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Published: Sunday, July 28, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Clever new lunchboxes make packing meals a treat

  • This cat lunchbox, made of nontoxic materials, unzips into a tidy placemat.

    MySweetMuffin.com

    This cat lunchbox, made of nontoxic materials, unzips into a tidy placemat.

  • A Paddington Bear bento box by Shinzi Katoh features compartments to hold a variety of snacks.

    MySweetMuffin.com

    A Paddington Bear bento box by Shinzi Katoh features compartments to hold a variety of snacks.

  • This dog lunchbox, unzips into a placemat.

    MySweetMuffin.com

    This dog lunchbox, unzips into a placemat.

  • A circus bento box by Shinzi Katoh. The bento-box design provides lots of compartments for snacks.

    MySweetMuffin.com

    A circus bento box by Shinzi Katoh. The bento-box design provides lots of compartments for snacks.

  • A space robot bento box by Shinzi Katoh.

    MySweetMuffin.com

    A space robot bento box by Shinzi Katoh.

  • A forest-themed double bento box by Shinzi Katoh.

    MySweetMuffin.com

    A forest-themed double bento box by Shinzi Katoh.

  • This cow lunchbox unzips into a placemat.

    MySweetMuffin.com

    This cow lunchbox unzips into a placemat.

The traditional Japanese bento-box lunch kit has found its way to our shores in a big way. Parents like that they're reusable, and kids like that the little compartments neatly hold a variety of snacks.
Japanese maker Shinzi Katoh makes some of the best ones -- space robot, forest, circus and Paddington Bear designs are featured on tiered, non-toxic boxes.
They also make a clever lunchbox that unzips into a tidy placemat: Choose a cow, cat or dog design. Look for them at www.mysweetmuffin.com.
Pottery Barn Kids has some stainless steel versions of the bento box, as well as compartmentalized lunch bags with a spot for a parent to write a note. The retailer also has a cute collection of mix-and-match themed lunchboxes, sacks, water bottles and backpacks.
For a leak-proof, stainless, insulated, 16-ounce container that gives the option of providing hot soup, chili or stew, try www.lunchbots.com.
Land of Nod (www.landofnod.com) has Skip Hop's cute-as-a-button Feeding Time lunch bags for the preschool set, in ladybug, owl or dog patterns. They come with a clip that attaches to a child's backpack.
Target (www.target.com) has cute lunch kits with cheetah or owl faces, and a colorful line of lunch sacks and snack and sandwich sleeves from Built NY that might mean sharesies with brown-bagging parents. Rubbermaid ice packs in the shape of silly owls, dogs or monsters are whimsical ways to keep lunch cool.
Story tags » Household Products

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