The Best Toddler Backpacks for Daycare, Preschool and Beyond

Whether for trips, daytime adventures or school, these mini packs are perfect for pint-size backs.
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By Emma O'Regan-Reidy, E-Commerce Editor
Updated June 26, 2023
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Image: Pottery Barn Kids
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Your little one may not be slinging a bag full of textbooks over their shoulders just yet, but a toddler backpack is still a must-have accessory. Whether your mini learner is heading to daycare, preschool or camp, they’ll need a bag to carry supplies, snacks, artwork and maybe even a toy or two. Luckily, there are plenty of kids’ mini backpacks out there for you and your child to choose from—and each one is cuter than the next. Read on to find out what to look for in a toddler backpack and safety tips—then, shop our top picks for every style, budget and need.

What To Look For in the Best Toddler Backpacks

Of course, being adorable isn’t the only criteria to consider when searching for the best toddler backpack. Here are some other factors to think about as you shop:

  • Size. Toddler backpacks need to be compact enough for a little kid to carry, but roomy enough to hold all the essentials. Check to see if your child’s daycare or preschool has any specific size requirements for backpacks, since some ask that bags be big enough to hold a standard letter-size sheet of paper. A good range is anywhere between 10 to 15 inches tall. If you’re looking for a teeny tiny option, opt for a mini toddler backpack.
  • Care. Spills, stains and messes are inevitable, so a toddler backpack that’s machine-washable—or at least easy to wipe down—is a must. Choose a bookbag made from a durable material so it’ll last for many school days (and maybe years) to come. Some are even made from water-resitant fabrics—score!
  • Use. Will your preschooler be carrying their backpack themselves? Or, are you looking for a daycare bag that you can send in with your child that’s large enough to hold a change of clothes, snacks, meals and other essentials? Maybe you’re on the hunt for a tot-friendly travel bag or even a hiking backpack. Whatever the case, be sure to consider what your child will be using their bookbag for to find a match that has all the features and accessories they need.

Toddler Backpack Safety Tips

While toddler backpacks are, of course, cute, there are also safety considerations to keep in mind before your child uses one. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) calls attention to several features that help make toddler backpacks safe for a young child to carry. When shopping, look for a bookbag with two wide shoulder straps, a padded back and a chest strap. Also note where the name label is located. Ideally, it should be placed on the interior of the backpack so your child’s personal information isn’t on display for strangers. The same goes for monogrammed backpacks for toddlers: It’s safer to stick to initials instead of your child’s first name.

The Best Toddler Backpacks To Shop

Ready to start your search? Here, check out our favorite toddler backpacks to carry your little one from the playground to preschool, and beyond.

Overall best toddler backpack

Junior Original Book Pack
Image: L.L. Bean
Buying Options
L.L. Bean|$34.95

Need a backpack that will take your tot to the classroom and beyond? This toddler backpack, designed specifically for kiddos 4+, is an ideal choice. It’s got all the features you need for a school setting (a spacious main compartment, a water bottle pocket, etc.), plus a well-designed back panel to make carrying it as comfortable as possible. And get a load of that cute critter print! It’s perfect for travel, adventures and learning, of course. Still not convinced? Read one of the many five-star reviews!

Dimensions: 11” (L) x 6” (W) x 14.5” (H) | Weight: 13 oz. | Capacity: 16 L | Materials: 100% polyester | Age rating: 4+ years

What We Love
  • With 16 L capacity, it has a spacious main compartment
  • Weatherproof material
  • Reflective details
Things To Consider
  • Designed for kids 4+

Best preschool backpack

STATE Bags Kane Kids Mini Backpack
Image: STATE Bags

STATE is a brand best-known for its super-chic bags and generous mission—they donate a portion of their proceeds to a range of charitable initiatives. Adults love the standard Kane backpack, and kids will adore having their very own Mini Kane too. The bookbag is 11” tall with large pockets and a top loop that’s easy to hang up in preschool cubbies or lockers. The straps are soft and padded, and the neon accents are almost too cool for school. Pair it with the matching snack pack for a complete set.

Dimensions: 9.45” (L) x 3.54” (W) x 12.6” (H) | Capacity: 6 L | Weight: 12.32 oz. | Materials: 100% polyester | Age rating: 2 to 4 years old

What We Love
  • Designed specifically for toddlers and young kids
  • Available in 19 colors and patterns
  • Personalization options available
Things To Consider

Best daycare bag

Mackenzie Lavender Floral Blooms Backpacks
Image: Pottery Barn Kids

Durable, roomy and oh-so-cute, this pick checks all of the boxes on our list when it comes to picking the best daycare bag. It’s spacious enough to hold your kiddo’s essentials—such as a change of clothes, diapers, wipes and a snack or two—plus, it has an external strap where a lunch box can be clipped on. Thanks to several interior and exterior pockets, prepping everything before getting your little love out the door will be a bit easier. Better yet, when your tot graduates to preschool, they’ll be able to confidently wear this bag themselves. Need a different size? No problem—choose from five different options to align with your kiddo as they reach new ages and stages of development.

Dimensions: 12” (L) x 6” (W) x 15” (H) | Capacity: N/A | Weight: N/A | Materials: 100% polyester | Age rating: N/A

What We Love
  • Made entirely from recycled materials
  • Features several interior and exterior pockets
  • Comes in five different sizes
Things To Consider
  • Small size fits children who are 43” to 49" tall; check the size guide to find the best fit for your child

Best backpack for one-year-olds

OOPS Soft, Round Pappy Backpack Bag for Children
Image: Walmart

The best backpacks for one-year-olds are just the right size for their teeny tiny backs, like this adorable design. After all, they don’t have too much to carry just yet! The circular shape features a breathable mesh back panel, adjustable straps and a chest harness for your little one’s comfort. Plus, thanks to the metal zipper, your tot can practice opening and closing their bag themselves. This would make a unique first birthday gift!

Dimensions: 9.1” (L) x 2.8” (W) x 9.1” (H) | Capacity: N/A | Weight: 5.76 oz. | Materials: | Age rating: 18+ months

Best backpack for 2-year-olds

Little Critters Rainbow Sun Backpack
Image: Pottery Barn Kids

Now that your tot has reached the two-year mark, they’ll need a toddler backpack to celebrate their “big kid” status. We love this sunny, rainbow-patterned bag from Pottery Barn Kids that’s made entirely from recycled plastic water bottles. The result? A fabric that’s water-resistant, durable and, of course, sustainable. To keep your little one organized, there are several interior and exterior pockets. Last but not least, this backpack for toddlers also has a top handle so it can easily be hung up at preschool.

Dimensions: 10” (L) x 4” (W) x 12” (H) | Capacity: N/A | Weight: 8 oz. | Materials: 100% polyester | Age rating: N/A

What We Love
  • Padded, adjustable straps for your child’s comfort
  • Internal name tag
  • Made entirely from recycled materials
Things To Consider
  • Fits children who are 36” to 43" tall
  • Spot clean only

Best backpack for 3-year-olds

Herschel is known for its cool grown-up designs—but did you know that they make kids’ backpacks too? Offering the same signature look as the classic Heritage bag, but sized for children ages 3 to 7, this toddler backpack is perfect for a trip to the playground or the first day of preschool. It has a roomy main compartment, a front storage pocket, an interior name tag and a removable sternum support strap. What’s more, it comes in plenty of cute prints and patterns to boot.

Dimensions: 8.5” (L) x 4” (W) x 13” (H) | Capacity: 9 L | Weight: 12 oz. | Materials: 100% polyester | Age rating: 3 to 7 years old

What We Love
  • Handy front storage compartment
  • Removable, supportive chest strap
  • Timeless, high-quality design
Things To Consider
  • No interior pockets
  • Some reviewers say it’s smaller than expected

Best personalized backpack for toddlers

Personalized Dinosaur Party Small Kids Backpack with Side Pockets
Image: Crate & Kids
Buying Options

Next up on our list of the best toddler backpacks is this pick from Crate & kids. The durable material is made from recycled water bottles, and adorned with a vibrant dinosaur pattern. Thick padded straps offer top-notch comfort, while a nifty top handle means it's easy to grab when you’re rushing out the door. Inside, you’ll find a roomy compartment (complete with a name tag) and a padded pocket that’s perfect for storing a tablet or folders. Personalization options are also available, but keep in mind: Toddler backpacks are safer if they show only your child’s initials, rather than their first or full name.

Dimensions: 10” (L) x 4.5” (W) x 13” (H) | Capacity: N/A | Weight: N/A | Materials: 100% recycled polyester | Age rating: 3 to 5 years old

What We Love
  • Padded interior pocket and convenient exterior pockets
  • Personalization options available
Things To Consider
  • Not big enough to fit a lunchbox inside

Best toddler backpack and lunchbox set

Zoo Little Kid Backpack Lunch Box & Snack Cup Set - Pug
Image: Skip Hop
Buying Options
Skip Hop|$40

With this 3-in-1 toddler backpack and lunchbox set, your little one will be ready to go for their first day of school, summer camp or any other adventure you have in mind. Your tot is sure to have heart eyes for the too-cute pug design, and you’ll love all the standout features this set has to offer. Those include the easy-to-open (and close!) snack cup, the convenient water bottle pocket and front pouch and the insulated lunch bag. Complete the set with a pug-themed insulated food container for warm meals.

Dimensions: 11” (L) x 5” (W) x 12” (H) (backpack), 7” (L) x 4.25” (W) x 9.5” (H) (lunch box)| Capacity: N/A | Weight: N/A | Materials: Polyester | Age rating: 3+ years

What We Love
  • Adjustable straps to meet your child’s changing needs
  • Insulated lunch bag keeps food and drinks cool
  • Several exterior pockets
  • Snack cup is dishwasher-safe
Things To Consider
  • Backpack and lunchbox are hand wash only
  • Fits children who are 43” to 49" tall

Best mini toddler backpack

Toddler Backpack, Waterproof Preschool Backpack, 3D Cute Cartoon Neoprene Animal Schoolbag for Kids
Image: Amazon
Buying Options

Mini toddler backpacks are ideal for trips to the playground, running errands with parents and other everyday activities. We’re fans of this adorable dino-themed backpack for toddlers. Crafted from neoprene, you can count on it to be water-resistant, lightweight and soft, while also being durable enough to protect all of your child’s belongings. Is your little one not a fan of dinosaurs? Don’t worry—it comes in several styles, from a mermaid or a [unicorn]() to a fire engine or a shark.

Dimensions: 8.3” (L) x 3.9” (W) x 10.2” (H) | Capacity: N/A | Weight: 8.1 oz. | Materials: Neoprene | Age rating: 1 to 6 years old

What We Love
  • Made from soft neoprene that’s BPA- and phthalate-free
  • Adjustable shoulder straps
  • Available in an array of cute 3D styles
  • Affordable price point
Things To Consider
  • Too small to be used for kindergarten, according to some reviewers

Best toddler backpack with a safety harness

If there was a popularity contest among toddler backpacks, this one from Skip Hop would win hands down. Seriously, you see them everywhere. That’s because it’s the perfect size for the tiniest of travelers. It’s roomy without being too large for them to carry on their own, features a separate side bottle holder for when your tot gets thirsty, and has an interior label for their name. Plus, the padded, harness-style straps promise comfort and extra security. There’s even a removable tether you can hold to stay connected to your child. It’s also ridiculously adorable—with a bunch of different animal options, so your little one is sure to find a favorite.

Dimensions: 7.5” (L) x 3.25” (W) x 9” (H) | Capacity: N/A | Weight: 8 oz. | Materials: 100% polyester | Age rating: 1+ years

What We Love
  • Doubles as a safety harness
  • Available in several too-cute animal designs
  • Affordable price point
Things To Consider
  • Some reviewers say it’s smaller than expected
  • Spot clean or hand wash only

Best simple toddler backpack

Simple Joys by Carter's Mini Backpack, Blue, One Size
Image: Amazon
Buying Options

Sometimes, simpler really is better. Case in point: This mini toddler backpack. It features a zippered main compartment, that’s the perfect size for a favorite toy or stuffed animal, and also has a mesh water bottle pocket. Other highlights include the top carry handle and the adjustable shoulder straps.

Dimensions: 7.5” (L) x 3.25” (W) x 9” (H) | Capacity: 1 L | Weight: 5.9 oz. | Materials: N/A | Age rating: N/A

What We Love
  • At 5.9 oz, it’s the lightest backpack on our list
  • Affordable price point
  • Comes in four prints
Things To Consider
  • Only has one pocket

Best horizontal toddler backpack

 Owl Pack
Image: Bixbee

Bixbee’s animal-themed options are some of the best kids’ backpacks out there, because they’re ergonomically designed for children ages 3 to 5. That means your tot can take it from preschool to kindergarten with ease. The patented horizontal design is extra-comfy to tote around, and the padded, contoured shoulders prevent the straps from slipping. Oh, and if you’re shopping for a matching toddler backpack and lunchbox, Bixbee sells lunch bags too.

Dimensions: 12.5” (L) x 4” (W) x 10” (H) | Capacity: N/A | Weight: 1 lb. | Materials: 100% polyester | Age rating: 3 to 5 years old

What We Love
  • Ergonomic horizontal design
  • Helpful interior and exterior pockets
  • Contoured, padded straps
Things To Consider
  • Reviewers said it took their tots some time to get used to the backpack’s unique shape

Best affordable toddler backpack

Toddler 10inch Backpack - Cat & Jack Orange
Image: Target
Buying Options

Next up on our list of the best toddler backpacks is this bright tiger-printed style. Created for kiddos ages 1 to 3, the cute bookbag is lightweight and made from 100 percent neoprene. The top loop makes it easy to hang up in the classroom, while the front pocket ensures your sweetie has plenty of space for snacks and knick-knacks. All that for $15? Bargain!

Dimensions: 8.25” (L) x 3.75” (W) x 10” (H) | Capacity: 4.92 L | Weight: 8 oz. | Materials: 100% neoprene | Age rating: 1 to 3 years old

What We Love
  • Made from durable neoprene
  • Top loop for added convenience
  • Affordable price point
Things To Consider
  • No interior pockets

Best travel toddler backpack

Youth Mini Explorer Backpack
Image: The North Face
Buying Options
The North Face|$39

It’s finally here: The day your tot can carry their own gear (at least some of it) while you’re on the move. In addition to a pint-sized suitcase, you’ll also want to equip them with a toddler travel backpack—like this one from The North Face. On-the-go spills and accidents are inevitable, which is why this design is made from durable, water-resistant fabric. Your kiddo will also appreciate the toggled zippers, the two water bottle pockets and the top-loading main compartment, which all offer easy access to inspire independence. Better yet, this bag comes in a variety of colorways to please even the most discerning of tots.

Dimensions: 8.875” (L) x 5.5” (W) x 11.875” (H) | Capacity: 10 L | Weight: 10.6 oz. | Materials: 100% polyester | Age rating: N/A

What We Love
  • Spacious, zippered main compartment
  • Several interior and exterior pockets
  • Internal name tag
  • Made entirely from recycled materials
Things To Consider
  • Some reviewers say it’s smaller than expected

Best toddler hiking backpack

Kids' Daylite Backpack
Image: Nordstrom

Last but not least is our pick for the best toddler hiking backpack. Encourage your little one’s love of the outdoors by taking them on nature walks, and inspire their budding confidence by allowing them to carry their own belongings. This versatile backpack for toddlers is equipped with all the features you’d expect from an adult hiking bag, including a ventilated back panel, padded mesh shoulder straps, side water bottle pockets (to hold any treasures found along the way, of course!) and even hydration bladder compatibility. Not sure what to pack their bag with for your next excursion? Check out our list of toddler hiking essentials—and don’t forget a pair of trusty toddler hiking boots.

Dimensions: 7.5” (L) x 7” (W) x 13” (H) | Capacity: 10 L | Weight: 9.3 oz. | Materials: Polyester and nylon | Age rating: N/A

What We Love
  • Has a ventilated back panel and mesh shoulder straps for added comfort
  • Hydration bladder compatible
  • Made entirely from recycled materials
  • Available in several vibrant colorways
Things To Consider
  • Technically a kids’ backpack, rather than a toddler backpack

How We Chose the Best Toddler Backpacks

With so many adorable options on the market, it can be hard to decide which toddler backpack would be the best for your kiddo. Luckily, we did the bulk of the research for you, so you don’t have to spend hours scrolling through online retailers. When sourcing tot-friendly bookbags for this roundup, we browsed options from leading brands and online retailers to ensure they’re from reliable manufacturers. We also considered several overall features when naming our top picks for each category, including age rating, size, weight, material, durability, style, value and, of course, safety features.

To understand the pros and cons of each toddler backpack in our roundup, we read user reviews to get the lowdown on how these products have worked for real preschoolers (and their parents), and didn’t consider anything with less than an average four-star rating. Plus, we followed the safety recommendations of the AAP to ensure we’re highlighting products that are safe and effective.

Interested in learning more about our editorial process? Read about how our team develops and reviews all articles here.

Expert sources:

Healthy Children (AAP), Backpack Safety, August 2022

Learn how we keep our content accurate and up-to-date by reading our medical review and editorial process.

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