Best Preschool & Little Kid Back To School Backpacks

It is school supply season, and many of us will be buying our children new backpacks. Sure, you can grab one of those bags with a character sprayed across the front. However, they are usually too big for your little one to really carry themselves, and they are notoriously unreliable. Last year it took only six weeks for my daughter’s zipper to break, and my son had a hole in his in less than ten weeks. I ended up buying each of my kids two backpacks last year, and all four of them is broken in some way.

I guess backpacks are one of those things that you get what you pay for. This year I decided on paying more up front for bags that will hopefully last at least a year or two. Plus, most of these bags have really useful features you cannot get on those cheap store brands. I’ve done my homework, and have read lots of blog posts and customer reviews. These are my favorites for kids ages 2-7. They are all cute, functional, and durable.

Toddler & Preschool Backpacks: Ages 2-4

These are smaller backpacks that a young child will be able to manage. They usually fit a change of clothes, a couple of diapers, travel wipes, snack, Sippy cup, and a small toy. Letting you child carry his or her own backpack will give them an immense sense of independence, and lighten your load.

Skip Hop Zoo Packs: These are adorable with many variations to choose from. They are very popular, and durable. There is one main zipper pocket, a smaller front pocket with mesh divider, and an exterior cup pocket. My son used his for two years. It fit everything he needed for Mother’s Day Out or a picnic in the park. I threw it in the washer, line dried it, and it looks good as new. It is now waiting at the top of his closet for his baby sister to get big enough to use. They are very reasonably priced at $20, and you can add a matching lunch box for $14.

Stephen Joseph Toddler Backpacks: These are simple, but fun quilted backpacks. They have one large drawstring compartment, and a very small zipper compartment for extra cash or lip balm. They are smaller than the Skip Hop Zoo Packs, and don’t have an exterior cup pocket. My oldest daughter had one, and it held everything she needed as a toddler, but I didn’t like not having a cup pocket. We had a few spills in the bottom of our bag from leaky Sippy cups. It washed up nicely when aired dried, and a friend’s child even used for a year after us. There are many websites that offer free or low cost monograms on these bags.

Pottery Barn Kids Mackenzie Preschool Backpacks: I LOVE the look and design of these bags. The various prints are so fashionable and cute for both girls and boys. The design is just like their school age kid backpacks. This is perfect if you have a little one who wants to have everything just like their older sibling. There is a main pocket, small front zipper pocket, two exterior drink holder pockets, and exterior clips to attach a coordinating lunch box. These are a little more expensive at $29 each, but won’t break the bank. For an additional $7 you can splurge to have it monogrammed. Several of my friends own this bag, and would buy it again.

School Starter Backpacks: Ages 4-7

These backpacks are for your kindergartener to second grader who needs a larger bag for school supplies and folders, but is still too small to safely manage a large backpack meant for older kids or teens.


Lands End Classmate Medium: This is a classic style backpack that is made of water resistant fabric with a reinforced bottom. It has an extra leash strap for attaching things like hats and lunchboxes. An adjustable sternum strap helps keeps the shoulder straps on your kid’s shoulders for back health and comfort. The exterior mesh water bottle pockets, and loop to connect a bike light for extra visibility are nice touches also. I was not a fan of the colors and prints they had available. I much preferred the Pottery Barn Kids designs. I am sure this is just a matter of personal taste.

At $39 with an additional $6 for monogramming these bags are a little pricy. However, they will last for a couple of years, and Lands End has the most fabulous return policy on the planet. If you aren’t satisfied just return or exchange it…PERIOD. No time frames or conditions attached.

Lands End

Lands End Feather Light Medium: This bag is similar to the Classmate, but uses a lightweight material that is still water resistant and durable. Instead of a leash strap it has the adjustable bungee cording across the front for holding bulky items like jackets or hats. The main compartment also has a separate padded sleeve for electronics. There are compression straps on each side to keep the load stable for extra comfort. It has awesome breathable padded shoulder straps with a sternum strap.

This is the bag I chose for my 4 and 7 year olds this year. I preferred the additional electronic sleeve and the bungee cord over the Classmate listed above as my kids will use this for travel as well as school. I also liked the patterns a little better than the Classmate, but still not as well as the Pottery Barn Kids. At $45 with an extra $6 for monogramming this bag is not cheap. However, it is a quality bag that I expect to use for at least two years. Plus, if any holes or rips appear I will be exchanging it. You gotta love the Lands End guarantee!!!

PBK Backpack

Pottery Barn Kids Small Mackenzie: These are the sweetest looking backpacks. I particularly love the new owl and flower prints for girls, and the fun robot print for boys. Like the Lands End Classmate bags they use water resistant durable fabrics, and have padded shoulder straps with the additional sternum strap. However, these are a little different in that they have two leash straps, and a special hole to thread headphones for an MP3 player. At $39 for the bag and $7 for monogramming it is comparable to the Classmate. I didn’t choose this one for my kids because I liked the padded electronics pocket on the Feather Light and I know the Lands End guarantee cannot be beat. Also these backpacks were rated as slightly less durable than the Lands End Classmate.

You may be tempted to buy a rolling backpack thinking your little kid can grow into it, and will be able to hold more stuff. However, the rollers on some are not smooth making them difficult to handle. Also, the handles on some are two short for older kids making them hunch down a bit. Lastly, the handles are prone to breaking making them useless. Add in the fact that they are much more expensive, and well I just don’t think it is as good of an idea as it sounds.