When my daughter started school, I figured all backpacks were equal. What was there to know? A couple of pockets, some straps, and boom. Backpack. Good enough. Right? Wrong. As a result, she did not end up with the best backpack for kindergarten. In fact, in the first day of school photos, it looks like her giant pink backpack is eating her.
As it turns out there’s quite a bit to know about kids’ backpacks. My daughter happened to be a very tiny five-year-old, so her standard-sized school bag looked absurdly large on her back. It also had far more features than was needed for kindergarten and posed a safety risk with straps that were too long. Choosing the best backpack for kindergarten isn’t child’s play. You have to think about capacity, design, and yes, even safety.
What Do Kindergarteners Carry in a Backpack?
Gone are the days of sending your child out the door with just a notebook and a pencil. And honestly, was that ever really how it was? I’m pretty sure 5-year-olds in the 1950s ate food, had bathroom accidents and carried some school work. Depending on the climate where you live, you may have some need weather-related items like a poncho or umbrella for rain or cold weather accessories to pack. And then, of course, there are the schools’ supply lists.
The school will probably ask you to pack snacks. Along with snacks, they must stay hydrated, so you’ll need a water bottle as well. If your child is taking lunch from home, some backpacks have additional pockets with food-friendly linings. Others have straps to attach a lunchbox to the bag easily.
Change of clothing
Of course, as our children munch and hydrate all day long, accidents happen. They happen quite a bit. So you should always pack a full change of clothing in their backpack, including socks. Seriously, don’t forget the socks. A gallon-sized plastic zip seal bag works perfectly to keep them all together and also doubles as the bag for soiled clothing.
Most schools will provide a school supply list that will cover all of the basics for classroom learning. And fortunately for your child, and you, most of those supplies stay in the classroom. But some will be. Your child may end up carrying the following:
- A gallon plastic bag with a full change of clothing
- Water bottle
- Reading book
- Crayons and/or pencils
- Seasonal weather items
Key Things to Consider
There are some essential features to consider when trying to find the best backpack for kindergarten.
First and foremost, your child will likely use their kindergarten backpack for school one to two years. After that, they usually need something a bit larger and with more function. However, the best kindergarten backpack will last well beyond the school days and make a perfect sleepover bag for years to come.
Considering all of the things your kindergartner may have to carry back and forth to school, their backpack should measure at least 14 to 16 inches tall by at least 11 inches wide.
Fortunately, many of the features for safety also apply to comfort. The best backpack for kindergarten will have two wide, padded shoulder straps. Some packs also have a padded back.
Function and compartments
The best backpack for kindergarten needs to have three compartments: the main compartment, a smaller front pocket, and a holder for a water bottle. These can keep food, school supplies, and clothing separate.
You can expect to pay anywhere between $ and $ for the best backpack for kindergarten, depending on brand, materials, and features.
That is where you and your child may disagree. They may insist on a lower-quality backpack with their favorite licensed character. You may prefer function to fashion. But you can find a happy medium. Target’s backpack house brand Cat and Jack, for example, strikes a balance between features and price that pleases kids as well as parents.
The best backpack for kindergarten will be ergonomic and safe. What? Safe? Yes. Here are a few important backpack safety tips:
- Make sure the backpack is the appropriate size
- Look for the lightest weight backpack
- Look for two wide, padded shoulder straps; skip one strap bags
- A padded back and possibly a waist belt will lighten heavy loads
- Rolling backpacks can be a tripping hazard in hallways and on stairs
- Backpacks should never weigh more than 10 to 15 percent of the child’s body weight
Many companies offer personalization like adding a child’s name to their backpack. However, there is much discussion about the safety of this for children who walk or ride bikes home from school.
Top 10 Options for the Best Backpack for Kindergarten
Without further ado and in no particular order, here are our top picks for the best backpack for kindergarten.
1. L.L.Bean Junior Original Book Pack
Photo credit by: libean.com
The L.L.Bean Junior Original Book Pack is a miniature version of the extremely popular L.L.Bean Original Book Pack. First, this backpack the right size for a kindergartener at 14.5 inches high, 11 inches wide, and 6 inches deep. Additionally, this backpack has three compartments and a water bottle pocket. It also has reflective material on the front and straps for an added layer of safety.
- High quality; stands up to hard use
- Ample space for plenty of stuff
- Some children struggle with the zipper catching the flap that covers it
- Limited color choices of just red and blue
L.L.Bean Junior Original Book Pack is only available in L.L.Bean retail stores or on their website.
2. Lands’ End Printed Small Backpack
Photo credit by: landsend.com
Next is the Lands’ End Printed Small Backpack. Legendary Lands’ End quality makes this a top contender for the best backpack for kindergarten. Overall, this backpack is slightly larger than the L.L.Bean pack, measuring 16.5 inches high by 12.5 inches wide by 6 inches deep.
It has one zippered main compartment with a smaller zippered front pocket, as well as two water bottle mesh pockets on either side. For added protection, this bag also has reflective fabrics and an adjustable sternum strap that keeps shoulder straps in place.
- Contents fit well inside
- High-quality materials
- Fun patterns and prints
- Perfect for small children
- One reviewer said the sternum strap ripped from the shoulder strap
You can only purchase the Printed Small Pack in Lands’ End stores or on the company’s website.
3. Pottery Barn Kids Small Backpack
Photo credit by: potterybarnkids.com
The Pottery Barn Kids Small Backpack is a stylish bag with lots of features. Given the plethora of prints and patterns, this backpack is definitely in the running for the best backpack for kindergarten. This small backpack is close to the same size as the L.L.Bean pack. It measures 15 inches high by 12 inches wide and 6 inches deep.
It also has a large main compartment, small front pocket, two mesh water bottle pockets, and clipping straps designed to hold the matching lunch bag. It’s made of water-resistant materials. The back and straps are padded.
- Cute prints available with matching accessories
- High-quality materials that last a long time
- Slightly too small for seasonal clothing and extras
- Lunch bag will not fit inside
This backpack is only available at Pottery Barn Kids retail stores and on the company’s website.
4. Obersee Kid’s All-in-One Pre-School Backpack
Given that the Obersee Kid’s All-in-One Pre-School Backpack has 19 different colors and patterns, it’s safe to say this pack has style and function covered.
This pack has a front insulated pocket that doubles as a lunch bag. Also, it has a mesh water bottle holder. Additionally, the padded back and straps are made of a breathable mesh material making the bag cooler than the standard backpack. It is a smaller backpack measuring 14.5 inches high by 10 inches wide and 5.5 inches deep.
- Easy to clean
- Well designed for traveling
- Cute prints
- Too small
- Not as durable as expected
- Water bottle holders small
5. Stephen Joseph All Over Print
Next is the Stephen Joseph All Over Print Backpack which is fun and functional, with over 10 different prints and patterns. This bag measures 16 inches high by 12 inches wide and 6.5 inches deep. It’s large enough to fit a three-ring binder, change of clothing, lunch, and more.
Alternatively, the inside compartment has a separate pouch perfect for placing folders or binders. It also has a smaller front pocket. There are two mesh drink pockets on the sides. Finally, the padded back and straps provide for a perfect fit.
- Well made bag with a great design
- Perfect for kindergarten through third grade
- Adorable print options
- Very functional
- There is only one negative review on Amazon, regarding a product defect
6. Willikiva Cute Bear Kids Backpack
The unique look of the Willikiva Cute Bear Kids School Backpack will be easy to identify in a sea of other backpacks. That is to say, the cute bear design and bright colors are sure to please the five-year-old in your life.
This larger backpack is 16.5 inches high by 12.2 inches long and 3.9 inches deep. While it’s more narrow than some packs, it makes up for it with two exterior zipper pockets and two water bottle holders. However, the straps do not appear to have as much padding as any of the other bags in this list.
- Unique style
- Great size and capacity
- Some reviewers cite a poor quality zipper
7. Wildkin Sidekick Backpack
The Wildkin Sidekick Backpack has an extensive variety of prints available, topping out with 31 designs. This small backpack is 15 inches high by 11 inches wide and 7 inches deep. It features two large zipper pockets. The shoulder straps and back are padded for comfort and safety. Some colors have a mesh water bottle holder available, while others do not.
- Adorable designs with matching accessories
- Perfect for small children
- Easy to spot clean
- Large capacity for such a small backpack
- Some colors do not have the water bottle holder
- Some customers found the fabric thin and easy to rip
- Small outside pockets
8. Lonecone Kids’ Preschool Backpack
The Loncone Kids’ Preschool Backpack is a hit with prints like “Gary the Unicorn” and “Owl Be Learnin’.” It’s one of the less expensive bags in our survey. On the one hand, this bag has promise with wide, padded straps, a padded back, a water bottle holder, a large front pocket in addition to the main compartment.
On the other hand, it is smaller with dimensions of 13.5 inches high by 9.5 inches wide and 3.5 inches deep. Is that enough for what your child will have to carry? Consider carefully.
- Very affordable
- Cute, unique colors and patterns
- Nice pockets
- A few complaints from customers who say the materials are cheap
- Some customers cite poor zipper quality
- Limited capacity
9. Hynes Eagle Casual Basic Backpack Simple School Bag
The Hynes Eagle Casual Basic Backpack is the one of the simplest, “old school” kind of backpacks available on the market. Minimalists celebrate! Like several of the others in our survey, this backpack has one main pocket, a smaller zip pocket in the front, and mesh pockets on either side for water bottles. It is a slightly larger size at 16 inches high by 12.2 inches wide by 5.9 inches deep. The straps are constructed with mesh to keep arms fresh and to protect from excess weight.
- Excellent weight distribution based upon design
- Charming colors and prints
- A common complaint is the zipper rips
- Lightweight fabrics
10. Lily & Drew Canvas Travel School Backpack
Cute and straightforward sums up this canvas backpack. It’s perfect for kindergarten. This backpack measures 15.5 inches tall by 11.5 inches wide and 6.3 inches deep. It features two water bottle side pockets, one large main pocket, and a small front zippered pocket.
- Cute prints
- Perfect size for a small bag
- Affordable price
- Positive reviewers say the bag is durable
- Most negative reviews pertained to broken zippers
- Some complaints were regarding strap adjusters slipping or breaking
Our Pick for the Best Backpack for Kindergarten
With all things considered — cost, size, safety, options — we’ve determined that the best backpack for kindergarten is the Lands’ End Printed Small Backpack. This bag has everything your child will need and can be reused or passed on when your child is done with it.
Do you have a favorite kindergarten backpack that didn’t make the list? Tell us in the comments!