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Preschooler Backpacks: The Yay to the Nay

By Ilana Wiles

the yay to the naySince the first day of school is fast approaching (many of you are already there, Mazzy doesn’t start until mid-September), today I am reviewing backpacks. Not just any old backpacks. Today I am reviewing backpacks for kid’s whose first day of school is LITERALLY— their first day of school. EVER. In case that wasn’t clear.

The main difference between preschool backpacks and regular kid’s backpacks are that they are smaller in size. Since, hopefully, your child’s preschool teacher won’t be assigning complex math homework to be completed from a 500 page algebra text book that weighs 50lbs.

Preschool backpacks are more about packing a change of clothes, a beloved blankie or stuffed animal from home and possibly lunch. Oh, and they are also meant to look freakin’ adorable.

Many preschoolers don’t actually need to carry a backpack at all— Mazzy is going from 9am-noon so she doesn’t need to bring lunch— but toddlers love them and they look super adorable so it’s up to you if you want to spend the extra cash. I’ve also found that Mazzy loves carrying a backpack so much, that I can forgo a diaper bag and have her carry a few necessary items whenever we travel around the city. She feels grown up and Mommy can go back to carrying her regular purse— woohoo!

I put three toddler backpacks to the test to see which was the best quality, the most for your money and of course, the cutest.

1. Skip Hop Zoo Backpack Review

The Skip Hop Zoo Backpack ($20) is probably the most popular backpack for toddlers and for good reason. They come in a 14 different animal shapes (dogs, penguins, monkeys, etc.) so your kid won’t have the same one as everyone else, are sized just right for a toddler, are reasonably priced and are impossibly adorable.

It’s got padded adjustable straps, an insulated zipper compartment in the front for snacks and an elastic pocket on the side perfect for a water bottle or drink. There’s even a tag on the inside where your child (or you) can write their name. Also, most importantly, the Zoo Pack is BPA-Free and Phthalate-free which are two scary chemicals I’ve been watching out for a lot these days, particularly since I’m pregnant.

I chose the Owl Pack for Mazzy and she loved it immediately. She insisted on wearing out that same day, proudly toting around her stuff and allowing me to be bag-free.

VERDICT on the Skip Hop Zoo Backpack
Price: YAY
Quality: YAY
Adorableness: YAY

2. Everest Junior Backpack Review

The Everest Junior backpack ($5-10) was the least expensive I could find (without licensed characters all over it)— I found it on Walmart online (though we have since found them on sale for $5 and change on Amazon). It’s a basic pack (adjustable straps, zippered front compartment) that’s most reminiscent of the kind of bag you probably carried in junior high school, before you were too cool for backpacks and insisted on lugging all your books by hand with a rubber strap around them. Or was that just me?

Even if the Everest backpack doesn’t come in any cool animal shapes, it still comes in a variety of colors (the most colors are available here) and if your toddler has a favorite, they’ll probably be just as excited about carrying it. When Mazzy saw the Everest, she excitedly shouted, “IT’S PINK!!!!” and all was well. Although, it might not be made of the highest quality fabric or have the innovative structural features of the other packs tested, it’s slim shape and lightweight material make it easy to carry for preschoolers.

Unfortunately, the Everest Junior backpack’s description says only that it is 100% polyester and makes no mention of being BPA, PVC, Lead or Phthalate-free. We called Everest and spoke to a representative who said that the junior backpack is “chemical free,” but I wish they would put it in writing with some sort of certification on their label listing specifics, as it would make me more comfortable.

VERDICT on the Everest Junior backpack:
Price: YAY
Quality: OKAY
Adorableness: OKAY

3. Dabbawalla Bags Backpack Review

The Dabbawalla bags backpacks ($35-40) are pretty pricey for a preschooler but they are super cute and the quality is top notch. They come in 12 different colorful themes like ladybug, crayons, and rockets. They are crafted individually from eco-sponge neoprene— an innovative fabric that is rated as one of the safest and most durable materials out there. The bags are certified free of lead, PVC, phthalates, and over 100 other harmful substances (including BPA). The entire bag is stain resistant and insulated.

Plus, you can toss it in the wash, which is awesome.

Structurally, the straps adjust inside the pack so the material will lie softly on your child’s back and not get in the way if you want to carry it as a tote. Instead of a zipper compartment on the front, there is non-zipper pouch in the back. I’m guessing the pouch should be used for notes sent home from school because I can’t imagine it would be comfortable to stick anything of substance on the part of the bag up against your child’s back. It also has two mesh pockets on the inside, one is elastic and perfect for drinks.

I opted for the kitty backpack and again Mazzy loved it immediately. The material is definitely best in class as far as safety, durability and comfort.

VERDICT on the Dabbawalla Bags Backpacks:
Price: NAY
Quality: YAY
Adorableness: YAY

My final assessment would be this:

1) If your kid doesn’t need a backpack for school, there is no reason to get one.

2) The adorableness factor is really just a photo-taking opportunity for the parent. Your kid will be excited about whatever backpack you put in front of them.

3) You have to make a personal decision as to what kind of materials you want to expose your child to.

Final Thoughts on Best Preschooler Backpacks

I would go with the Skip Hop Zoo Backpack. It is half the price, uses safe materials and is ridiculously cute. But, if your child is in the habit of trashing their stuff quickly, the Dabbawalla backpacks will probably be the hardest to destroy.

Published September 1, 2012. Last updated March 11, 2017.
About the Author

Ilana Wiles

Ilana Wiles writes Mommy Shorts, a popular NYC humor blog geared towards new parents. In addition to blogging, Ilana has worked as a creative in advertisin...

Ilana Wiles writes Mommy Shorts, a popular NYC humor blog geared towards new parents. In addition to blogging, Ilana has worked as a creative in advertising for the past 15 years. She lives in the East Village of NYC with her husband, her two-year-old daughter and a rapidly growing pile of stuffed animals.

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