It's one of the most exciting school essentials to buy: your kids' backpack. Whether they're headed to preschool with snacks and nap essentials or rocking the halls of the elementary school, they need something that's fun and functional. It's also nice if it lasts longer than a single school year. So, how to choose? Well, the best backpacks for kids are big enough to haul all of their supplies without weighing them down or making them look like an unsteady turtle.

And since there's an overwhelming amount of choices out there, here's a pro tip: Choose a few kids backpacks that you love, then let them pick out their favorite! (And don't forget the perfect first day of school outfit!)

From toddler backpacks that will last kids for years to the best and cool backpacks for kids for the first day of school, we've rounded up a selection that makes it easier to choose. (Maybe.😉)

Best toddler backpacks

Ten Little Recycled Backpack

Ten Little

$36

Recycled Backpack

With a thoughtful design that holds everything they need without overloading, the tot-sized recycled backpack from Ten Little is one that you’ll love as much as they do. Unlike most toddler backpacks that lack true support, this one boasts all the bells and whistles of a standard pack on a smaller scale: a chest strap to evenly distribute weight, padded shoulder straps and a padded back panel. The waterproof interior holds up to inevitable spills and the interior multi-name tag suggests they know it’s going to last long enough to hand down. Want to really blow their little minds? Throw in a pack of their colorful weatherproof stickers and let your kiddo make their backpack as unique as they are! (P.S. It’s also available in a larger size for elementary schoolers!)

Posh Peanut Backpack

Posh Peanut

$65

Backpack

Since we’re already in love with the cult-favorite jammies from Posh Peanut, we’re instant fans of their new (and equally adorbs) backpacks! Like their clothing, the backpacks come in a variety of eye catching prints from leopard and florals to dinosaurs and gamer motifs. They’ve got wide comfy straps and plenty of pockets, but the sweetest feature of all? A clever exterior pocket for toting their best (stuffed) pal.

Cat & Jack shark backpack

Cat & Jack

$15

Shark Print Backpack

Pint-sized, affordable and oh-so-cute, the Cat & Jack shark backpack is a winner all around.

7AM Enfant Mini Wings Backpack

7AM Enfant

$45

Mini Wings Backpack

Is this the coolest backpack out there? Possibly. Made from a feather-light water-repellant shell, the tot-sized carry-all might not help them move any faster (seriously, does time stop when they’re asked to put their shoes on?) but it sure looks like it could. And that’s enough for us, TBH.

Hunter Kids Backpack

Hunter

$60

Kids Backpack

We admit, we’re suckers for the iconic looks from Hunter in all forms. Case in point: The water-resistant kids backpack which is perfectly sized for minis (and looks fetching with a pair of matching rain boots)!

bear shaped backpack with bee pouch

Coco Village

$99.99

Little Bear Backpack and Pouch

With their European aesthetic and too-adorable-for-words designs, we can’t help but crush on all things Coco Village. But this back-to-school season, their Little Bear backpack takes the cake. Not only is it the cutest backpack + pencil case combo ever, it’s also made from durable vegan leather with a top-loading construction that makes it easy for little ones to pack and unpack. (And don’t miss the matching bee hive lunchbox!)

pink blue and white backpack

Fjällraven

$85

Kånken Art Mini

We’ve always loved the Swedish Fjällraven’s iconic Kanken backpacks for little ones. The square design fits just enough to be helpful but not too much to weigh them down and they last FOREVER. And even better, the brand has worked to further climate change initiatives since 1994 with their Arctic Fox Initiative. This year’s ocean-inspired collection, designed by Swedish artist Linn Fritz, benefits 2 Minute Foundation and Leave No Trace, working to draw awareness to the growing problem of plastics littering the oceans.

State Bags Kane Kids Mini Backpack

State Bags

$80

Kane Kids Mini Travel

Between their super cool style and give-back mission, we’re big fans of State Bags. For tots, our top pick is the Kane Kids Mini which is perfectly sized and comes in a ton of awesome colors and designs. The exterior is made from a coated cotton that’s easy to keep clean and can be personalized with their initials and/or their choice of emoji-esque symbols like a rocket, banana or lightning bolt.

llama backpack

Skip Hop

$21.99

Llama Insulated Toddler Backpack

Now, who wouldn’t want a llama backpack?! We adore Skip Hop’s toddler backpack line—kiddos can pick out their favorite animal, like a unicorn, ladybug, or bee. They’re ideal for preschool, where children won’t bring a ton of folders or binders home. The insulated front pouch is the perfect spot to store snacks.

light up backpack

Herschel Supply

$39.99

Heritage Backpack Kids

Perfectly sized for kids aged 3 to 5, Herschel’s smallest version of the popular Heritage backpack comes in a variety of different colorways and features a removable sternum support strap and a limited lifetime warranty. Some even include reflective fabric and a light up feature to keep kiddos extra visible on their walk home.

Best Kids Backpacks

Highlights Dino Backpack

Highlights

$49.99

Dino Backpack

Made from a durable, water-resistant fabric, the super cool Dino Backpack from Highlights has a fun secret. It glows in the dark! And that’s not the only reason it shines. It’s also got plenty of easy-access pockets, an interior tablet pocket, comfy padded straps and reflective strips to keep your kiddo visible and safe. And if you want to go all in on the dino gear, check out the matching lunch tote, water bottle and pencil case!

Bentgo Kids Prints 2-in-1 Backpack & Insulated Lunch Bag

Bentgo Kids

$34.99

Prints 2-in-1 Backpack & Insulated Lunch Bag

We can’t resist this Bengto brilliance. Lugging both a backpack and a lunchbox can be a total PITA, especially when you weigh like 45 pounds. Instead, this high-quality duo keeps it all in one easy-to-carry pack. The top is a traditional backpack with plenty of space and organization for their schoolwork while the insulated bottom compartment easily houses a variety of Bentgo lunch box containers! There are a ton of great patterns to choose from too!

Skip Hop Spark Style Big Kid Backpack

Skip Hop

$30

Spark Style Big Kid Backpack

We love the top-loading style of this adorable strawberry pack! It offers plenty of space inside for folders and a lunch bag along with a clear pocket on the front for essentials and a water bottle holder on the side. Coordinate with the matching lunch accessories and water bottle and they’ll be ready for anything!

navy backpack

Dare to Roam

$72

Mini Prodigy Backpack

They look simple, but the magic of the ethically made backpacks from Dare to Roam is in the details. The water-resistant nylon features antimicrobial technology to keep them fresh and clean despite your preschooler’s best efforts. At just 15 inches, the mini is perfect for elementary schoolers, but if you’re shopping for an older kiddo you may want to upgrade to the full size.

West Elm Modern Backpack

West Elm

$59.50

Modern Backpack

With a modern design they’ll love and a durable coating that will keep it tip-top throughout the year, you can’t go wrong with this basic number. You can also opt to add their name or initials!

grey backpack

MCubed

$34

Kids' Backpacks

Designed with the tiniest school-goers in mind, Mcubed backpacks are large enough to fit folders and essentials, but not so big they’ll overwhelm your little one. We love their simple patterns and muted colors which you don’t always find when it comes to kid backpacks. They also offer matching lunchboxes and pencil cases!

Jansport Superbreak plus

Jansport

$42

Superbreak Plus Backpack

The “OG” of backpack brands, Jansport makes durable classic designs that can withstand the wear and tear of the school year. A front panel with a built-in organizer will keep elementary kids and middle schoolers organized, while the padded shoulder straps will keep them comfortable. The best part? The price (and a few super fun patterns)!

State Bags Kane Kids

State Bags

$90

Kane Kids

So good, we’re telling you twice. A larger version of the Mini Kane, it’s roomy enough to carry your child through elementary school and durable enough to last well beyond that.

red backpack

Lands' End

$35.95

Kids ClassMate Medium Backpack

This classic bag is great for preschool and elementary. With padded back panels and shoulder straps, it provides optimal comfort and is water-repellent. It has reinforced stitching so it’ll hold up just fine if your little tosses it or drags it around. And, we can’t resist personalizing it with a monogram so you always know which bag is your kid’s.

Herschel Supply Heritage Backpack Youth

Herschel Supply

$49.99

Heritage Backpack Youth

Another pick we love for littles and bigs. The youth version of Herschel Supply’s Heritage pack is total winner for the elementary school set. It’s roomy enough for a laptop but not so gigantic that it turns into a pit of despair.

A version of this story was published December 1, 2021. It has been updated.

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