Whether your little one is sporty, creative or brave (or all of the above) you want back-to-school gear that fits their unique personality. Good news: Pottery Barn Kids has a collection—from backpacks to lunchboxes to food storage containers—that will do just that. Highly functional, individual styles that are designed with your kiddo in mind.
We had our editors and their mini-me’s take Pottery Barn Kids’ backpacks and lunchboxes for a test spin. Read on to find out what they love about them plus their best back-to-school hacks and tips.
BONUS! Score 20% off your back-to-school Pottery Barn Kids purchase by clicking here and using the code REDTRI at checkout.
Mae Respicio, Spoke Contributor Network Editor
Kid’s name & personality type: Cael, Brave
Cael’s favorite season is summer (and who can blame him?), when his “to do” list is basically a loop of the beach and hiking. So, for a summer-loving kid, going back to school can be challenging! But he loves his friends and teachers, and reuniting with them once school starts always gives him the courage to say goodbye to summer break and hello to fall.
What backpack did Cael choose? How does its functionality and style work well with his personality?
Cael packs his own bag for school now (hooray!), and Pottery Barn Kids’ Mackenzie Backpack makes it super easy. The different compartments give him a routine to follow where he can keep (and find) items in the same spot instead of dumping them into a giant abyss. The backpack will definitely keep him organized and he’ll be proud of himself when he can find things without my help. Bonus: he already uses it everywhere, so he’ll have fun memories attached when it’s time for school again, making him feel extra brave.
Tell us about the lunchbox Cael chose. How will it help set up him for success this school year?
My wish for this school year? That Cael won’t lose his lunch box like he has before—and the Mackenzie Classic Lunch Bag will totally help! It can strap right onto his backpack. Plus the mesh pocket makes sure that his drink bottle doesn’t get buried, and keeps it simple for a recess-obsessed kid like him to grab his water and go.
Tell us about a back-to-school hack that’s worked well for your family.
When school started last year, his dad and I tried a fun trick that gave Cael a bravery boost—we left little drawings in his bags for him to find throughout the day to make him smile. The backpack and lunch bag are perfect for this since they have lots of pockets. You can stow a few sweet notes to remind your kiddos that you’re thinking of them, and that their family isn’t too far away.
Mimi O’Connor, New York Editor
Kid name & personality type: Zelda, playful
Zelda is always up for a good time. She loves a dance party, a run through the sprinkler or playground, a singalong, dramatic play and just generally being silly. The more the merrier in her book. A new school year brings new, and more friends to play with. Good for her — and us!
What backpack did Zelda choose? How does its functionality and style fit her personality?
Pottery Barn Kids’ Classic Mackenzie is perfect for Zelda and her adventures, with padded straps and back, and a front buckled strap to help keep it secure and in place as she runs around. The roomy main compartment and side pockets hold all the essentials of books, water bottle, snack and more, and while she doesn’t have an mp3 player yet, she found the ingenious pocket reserved for it and stocked it with additional 5-year-old “must-haves”: disco ball necklace, mini tiara, flower barrette.
I love the fact that it’s well-made, and the darker hues of the rainbow unicorn pattern, which can stand up to the inevitable scuffs and stains of Kindergarten. (We once had a white and pink backpack — never again!)
Tell us about the lunchbox Zelda chose. How will its functionality and style help her this school year.
It’s important that Zelda’s lunch doesn’t weigh her down — getting out the door is enough of a challenge without bulky extras. The streamlined and efficient design of the Mackenzie Classic lunch bag accommodates a full lunch with all the basics (protein, fruit, veggie, cheese stick and juice box) and the insulated interior keeps things cool. (I also slip a thin cooler pack in the interior zip pocket.) The solid structure BPA-free Peva insulated interior also keeps any softer items from getting smushed — we’ve lost a few bananas this way. The exterior mesh pocket for a water bottle and the genius exterior strap that enables to lunch bag to be attached to the backpack are two more features I love.
Do you have a go-to hack that’s made your back-to-school routine easier?
Zelda’s playful — she’s also willful. Let’s just say she’s got opinions, and in the morning, we don’t have time (or energy) for cajoling and convincing. My solution is built-in buy-in: fill the closet/lunch box/shoe rack with options she chose herself, helped make and will be excited to show the world. Zelda’s definitely a rainbow and unicorn kind of girl, and being able to pick out and sport a design she feels is “her” makes getting out the door that much easier.
Ayren Jackson-Cannady, D.C. Editor
Kid name & personality type: Trey, creative
The world is Trey’s canvas. No matter where he’s going or what he’s doing, you’ll more than likely find him simultaneously drawing, painting, cooking, styling, building—making—something. His new school is big on art, music, and foreign language, so I can’t wait to see how he uses up all of that creative juice he has inside of him throughout the year.
What backpack did Trey choose? How does its functionality and style fit his personality?
Trey loves the bright, block-y pattern on Pottery Barn Kids’ Mackenzie Multicolored Geo Backpack. I love how durable and sturdy it is because, let’s be honest, this kid is pretty rough on stuff. The large bag is the perfect size for toting folders, library books, his big bag of crayons, and his lunch box. Plus there’s room for any random building materials he collects throughout the day (think: rocks, twigs, flowers, scraps of paper).
Tell us about the lunchbox Trey chose. How will it help set up him for success this school year?
One of the many careers Trey says he will have when he grows up is that of chef. So, you can imagine how big of a deal lunch is in our house. He isn’t the sandwich and chips type of kid; for him variety is the spice of life. Which is why the Fairfax Multicolor Stripe Classic is an awesome lunch tote–there’s plenty of room for fitting multiple containers or a bento box, and utensils. Bonus: The BPA-free liner keeps homemade lunches and snacks fresh longer, which is great for packing extra noshes for after school activities.
Tell us about a back-to-school hack you can’t live without.
We freeze a lot of things before packing them in Trey’s lunch box. For example, we freeze pre-portioned leftovers—more than likely it’s something Trey helped cook and will love to eat later—for up to 30 days. We also freeze juice boxes overnight. They keep everything cool in the bag and are ready to drink by lunchtime!
Shelley Massey, Atlanta Editor
Kid name & personality type: Ella, busy
What’s busier than a puppy? My daughter, Ella. And with two brothers, she’s always trying on their hobbies for size—in addition to her own. So beyond gymnastics, ballet, and art, Ella’s interests (and my time) extend to karate, soccer, and anything with a Star Wars theme. For a first grader, Ella’s a true renaissance kid.
What backpack did you choose? How does its functionality and style fit Ella’s personality?
Since Ella likes just about every activity her schedule will allow her to try, I chose the Pottery Barn Kids’ large Mackenzie Pink & Navy Puppy Backpack. It’s big enough to carry her schoolwork—plus everything she needs for those after-school activities—and I love that it’s 100% water resistant (perfect for the sidelines during drizzly soccer practices or to withstand being splashed at the pool). And since she could never pick just one interest to define her, I thought the adorable yellow lab puppy (that looks just like our own, minus a decade) would be the perfect style for her.
Tell us about the lunchbox you chose. What do you love about it?
Ella’s busy schedule means her lunchbox needs to keep her food (and snacks, and extra drink) cool all day long. I chose the Pottery Barn Kids’ Retro Lunch Bag in coordinating Pink & Navy Puppy style. Not only is it insulated and made from the same durable material as her backpack, it also has a designated compartment for her thermos and is designed with straps on the back that attach to her Mackenzie backpack.
Can you tell us about a back-to-school hack that you rely on to make getting back into a routine a breeze?
Because Ella’s days are so packed with activity, I like to make sure her backpack is locked and loaded the night before with everything she’s going to need the following day. The Mackenzie bag is a snap to organize, with its multiple pockets, straps, and gear loops—which means that all we have to do in the morning is snap on her coordinating lunchbox and she’s ready to roll. And if there’s one thing that will trip us up in the morning it’s the predictable search for her shoes just as our carpool arrives. The Mackenzie bag even helps with that! I pop one shoe into each of the roomy side pockets of her bag the night before school and abracadabra—no frantic searching in the morning! It’s basically Mackenzie Magic.
Amber Guetebier, Managing Editor
Kid name & personality type: Henrik, smart
One of my son’s first words was actually the word “book” so it should not have surprised me that he was able to read at a very young age. He’s such a bright and inquisitive kid, and school has made him more confident and more curious. Once he started kindergarten his reading level really excelled and I can’t wait to see the challenges he rises to as he enters 1st grade. I know he is excited for school because he loves learning new things, asking questions (so many questions) and getting to know his little school community. I honestly love looking in his backpack at the end of each day to discover the “treasures” he brings home.
What backpack did you choose? How does its functionality and style fit Henrik’s personality?
With his voracious appetite for books, writing supplies and other “creative science projects” he picks up at school, the playground and on nature walks, his backpack can get pretty full in a hurry. I chose the Pottery Barn Kids’ Rolling Mackenzie Navy Solar System Backpack so that he can still independently haul his goods without having to weigh him down. We also travel a lot so the rolling backpack makes the perfect weekender for our road trips and adventures. And it holds a lot of library books which means I don’t have to lug that big tote: he just wheels it to and from the library. And mom sneaks a few books in there too!
Tell us about the lunchbox you chose. What do you love about it?
Henrik definitely has a retro sensibility (his favorite hat is a fedora) so I chose the Pottery Barn Kids Retro Mackenzie Navy Solar System Lunchbox. It’s lightweight but it holds a lot of food and a larger water bottle, which is great because he needs fuel for all of his adventures during and after school. On weekends it has enough room to pack a little family picnic and because it’s insulated, it makes a great road cooler.
Can you share a great back-to-school hack that has worked wonders in your family?
Henrik is such a smart kid but (I almost can’t believe I’m writing this) his love of books can sometimes be a downfall. He actually gets very distracted by a book and it takes over his entire life and that means if he happens to start reading one in the morning before school, I’m hard pressed to get him fed and dressed. So for the morning routine, we try to get all the “chores” out of the way right away: getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing teeth, etc. and if he’s got a few spare minutes he gets to read as the reward. The night before, we put his favorite book or books right into his rolling backpack and he gets to pull them out of the pack if he has the time. We also pack lunches the night before because, truthtell: mama isn’t really a morning person either.
Maria Chambers, Chicago Editor
Kid name & personality type: Tate, sporty
Having three older brothers (and no sisters), my daughter Tate was born needing to know how to hang with the boys. Being sporty was a prerequisite and she’s more than risen to the occasion. With shorts peeking out under her skirt so she can hang upside down on the monkey bars, she’s eager to get back to her gym class adventures and early morning running club when that school bell rings in August.
What backpack did Tate choose and why did she select it?
Size is of the utmost importance in a backpack for Tate because she’s not too keen on throwing anything away and often sneaks a favorite stuffed animal or two to keep her company. Luckily Pottery Barn Kids’ Mackenzie backpack is large enough for her to squeeze the supplies she actually needs for school in between the things that should’ve hit the trash bin long ago. She chose the Rainbow Soccer print because that’s her sport of choice and it’s a total bonus that the bag is durable enough to sometimes be the ball (cue us seeing her dropkick her backpack to a friend).
Tell us about the lunchbox you chose. What do you love about it?
Tate is a girl that likes to be prepared and I can only assume that’s why she packs enough to feed a rather large army for lunch. She very carefully selected the Mackenzie Dual Compartment Lunch Bag for its ability to hold massive quantities of food and the Rainbow Unicorn print allowed her to show another side of her personality. She’s not just sporty, she also likes to get lost in daydreams of fairytales and mystical creatures.
What back-to-school hack or tip can you share with other parents?
Tate likes to move pretty slow in the mornings and she knows she can maintain this snail’s pace more effectively if she plans ahead and packs the night before. The insulated component of the lunch bag helps keep her food fresh in the refrigerator so she can just grab and go in the morning.
Love these looks? Shop all Pottery Barn Kids collections at potterybarnkids.com.
BONUS! Score 20% off your back-to-school Pottery Barn Kids purchase by clicking here and using code REDTRI at checkout. You can also use on discounted merchandise!
How would you characterize your kid’s personality? As we head into back-to-school season, tell us about your hacks and tips for survival.
All photos and copy courtesy of each editor