to make sure you buy something that will fit!)

Skip Hop Zoo Pack

Skip Hop Zoo backpack

These adorable and ubiquitous Skip Hop Pack backpacks ($20) are a parent favorite.  They’re compact, roomy, and come in a wide range of designs (which coordinate with the rest of the Skip Hop line).

Sugarbooger Zippee! Backpack

Sugarbooger Zippee backpack

If you want something a little different, check out the Zippee! Backpack ($25) from Sugarbooger.  Its boxy shape fits well in most preschool cubbies.  Note that it’s a few inches taller than the Skip Hop.

Pottery Barn Kids pre-K backpacks

PBK dino backpack

PBK also carries a wide range of preschooler backpacks (from $29.50), including this cute dino pack ($36.50).

Preschooler lunch

Lunch bags/boxes

Sugarbooger Zippee! Lunch Tote

sugarbooger zippee

The Zippee! Lunch Tote ($20 at Amazon) worked great as our primary lunch box last year and is still going strong, so I’d recommend it to anyone.  Not only are the designs cute, but it’s insulated, very roomy, and machine washable.  Sugarbooger also makes a cute reusable lunch sack if you prefer that style.

Dabbawalla Lunch Tote

Dabbawalla

Dabbawalla lunch totes ($28) get high marks from parents.  They are made of a neoprene-like material and feature a preschooler-friendly handle.  They are machine washable and come in a range of cute designs with preschooler appeal.

Built NY Big Apple Buddies Lunch Sack

BUILT NY lunch sack

These Built NY lunch sacks ($11-15 at Amazon) boast the design and function you expect from Built NY, all in a kid-sized package.  They are made from Built NY’s signature neoprene material, and are lined with an insulating material.  It is smaller and slimmer profile than some other lunch bags.

Skip Hop Zoo Lunchie

Skip Hop Zoo Lunchie

If you get one of Skip Hop’s backpacks (above), you may not be able to resist getting a matching Lunchie ($14 at Amazon).  They’re adorable and insulated, but in my opinion a little too small to hold a full preschool lunch (including drink, etc.).  We have one, but mainly reached for the Zippee.  Still, could be a good choice if you just need to send snacks, or don’t need to send a drink.

Food storage

Yumbox

Yumbox 4-compartment

The Yumbox Panino ($30) is our all-around favorite for hassle-free preschooler lunches.  It’s compact, yet fits a ton of food.  The divided compartments remind you to pack a variety of foods for a healthy lunch, and are (drum roll please) even leak-proof (!!).  We used our Yumbox as our primary food storage solution for preschool last year and loved it.  For most preschoolers, I recommend the Panino model featured here, which has a single large compartment that is more versatile (can accommodate a sandwich, bagel, etc. if needed).  For toddlers or younger preschoolers, however, the original five-compartment Yumbox may be a better choice.  TIP: The Yumbox’s Tritan tray is microwaveable, according to the manufacturer.  However, if you prefer not to microwave plastic, just use a silicone baking cup as a liner and your child’s teacher will be able to easily pop it out and microwave the contents.

Planetbox Rover

Planetbox Rover

The granddaddy of preschooler lunch boxes is the five-compartment Planetbox Rover ($50 for lunch box only, $62 including carry case and magnet decorations).  We love that it’s stainless steel, so no worrying about any nasties leaching out of plastic.  Unfortunately it’s not leakproof (either the outer box or between compartments), but two small leakproof containers are included.  A great option, though, if you don’t anticipate sending a lot of liquidy foods to school.  Visit planetbox.com to customize your lunch kit (including carry case, magnet decorations, ice packs, water bottle, etc.)

Wean Green Lunch Bowls

Wean Green Lunch Bowl

If you want to send foods that will need to be warmed in the microwave, glass is the safest choice.  We love Wean Green for their baby food storage solutions, and they also make this larger Lunch Bowl (13oz, $16) — it’s leak-proof and is perfect for leftovers, soups, etc.

Bento & accessories

Many parents of preschoolers choose to pack “bento-style” lunches: including small portions of lots of different foods encourages your child to try new things and eat a balanced meal; also, presenting his or her lunch in an attractive (read: animal-themed) way often increases the likelihood that your child will actually eat it.  Here are some tools to make your bento lunches easier to make and more fun to eat.

Food dividers

Silicone baking cups

When you need to sub-divide larger food compartments(e.g. to separate wet and dry foods), silicone baking cups like these are a mainstay solution.  TIP: Measure the height of your food container and look for baking cups that are the same height.  Otherwise, food will spill over when your lunch box inevitably gets turned sideways or upside down.  ANOTHER TIP: These are also great for isolating foods in a larger lunch container that need to be warmed, so your child’s teacher can easily pop them out and microwave them.

Sandwich cutters

CuteZCute animal friends

CuteZCute makes a wide range of food cutters, including these awesome Animal Friends sandwich cutters ($9).  These work great with bread, cheeses, and non-striated meats.  We also love their Panda Pocket Sandwich Kit (especially for messier fillings like PB&J; $8).

Tovolo Sandwich Shapers

Tovolo Sandwich Shapers ($5-8 each) are whimsical and practical (as they use up almost all of the bread).  Also check out the similar Munchkin Silly Sandwich Cutters ($8).

Veggie cutters

Veggie cutter

Small vegetable cutters like these animal-themed ones are perfect for veggies, cheese, and thicker meats like salami.  They’ve been just the ticket for us to get our little one to eat at least a few otherwise unappetizing looking veggies with lunch.  Here are also some more practical ones if you aren’t into animal-themed everything.

Utensils & food picks

Sugarbooger utensils

Sugarbooger makes a great, flat stainless-steel silverware set ($4-9 at Amazon) that comes packaged in a travel case and fits well in lunchboxes.

cutezcute food picks

If you’re just packing fruit or something that doesn’t really require a full-on set of utensils, consider getting some food picks that you can just tuck into your food container.  They make eating more fun, and you don’t have to worry about the utensils getting lost.

Insulated drink containers

Thermos Foogo

thermos foogo

If you need to send milk to school, you probably want to invest in an insulated drink container.  The Thermos Foogo straw bottle  ($12 at Amazon) has worked great for us. It keeps milk cold until lunchtime and is the perfect size for preschoolers (10oz.).  It’s also leak-proof (when closed; it doesn’t have a valve) and is relatively easy to clean.  TIP: Throw the container itself into the fridge for a few minutes before filling it with milk, for extra staying power.

Nap mats

Note: Not all preschools require nap mats!  Check with yours first before buying.

Urban Infant Tot Cot

Urban Infant Tot Cot

We heart this modern and functional cot cover ($35-40 at Amazon) from Urban Infant. It’s a lightly quilted cot cover with attached lightweight fleece blanket that is designed to be used on top of a cot or mat.  Note that it doesn’t provide much padding, so is not designed to be used on the floor.

Olive Kids Nap Mat

Olive Kids Pirates Nap Mat

If you need a bit more padding, the Olive Kids Nap Mat ($37-57 at Amazon) is a great choice.  Designed like an open sleeping bag, it has a cotton/poly exterior and boasts a 100% cotton flannel interior.

 

Happy preschooling!  And don’t worry Mom, you’ve got 15 more years before your little one actually leaves the nest. 🙂


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