On the way home from a trip to the UK a while back, we picked up a fun Cath Kidston shark backpack for our toddler to carry his treasures and toys when we travel abroad or when we’re at home in Newport Beach. He stuck a few sand toys in it on trips to the beach and packed it with small toy cars, crayons, and stickers for the plane. He’d even sometimes wear it when it was empty, just because he loved his shark backpack.
Before starting preschool this last year, I started looking for a toddler backpack that was a bit bigger to carry lunch and a few supplies but had a hard time finding something that wasn’t just full-size. Whether it’s for school or for travel, it’s important to find a toddler or kids backpack that’s the right size for their smaller frames, durable and easy to care for, and also lets them show a bit of their own personality with fun colors and prints. I set out to find a few practical, high-quality backpacks that were sized down enough for small children. Check out these backpacks for toddlers and kids that are cute, functional and perfect for travel.
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Toddler Backpacks (for 4 and under)
1 Cath Kidston Kids Mini Rucksack
Cath Kidston is a British retailer with playful prints on its clothing and accessories. I walked by their window front off of the main square in Cambridge, England almost every day when we lived there, and loved the whimsical floral patterns and little British soldier prints. Cath Kidston makes a few different sizes of backpacks for toddlers and kids with new prints every season. The sizes start with the Mini Rucksack which is just the right size for a toddler backpack.
➳ Shop Now: $29 on Cath Kidston
2 FJÄLLRÄVEN ‘Mini Kånken‘ Water Resistant Backpack
If you’ve been eyeing one of the classic and colorful FJÄLLRÄVEN backpacks for yourself, you can also get a mini one for your mini-me. This is the perfect toddler backpack, though you may be tempted to borrow from your kid’s closet and use it as your own mini pack from time to time. Plus, it’s water resistant and comes in so many bright, bold colors.
➳ Shop Now: $70 on Amazon
3 Walker Goods Mini Arrow Pack
Walker Goods was created by a young family to inspire other families to travel simple, and it’s easy to do that with the cute and quality Mini Arrow backpack. While this travel backpack was made for kids, the straps conveniently adjust to fit anyone from young kids to adults.
➳ Shop Now: $50 on Walker Goods
4 Deuter Kids’ Schmusebar Pack
If you do a lot of hiking and outdoor adventures, then this Deuter Kids’ Schmusebar pack is a great choice for a toddler backpack. It has a little extra padding on the back and breathable shoulder straps to make it more comfortable for longer wear. It comes in pink, green, and blue.
➳ Shop Now: $40 on Amazon
5 J.Crew Kids’ Backpack
If your kids are little older and need something that’s not mini, but not quite full size, the J.Crew crewcuts backpacks are a great option. These kids’ backpacks easily fit school essentials like a standard size folder, so it’s a good choice for back-to-school. Plus, most of these backpacks are made with nylon so they’re durable and easy to clean. I picked up a J.Crew backpack with a fun space theme when our son started preschool, and it still looks brand new almost a whole school year later. There’s a water bottle pocket on the outside, which is handy for both school and travel. J.Crew has sales pretty often with 30% to 40% off full-price styles, so these kids’ backpacks are a steal if you pick one up on sale!
➳ Shop Now: $49.50 on J.Crew
6 Cath Kidston Kids’ Medium Backpack or Padded Rucksack
Cath Kidston bags are so cute, I had to mention them again if you want a kids travel bag that fits a few more things. Opt for the Medium Backpack or Kids’ Padded Rucksack to size up for older kids. These backpacks are made of oilcloth, so they are durable and waterproof.
➳ Shop Now: $40 to $48 on Cath Kidston
7 Japan Anello Original Mini Backpack
During our trip to Tokyo, Japan last year, one of the first things I noticed was that almost everyone had an Anello backpack. I bought the medium backpack while I was there, and it’s been my go-to backpack ever since. I love the structured zipper that creates a rectangular opening, so you can see everything in your bag (traditional bags and purses sometimes feel like a black hole to me where things just disappear, but a larger opening makes it so much easier to find what I need). They have both small and mini-sized options that include all the same features as the larger ones, including the structured zipper opening for the top, an extra zipper on the back, a roomy interior, a front zip pocket, and side pockets for water bottles.
8 REI Co-op Kids’ Tarn Pack
If you’re looking for a rugged pack made for your family outdoor adventures, the REI Co-Op Kids’ Tarn Pack has all the options your kids will want when hitting the trails. This kid’s backpack has padded shoulder straps, a hip belt to help distribute weight, easy-access water bottle pockets and a front stuff pocket with stretch mesh. The REI Co-Op Kids’ Tarn Pack comes in two sizes. The Tarn 12 is made for kids 5-to-8-year-olds, and the Tarn 18 is best for 8-to-12-year-olds.
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