My Metal Kids Need Metal Lunch Boxes

A product review based on some hard-won firsthand knowledge.

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Lunch Box packed in plastic container
This container simply won’t stand up to my child, The Destroyer.
Screenshot: Our Crow’s Nest / YouTube

I asked my son what his favorite song was. He thought for a moment. “I smell the spirit of teamwork,” he said. “Do you mean this?” I said, putting on the Nirvana’s most well-known song. He began head-banging. “How do you know this?” I inquired. He named a friend whose dad is a few years older than me, solidly in the grunge generation. Sure enough, my son had been introduced to cool music, and the carpool has never been the same.

Plastic lunch boxes are no match for my children

My kids aren’t just intense in their music choices. Last year, during their COVID-precaution year, elementary schools in my area had kids eat lunch outside unless it was actively raining ice. On the first day of school my daughter dropped her brand-new plastic bento box on the concrete and shattered it.

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Likewise, my son has a way of breaking things that has earned him the nickname “The Destroyer,” and he’s had a hard time keeping water bottles alive. Rubbermaid Tupperware would come back with sharp, broken edges, a bloody accident waiting to happen. What’s a mother to do?

Internet research.

The lunch box recommendation I hate to give

I made several purchases, each a failed attempt to find something indestructible that could stand up to my kids at lunchtime. Eventually, I was forced to confront my long-standing commercial nemesis: Pottery Barn.

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I hated Pottery Barn because of a prior customer service feud regarding a light fixture, and I had long ago vowed that I’d never shop there again. However, the Pottery Barn Kids at my local mall was going out of business, and all of my research indicated that the PB lunch boxes and stainless bento boxes were the best in the biz.

I swallowed my pride and bought my kid a backpack and lunch box set. I coughed up the dough for a full-priced bento box online—which at the time of this writing is on sale for $31 but is usually near $40—and a lunch box for my kid in the design of his choosing. I also got a “hot and cold container” for my child who eats hot beans for lunch most days (I know, gross, but iron!). This was an expensive experiment, and if it didn’t pan out I was going to be really ticked off with Pottery Barn yet again.

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It’s been a full school year plus summer camp. Every single one of these products has been used every damn day and they all look good as new. Not scratched, worn, cracked, torn, warped, stained, smelly, shattered, or otherwise damaged in any way. My son is sort of over the truck design on his lunch box, but he’s going to have to deal with it because that lunch box is good as new and I’m not buying him a new one until college.

The best durable drink containers for kids

My children also require hydration. When they were little, I thought CamelBak was the way to go, because the brand’s line of durable plastic bottles for kids seemed to be “no spill” and environmentally friendly. NO. The tiny demons found a way to stick their fingers in the straw and create a way to spill the water everywhere. Also, the plastic, when thrown at force, began to degrade.

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We had to go metal. Klean Kanteen have held up the best in my house so far. Some designs are machine washable and we like the “sport” tops because they’re easy to open with your teeth like a grenade. I also like that these are only two parts, because my kids immediately lose any detachable straws that come inside water bottles. The kid-sized Klean Kanteen bottles fit well in the Pottery Barn lunch box and inside the bottle holder on a backpack, and they’re also my go-to “purse bottles,” a very important distinguishing factor.

The ThermoFlask is the runner-up recommendation, mostly because they sell them in two-packs at Costco sometimes. The downside? That infernal straw. But they work just fine without the straw if you tip and suck. So, after the first use when we’ve inevitably lost the straw, that’s what we do.

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Hopefully my market research comes in handy for you this school year even if you have delicate, well-behaved children. Because, who knows, they might go to school with Destroyers like mine.