Time to start promoting your kid’s independence? Or are you just getting a bit tired of them wanting to carry their favorite teddy bear everywhere (and dropping it constantly on germ-ridden sidewalks)?
Whatever the case may be, a toddler backpack could be the answer!
Okay, you can’t load up your little one with all the wipes, snacks, drinks, toys, diapers, and everything else needed for a full day out, but popping a few light items into their very own backpack could be something really exciting them.
For those of you extra cautious about your toddler’s safety (as we all should be, really) – there’s also some toddler backpacks out there that have a safety harness attached to them, to ensure that you keep a firm hold on your little one while out walking.
Best Toddler Backpacks – A Quick Look At Our Top 7 Recommendations
- Wildkin 12 Inch Backpack
- BricaBy-My-Side Safety Harness Backpack
- Skip Hop Toddler Leash and Harness Backpack
- VASCHY Preschool Backpack
- Yodo 3-Way Toddler Backpack with Wheels
- YISIBO 3D Cartoon Backpack
- Abshoo Zoo Toddler Plush Animals Backpacks
Note: When clicking on any of the above links, you’ll go to the product listing pages on Amazon, where you can read further information, see current prices and read customer reviews.
What Are Toddler Backpacks?
As you might expect, these are teeny backpacks specifically designed for use by toddlers – unlike regular backpacks which are more than likely to be too big for them to wear.
These might not be able to hold much more than a teddy and a snack at once, but they nonetheless remain a great way to give your child a little bit of independence.
They’re also really useful if your child insists on carrying their teddy or their blanket on their own without any help from you – which, as I imagine, isn’t something you’re upset about! Less stuff for me to carry around? Yes, please!
There’s a huge range of cute designs out there for you to choose from, so whatever your child’s particularly into – whether that’s monkeys, unicorns, elephants, dinosaurs, or even a design of their favorite character – you’re sure to find a backpack they’ll love showing everybody.
When Should I Buy a Toddler Backpack?
Once your child can walk steadily, they’re probably ready for their very own backpack.
Don’t try to give a backpack to an unsteady walker, as you don’t want to unbalance them even further! They already have enough of that as it is, so now is not the time to put even more pressure on them and rush them into something they’re not ready for.
Some parents find that their toddler wants their very own backpack once an older sibling starts school.
As for upgrading, you’ll need to move on from the toddler backpack once it gets too small for your little one. You don’t want the backpack to dig uncomfortably into their arms, so do check regularly that it’s still a good fit.
Since your child is used to wearing a backpack and carrying a few things, you’ll probably want to keep that up and move them on to a backpack that’s more suitable for an elementary-school-aged child.
What Are the Benefits of Using a Toddler Backpack?
If you’re on the fence about getting a toddler backpack, here’s a list of what they’re great for:
A Sense of Independence
How often do you hear the words “Me do it!” or similar in your house?
Toddlers love to do things for themselves, even if they haven’t yet quite mastered getting their shoes on the right feet.
While there are some tasks you can’t let them tackle alone (you know – cooking dinner needs to remain a mom or dad job for quite a while to come), you can (and should) let them gradually start getting used to carrying their own belongings.
Ready For Day Care
If your child attends daycare, you might have already been asked to supply a backpack for them to use.
Letting your child choose something they love might help with any morning battles or meltdowns (which none of us have the energy for, really) – and they’ll look super cute as they walk in all fashionable!
If your toddler likes to walk around clutching a teddy, their sippy cup, that fascinating stone they picked up, or just about anything else along those lines – then they won’t be able to easily put their hands out to catch themselves if they fall.
Encourage them to keep their hands free by giving them their very own backpack to store their treasures in.
Less Stuff for You to Carry
Let’s face it, you probably can’t load your toddler up with everything you need on a trip out – but if you’re just going to the local park for an hour, having their snack and drink in their own backpack does at least slightly reduce the amount of items that you have to cram into your own bag or pockets.
Added Safety, Less Tantrums!
Some toddlers will run off at the slightest chance they get – and they can be pretty fast! Sometimes, mine makes me go “well, when did you start training for a 100 meter sprint race?!”.
For generations, parents have put little ones on a leash to keep them safe, but some kids hate being leashed (and some parents worry that they may be judged for it).
There’s a workaround to this, though – add a cute backpack into the mix, and the attached leash might seem much less of an issue.
What to Look For When Choosing a Toddler Backpack
There are loads of toddler backpacks out there on the market for you to choose from, so it should be relatively easy to find something that’s perfect for both you and your child’s needs/desires.
In general, here’s a list of some key features to look for when doing your shopping:
The Right Size
Toddler backpacks range from “titchy” to “surprisingly large for a two-year-old”, so there’s a whole world of sizes to choose from in between.
The important thing to focus on is this: You want something that’s just the right size for your child – not larger than they can handle, and not smaller than they’re comfortable with.
A backpack that’s designed for a seven-year-old probably isn’t going to work for a three-year-old. On the other hand, a tiny backpack is likely to be a bad choice for your tall three-year-old.
Besides looking at the size of the backpack itself, make sure the straps are just the right length, too – or at least make sure that they can be adjusted to the right length for your child to wear the backpack comfortably.
No Small Parts or Choking Hazards
Obviously, you don’t want anything on the backpack to be dangerous to your child.
This means that before buying, you should look carefully at the manufacturer’s guidance and ensure that the backpack is suitable for a two-year-old (or whatever age your toddler is).
You should also check for anything that you think might be a choking hazard, as manufacturers can’t always be relied on to get this part right. For example, decorative buttons might look super cute, but they could be seriously harmful to your child.
Toddlers grow fast, so you want a backpack that can grow with them – or else, good luck buying something new every few months!
Choose one that has adjustable straps so you can shorten or lengthen them to ensure they’re always comfortable for your child.
This is particularly crucial if you have two children of different heights who’ll be sharing the same backpack at different times, though you may want to buy two backpacks anyway (one for each) if at all possible. You know, toddlers aren’t exactly renowned for their love of sharing!
Comes with a Leash (if You Want One)
If you plan to use your backpack as a handy way to keep your child on a leash, then look for a backpack that incorporates a leash.
It’s fine if it’s a removable one – what’s critical is that the backpack is designed to be used with a leash. If you simply tie or clip a leash to the handle of a regular backpack that wasn’t made to accommodate one, it could be uncomfortable or even painful for your child when they tug on the leash.
A Likable Design
There’s not much point to buying a toddler backpack that your child’s going to refuse to wear – so make sure you’re opting for something that they actually like and look forward to putting on.
That might mean choosing a backpack in their favorite color, or one that looks like an animal they love or modeled after their favorite character.
You’ll also want to opt for a backpack that you like. After all, you’re going to be taking your toddler out and about with it on full display, so you don’t want something that’s going to make you cringe every time a stranger raises an eyebrow at it.
Even if you don’t really care about what other people think about it, at least care about what you feel like when looking at it – and remember that you’ll be crossing paths on an almost daily basis for the foreseeable future!
Some toddler backpacks are seriously tiny. If you can only manage to fit a sippy cup in there before it’s full, it’s probably a bit too small to be useful!
While you don’t want to swamp your little one with a massive backpack, you do want something that can only hold a few small items at a time either. This is especially true if they’ll be using this backpack for daycare or preschool.
Keep in mind that the backpack’s design matters a lot here, and not just its dimensions. Some backpacks are inferior to others when comparing dimensions, but can manage to hold more items because of their design.
Your toddler’s backpack should have two wide shoulder straps as a minimum.
It should also, if possible, have a padded back (the bit that goes against your child’s body) and a chest strap. With that being said, many toddler backpacks don’t come with a chest strap, so you may need to weigh up how important this is to you.
If possible, opt for a toddler backpack that can go through the washing machine – your future self will thank your current self for this later!
These things will get grubby and you will need to clean them on a regular basis, that’s just a fact of life with little ones!
A toddler backpack that has to be carefully spot-cleaned will probably be more trouble than it’s worth, so opting for something you can delegate to the washing machine is the best way to go.
Best Toddler Backpacks – A More Detailed Look At Our Top 7 Recommendations
Ready to send your little “independent” boy or girl off to preschool or daycare with everything they need to have a good day? Have a look at some of the best toddler backpacks you could get your hands on today.
Wildkin 12 Inch Backpack
This cute backpack, which comes in lots of different bright and fun designs, is a good size for both preschoolers and school-age children.
There are two zippered sections to hold just about everything your little one should need for the day, until they come back home.
The front pocket is particularly clever, as it’s insulated and food-safe (as well as being easy to wipe clean), which means you can also use it as a lunchbox.
Also, there’s a mesh pocket on one side for your kid’s water bottle, too. The front of the backpack has reflective tape to help keep your child all that much safer while out and about.
The shoulder straps are adjustable, and this toddler backpack should last your little one from the age of three years up to about seven years.
It’s not large enough for a homework folder, but is perfect for a day trip or for a three year old or for year old who’s not yet in school. Hey, you could even use it as a diaper bag for a smaller child, if you’re happy to hook it on your stroller!
The material it’s made from is fairly strong and durable, and if you do face any issues such as having a strap break or tear, the manufacturer offers a limited time warranty to keep you protected.
- Lots of cute designs to choose from.
- Large enough to hold everything your little one needs for the day.
- Insulated front pocket can double-up as a lunch box.
- Adjustable straps, so it can grow with your child.
- A little on the large side for a small toddler – designed for age 3+ years.
- Loop at the top is prone to coming off.
Brica By-My-Side Safety Harness Backpack
This small toddler backpack isn’t designed to hold too much, but it’ll fit a couple of toys for your little one, plus there’s a stretchy compartment on the front that can hold a drinks bottle or cup, as well as small side pockets.
If you want to keep a fairly young toddler safe, this is a great option for peace of mind. You simply hold the leash and walk alongside your child without having to worry about them bolting – what more could we ask for?
It’s carefully designed as well, and it won’t yank hard on your child if they stumble or pull against it, so it shouldn’t be uncomfortable for them.
There are reflective strips on the sides of the backpack to help make your little one that bit more visible, too.
The tether is attached with a clever swivel clip to stop it getting tangled up, and it should rotate freely.
You can remove the tether, of course, once your child no longer needs it. When that time comes, they can carry on using the backpack just fine.
The clip that attaches the tether is durable and strong, which means that your child is fairly unlikely to break it, even if they suddenly try to bolt.
- Long leash that should be comfortable for even a tall adult to hold.
- Shoulder straps and chest strap are expandable to fit a growing child.
- Leash cord is slightly stretchy, so it won’t yank your child too hard if they pull away.
- Side and front pockets mean you can squeeze a bit more items in here.
- Leash attaches at the bottom of the pack, but could also be clipped to the loop at the top or in the center if you wanted to have it done that way.
- Quite small – fine for a toddler, but not really the best option for a four-year-old or older child who might need something larger that also offers more space.
Skip Hop Toddler Leash and Harness Backpack
This very cute toddler backpack comes in a range of different styles that you can choose from, depending on what your little one’s heart desires most.
There’s a bee, a butterfly, an owl, a ladybug, and a unicorn, so you certainly won’t be faced with a shortage of options to choose something they have a reason to want to put on.
If you’ve got a toddler who hates to be on a leash, one of these backpacks might just do the trick!
The straps clip together so your child can’t easily wriggle out of them. There’s only one compartment, but there is a mesh pocket at the side for a drink.
Like most toddler backpacks out there these days, it’s not all that large, but you can certainly keep a few bits and pieces in here.
Also, another plus with this toddler backpack is that it’s quite easy to wipe clean if it gets a bit grubby. It’s not a time consuming process at all.
As with the Brica backpack, you can simply remove the tether once your little one no longer needs it. Just unclip it from the bottom of the backpack, and you should be good to go.
The straps are adjustable, so you can make sure the backpack fits comfortably on your toddler, without sliding off or being uncomfortably tight.
- Super-cute designs that kids (and adults) will love.
- Small enough for young toddlers to carry easily.
- Strap can be removed once your child no longer needs it.
- Easy to wipe clean, and should survive going in the laundry with no problems.
- The loop on the leash is quite small. If you have largish hands or wrists, you might struggle to get it around your wrist.
- The clip for the harness is a bit awkward, and it can be easy to accidentally pinch yourself with it.
Vaschy Preschool Backpack
This roomy backpack is great for preschoolers or kindergarteners who need to tote around quite a few things with them when not at home.
There’s a large main compartment with an interior pocket, plus a front zippered pocket and two side pockets that will stretch to hold a water bottle.
It’s worth noting that there are a couple of different sizes available, one aimed at children aged 2-4 years (“small”) and one for older children aged 4-6 years (“large”). So, make sure you opt for the appropriate size for your little one.
With that being said, even the smaller size can hold full-size folders, books, and so on – so you really shouldn’t have much problems with whichever size you choose.
The zippers are designed to open smoothly for little hands, with an extra-long puller to tug on, and the loop at the top of the backpack is large to make it easy to hang it on a peg at preschool or kindergarten.
There’s a name label, too – though most of the times, they really shouldn’t need to use it. The distinctive designs will hopefully make it easy for your child to identify their backpack, as it really is designed to stand out from the crowd.
If your child needs to carry quite a few supplies with them for preschool, day care, or kindergarten, this bag is a great choice to go with.
- Comes in two different sizes that are suitable for different age ranges, so you can choose whichever will be best for your little one.
- Lots of designs to choose from, all with bright, attractive colors to them that stand out from the crowd.
- Large enough to hold a folder (even in the “small” size), as well as quite a few belongings at the same time.
- Durable and well-constructed.
- The zipper may get stuck on the fabric sometimes, which sometimes makes it a little more complicated than it needs to be for little ones to use. Once they experience this problem a couple of times and you show them how to work around it, though, it really shouldn’t be anything for you to worry about.
Yodo Zoo 3-Way Kids Rolling Luggage or Toddler Backpack with Wheels
This fun backpack doubles up as rolling luggage, with a handle that pulls out from the top. This is ideal if you’re going to be taking several trips with your little one.
It comes in a range of fun animal designs, all with cute feet and ears, and fold-over front pockets that double up as the animals’ mouths.
The backpack straps can be tucked into a pouch on the back to keep them safely out of the way while this is being used as a suitcase.
It’s a good size, too: large enough to hold plenty, but small enough for kids to comfortably roll or carry by themselves.
You might even be surprised how much you can fit in there! There are two side pockets for drinks (which you could also use for small plush toys to keep your toddler entertained for the day).
The back of the backpack is carefully padded, so that the trolley part won’t poke into your child while they’re carrying it.
There’s a cover that can hide the wheels while it’s being used as a backpack, too: just make sure you take this off when the bag is being pulled, or it might get really dirty.
- Bag feels sturdy and high-quality – it should last a good while.
- Great customer service if you do encounter any issues.
- Small enough for a three-year-old to carry or push, but large enough to carry everything they need.
- Lots of cute animal designs to choose from.
- Double zipper puller so you can open the bag in two directions at once.
- Wheel cover and backpack strap holder mean this can easily convert between being a backpack and a rolling bag.
- Large handle at the top means you can carry this too, whenever necessary.
- Unlikely to be very comfortable for long trips. Even though it’s completely fine for getting through the airport, taking on the school bus, etc … Just keep in mind that for those longer trips, something else might be a more comfortable choice.
- Not the most budget friendly toddler backpack you can choose.
YISIBO Dinosaur Backpack
These cute backpacks come in a whole range of styles, with soft fuzzy animal detailing.
They’re perfect for smaller toddlers, and are made from neoprene, so they’d make a great option for beach/pool bags where your little one is going to have a wet swim suit or trunks afterward.
For a toddler backpack, it holds quite a good amount of items inside. It has a front pocket, two side pockets, a zipped internal pocket, plus a slip pocket at the back side.
It’s strong and durable, with padded straps so that it’s also comfortable for your little one to carry.
Because it’s so well put together, it’d make a particularly good gift for a friend or family member with a toddler who you’re trying to make life that much easier for.
It’s not big enough for a folder or a large lunchbox to be stored inside – but if you want something for a toddler or preschooler to carry around and fit whatever small items they need to put inside, then this is definitely a great option to consider.
- Strong, durable construction – this should last well.
- Padded straps and breathable material to make it comfortable to carry.
- Suitable for use as a swim bag, since it dries quickly.
- Good quality zippers that shouldn’t break easily.
- Several different pockets so you can keep things organized.
- Range of cute designs available.
- The handle isn’t exactly the highest quality. If not used gently, it may come off quite easily.
- Pretty small – fine for a toddler, but not the best option for school use where your little one is likely to need more space.
Abshoo Zoo Kids Backpacks
With lots of different soft and fuzzy designs to choose from, these backpacks are perfect for toddlers and for kindergarteners.
You can’t fit a whole school folder in, but you can easily pop a few toys or snacks inside – so it’s perfect for toddlers who aren’t old enough to need something more spacious, or for use as a diaper bag instead and hook it on your stroller.
There’s a front pocket as well as the main pocket.
The fact that it’s lightweight is a huge plus in our book. You should always look for toddler backpacks that are easy for little ones to carry, and this one excels at that.
Also, the range of designs are super cute (particularly the unicorn) with vibrant colors.
As with most toddler backpacks these days, the straps are adjustable – so you could well end up using this for several years to come.
Given how cute these backpacks are, they’re surprisingly budget-friendly. You could easily buy a couple of these at the same price of a single toddler backpack from some other ranges, particularly if you’re not too fussy about which design you opt for, as some of these designs are less costlier than others.
- Lovely soft plush material that’s lightweight and comfortable for your little one to carry.
- Loads of cute designs to choose from – check out the unicorn! That’s a personal favorite of mine.
- Suitable for small toddlers, but also large enough to fit kindergartners.
- Budget-friendly option, despite being well-made and fairly durable. So, don’t mistake its affordability for low quality.
- No side pocket to carry a cup or water bottle.
- Zipper might break quite easily.
Tips for Using Toddler Backpacks Safely and Effectively
Buying the best toddler backpack you can get your hands on isn’t enough on its own – it’s also important to use it in both a safe and effective way to ensure you get the most out of it.
Here are some key tips to follow:
Clean It Out Regularly
Your toddler might pop all sorts of things into their backpack when you’re not looking, whether that’s a crayon from home or an interesting stick they found at the park.
Do clean it out regularly, as you really don’t want to discover after weeks that there’s a very moldy half-eaten sandwich in the bottom!
Ideally, give the backpack a quick check every time it’s used, and empty it out completely once a week so you can repack it and make sure that nothing got lost in there. Even if it doesn’t look too dirty, it’s probably picking up all sorts of grime and germs as your child carries it around.
If it can’t go in the washing machine, then be sure to wipe it clean yourself.
Never Pack Too Much
Don’t cram your toddler’s backpack with lots of things that are going to weigh them down and throw them off balance – and don’t let them pack it with all their favorite board books, either!
Even with older children, it’s important that their backpack weighs no more than 10% to 20% of their body weight.
Use the Leash Gently
If you’ve opted for a backpack with a built-in leash, never tug harshly or suddenly on it (unless it’s an absolute emergency and you have absolutely no other choice, like your child dashing into the road).
Instead, use it to gently stop your child from running away from you.
Let Your Child Get Used to it Gradually
If your child isn’t too keen on the backpack at first, or you know that they generally react to new things with suspicion, you might want to take things slow and let them get used to it quite gradually.
That could mean simply putting it out for them to play with – perhaps with a toy hiding inside for them to “discover” – or maybe using it at home for short periods of time before putting it to the “real test” outside the house.
Don’t Allow Unsafe Play
Don’t let your toddler swing their backpack around by the handles.
This might be an exciting game and they might look like they’re having the time of their life, but it could easily end in tears when the backpack crashes into something expensive in Grandma’s house or collides with another child at the park.
Similarly, don’t let your child jump on the backpack, throw it around, clamber on top of it, or otherwise use it for things it’s not been designed for.
Not only are all of these unsafe, they’re not going to do much to help the backpack stay in good condition and last long, either.
Replace it if it’s Broken or Damaged
While a tiny tear can be patched up pretty easily, if your toddler’s backpack sustains any significant damage – like a big rip or the strap coming off – you’ll want to stop them using it immediately and replace it with a new one as soon as possible.
Unless you’re very confident about your DIY skills and making repairs yourself, be very careful, since you could end up patching the backpack in an unsafe way.
If the strap breaks again while your child is walking along, for instance, the sudden movement of the backpack could make them topple over.
Wrapping it Up
Whatever type of toddler backpack you opt for – whether it’s a cute penguin design that you and your little one fell in love with, a functional backpack for preschool, or one with a built-in leash for extra safety and control – you’ll likely find it makes your life that much easier in no time.
If your child becomes particularly fond of their backpack, you might want to buy an identical replacement as soon as possible (before you even need to) – just in case the zipper breaks or a seam comes apart.
That way, you won’t face the trauma of having to get them used to a whole new backpack!
Product photos: © Amazon.com
Many of the links on this page are affiliate links. If you follow these links and make a purchase (or purchases), KidSimplified might earn a commission. This, however, is at no extra cost to you.