Best Kids' Thermoses

Updated February 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

43 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
380 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best kids' thermoses

Last Updated February 2020

Packing school lunches can be a bittersweet experience. On one hand, you get to rest easy knowing your child is eating a nutritious lunch. On the other, you face the struggle of working with limited lunchbox-friendly ingredients. 

If you're ready to take your school lunch menu to the next level, it's time to start thinking outside the lunchbox. With a kids' thermos to keep hot meals warm and cold foods fresh, you can serve up anything from last night's casserole to a yummy yogurt parfait. 

Kids' thermoses come in a range of sizes and styles to cater to different lunchtime needs. While some are specifically designed for beverages, others work best with food and snacks. But with a smorgasbord of kids' thermoses on the market, finding the perfect one can be a challenge. To make things easy, we've outlined everything you need to know about kids' thermoses in this guide. 

Before you send your child off with a thermos in hand, test drive it at home. If necessary, demonstrate how to open and close the thermos. If your child still has difficulty using it, you might need to replace the thermos with a model that's easier to handle.

Key considerations

Thermos type

Kids' thermoses can be used for either beverages or food, depending on the style.

  • Bottles: Thermos bottles typically have a tall, slim shape and are useful all year round. During warm months, a thermos bottle ensures that drinks like smoothies, juices, and milkshakes stay chilled and fresh until your child is ready to enjoy them. In winter, a thermos filled with hot chocolate can help kids keep warm while they're away from home.

  • Food jars: Food jars tend to be shorter with a wide mouth. This design makes them easier to fill, eat out of, and clean. Just like thermos bottles, food jars can be used for both hot and cold foods. Warm foods like stews, soups, and casseroles make a hearty midday meal, while fruit salad or yogurt can be refreshing snack on a sweltering day.

Size

Kids' thermoses come in a variety of sizes with capacities that range anywhere from 7 to 16 ounces or more. Before you buy, consider your child's portion size. While a 7-ounce thermos might be perfectly adequate for a toddler or first grader, an older child is likely to need a more substantial meal. 

Insulation

How well and how long a thermos is able to maintain temperature depends on insulation. Most kids' thermoses give you some idea of what to expect in terms of heat and cold retention (for instance, five hours for hot foods and nine hours for cold), but this can vary from model to model. For the most effective temperature control, look for double-wall vacuum insulation, a reflective inner surface, and a tightly sealed lid.

Ease of use

Finding a helping hand away from home isn't always possible, so it's a good idea to choose a thermos that your child can use with confidence. To avoid frustration and missed meals, look for a thermos lid that little hands can open and close with ease. Also, if you're shopping for a thermos for a younger child, a smaller model will be easier to handle and grip, reducing the chance of a spill.

FOR YOUR SAFETY

If you're sending a hot meal for a toddler or younger child, advising caregivers to open the thermos can help prevent spills and burns.

Features

Ergonomic lid

Opening a tightly screwed thermos lid can be something of a challenge, especially for little hands. Some kids' thermoses have textured caps or silicone-coated lids that allow for easier gripping and turning.

Utensils

Packing your own utensils is easy enough, but if you're concerned about spoons going missing, a kids' thermos that comes with its own spoon and built-in holder is worth looking for. Not only does a dedicated utensil slot make it easier to keep mealtime must-haves in one place, but it can also act as a visual reminder that something might be missing. Some spoons fold down to fit into a compartment in the lid while others simply clip onto the side of the thermos.

Handles

If there's no space for a thermos in your child's school bag, a model with a handle offers a practical carrying solution. Thermos handles can be positioned either on the side or on the lid. Some thermos lid handles are designed to face straight up for a more ergonomic carrying experience.

Spout

A wide mouth is a desirable feature on a food jar, but when it comes to kids' thermos bottles, it has the potential to cause quite a mess. Thermos bottles with spouts or straws can help prevent spills, splashes, and stains.

Colors

Kids' thermoses are available in a wide variety of colors, and some even come with cool graphics and cute cartoon characters. Choosing colors or prints that you know your child will love is a fun way to add a personal touch. If you have more than one child, choosing a different color for each will prevent accidental mix-ups.

EXPERT TIP

It's always a good idea to check for leaks before you place a thermos full of food in your child's school bag. We recommend filling the thermos with water and holding it upside down over the sink for a few seconds. Remember to make sure the lid is properly aligned and secured each time you pack your child's thermos.


Staff  | BestReviews

Accessories

Using these accessories alongside a kids' thermos can make for a smoother experience.

Spork: Snow Peak Titanium Spork
Should you pack a spoon or a fork? With a spork like this one from Snow Peak, you don't have to decide. These nifty two-in-one utensils act as both a fork and a spoon, allowing kids to choose their preferred method of eating. 

Reusable snack bags: Bumkins Snack Bags
Having a used utensil floating around in a school bag is less than ideal. Slipping a reusable snack bag like one of these cute ones from Bumkins into your child's backpack can help keep things clean and organized. These affordably priced bags come two to a pack, and you get to pick your favorite pattern.

Bottle brush: Turbo Microfiber 5-Pack
Sometimes, thermoses need a good soak and scrub, but reaching the bottom can be tricky. A bottle brush can make cleaning crevices and other hard-to-reach areas a little easier. We like this five-pack from Turbo Microfiber because all of the sizes are sure to come in handy during your kitchen adventures.

Kids’ thermos prices

Inexpensive
A handful of smaller kids' thermoses can be found for between $12 and $15. This price range includes both thermos bottles and food jars with capacities that usually fall somewhere between 7 and 10 ounces.

Mid-range
The $15 to $20 price bracket yields a wide selection of quality food jars and bottles, many of which have desirable features like prints, ergonomic lids, and spoons. Capacities in this category can range anywhere from 7 to 16 ounces.

Expensive
Whether you desire a higher-than-average capacity, a sought-after print, an easy-open lid, or a folding spoon, you'll find plenty of top-notch options to choose in the $20 to $30 price range.

A stainless steel lid will prevent plastic from touching your food and can help keep odors at bay.

Tips

  • Prep your thermos. Chilling or heating your thermos before filling it will increase efficacy. For warm foods or beverages, fill your clean, empty thermos with boiling water, close the lid, and let it stand for a few minutes. Once it's warm, pour out the water and fill it with a piping hot lunch or drink. For cold contents, you can either follow the same steps using ice water or simply take the lid off your thermos and place in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes.

  • Pack your kids' thermos right before you leave home. Most parents try to avoid leaving anything to the last minute, but when it comes to filling a thermos, doing so will help keep food hot or cold for longer.

  • Choose moist foods. A thermos needs at least some liquid to effectively maintain temperature. Moist foods like stew and soup work best, but if one of these isn't on the menu, adding gravy, sauce, or salad dressing can help.

  • Hand wash. Although many kids' thermoses are deemed to be safe for the top rack of the dishwasher, gentle hand washing can help preserve the finish and boost overall durability.

Other products we considered

If you didn't find what you were looking for among our favorite kids' thermoses, one these top contenders might be more to your taste. 

The Simple Modern Food Jar with Handle Lid features an upright handle that makes it a breeze to carry and open. For hungry kiddos, the 12-ounce capacity should be more than adequate. Owners say that food stays hot for between five and seven hours. 

If you've had it with hard-to-open kids' thermoses, the Energify Lunch Thermos is an apt choice. Not only does this innovative thermos boast a pressure release button for struggle-free opening, but it also comes with a folding spoon, a lid that doubles as a bowl, and a flexible carrying handle. 

If you like the idea of sending your child to school with a three-course lunch, the Zojirushi Ms. Bento Bento Stainless Vacuum Insulated Lunch Jar is an option worth considering. This unique thermos features three sealed compartments to keep food separate and comes complete with a spork and a carrying bag. It's quite large, so keep this in mind if you have a younger child.

Reserving a portion of weekday dinners for your child's lunch is a great way to save time and money. If your child isn't fond of leftovers or refuses to eat the same thing for two consecutive days, freezing and rotating meals might do the trick.

FAQ

Q. How long can I safely store food in a thermos for?
A. This depends on how well-insulated your thermos is and how hot the food is at the time of filling. As a rule of thumb, heated food that drops below 140°F should be disposed of after two hours, as bacteria may start to grow and multiply within this time frame if food isn't hot enough. To ensure that your child's meal is still safe to eat when lunch time rolls around, follow these steps:

  1. Start with a clean thermos.

  2. Heat the thermos with boiling water before filling.

  3. Heat your child's food to a temperature above 140° F.

  4. Pack your child's lunch right before they leave the house.

Q. Is there any way to remove stains and odors from inside a thermos?
A. The easiest way to get your child's food jar or insulated bottle looking clean and smelling fresh is to pour half a cup of white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of baking soda into the thermos before filling it with boiling water. Leave the lid off, and allow the solution to fizz away stubborn dirt. Soak for approximately 10 minutes, and follow up with a good scrub and rinse. If your thermos lid is looking or smelling suspicious as well, use the same method and allow it to soak in a separate container.

Q. Why is the finish on my kids' thermos flaking off?
A. Most often, the finish on the outside of a thermos starts to flake off due to incorrect washing practices like placing a hand wash-only model into the dishwasher or scrubbing with abrasive cleaning tools. To keep your kids' thermos looking like new, we recommend a gentle hand wash, even if your model is dishwasher safe.

The team that worked on this review
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Erica
    Erica
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Steph
    Steph
    Web Producer

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