Whether your child's first day of school is next week or next month, chances are you have a long list of school supplies that need to be purchased before your first early morning drop-off. If it's your child's initial foray into school of any kind, you might be feeling totally unsure about what, exactly, you should buy to prepare your child for whatever the school day throws at him. We've got you covered: I asked all of the seasoned parents at Reviewed to share the school supplies that their kids love—and use—over and over again.
1. A backpack that's just their size
Standard-sized backpacks tend to be too big for kids under age five—especially when fully packed. Instead of weighing your wee one down with a pack that weighs more than she does, opt for Fjallraven's mini version of their classic Kanken backpack. The petite bag comes in a huge variety of colors, and it's just the right size for holding a change of clothes, a favorite stuffed animal, and a small lunchbox.
2. A lightweight reusable lunchbox
Reusable lunchboxes are all the rage these days, but many of the stainless steel versions tend to be too heavy for preschoolers to carry. Yumbox offers a lightweight alternative that's designed just for little kids: The BPA and phthalate-free plastic bento-style lunchbox has five small compartments sized specifically for preschool portions. It's easy for little kids to open, and both the removable food tray and the outer box are dishwasher safe.
3. A nap mat
For preschoolers whose days include an afternoon snooze, a nap mat—a sort of sleeping bag with a built-in pillow—is a must. Wildkin's nap mats roll-up easily and secure with velcro for easy transport, and the vibrant colors don't fade in the wash. The attached blanket is lined with 100% cotton flannel to keep your child warm and toasty, and the mats are sized to fit perfectly on a preschool cot.
4. Name labels
Don't even think about sending your child to preschool without labeling every single item he plans to bring along. Kids are prone to leaving items behind—specifically sweatshirts and water bottles—and it will streamline your Lost and Found searches if everything is clearly labeled. Mabel's Labels' Preschool Clothing Label Pack includes every type of label you need to keep track of your child's belongings, and the shoe labels help kids put their kicks on the correct feet.
5. Our top-rated water bottle
Your preschooler can enjoy our favorite water bottle since the Hydro Flask comes in a child-friendly 12 oz. size with a straw lid. The powder-coated exterior keeps condensation from forming on the outside so you don't have to worry about your child handling a slippery water bottle, plus it keeps liquids cold for 24 hours.
For Grade Schoolers
1. A clothing stamp
It's been my experience that grade school kids are even more likely to misplace their belongings than preschoolers, so don't slack on labeling your child's clothes once your offspring head to kindergarten. A friend of mine turned me on to the Camp Stamp from Starlight Labels. The self-inking stamps easily mark your child's clothing with their name in bold, black, doesn't-wash-off letters. Unlike iron-on or stick-on labels that kids often find scratchy, the stamp prints directly onto the fabric of a shirt without leaving any sharp edges. The only drawback is that it doesn't work on dark-colored clothing, so you'll still need a few traditional name labels for those pieces.
2. A personalized backpack
Grade schoolers may still be little, but they need a backpack that's big enough to carry folders and notebooks. Pottery Barn Kids is Smart Home Writer Rachel Murphy's first choice for personalized school gear. The Mackenzie backpack comes in a wide array of patterns and colors, and can be personalized with your child's name in the font of his or her choice. The small size is a great choice for kids headed to kindergarten through third grade, but if you have a brainy child who tends to tote a lot of books, opt for the rolling backpack to (literally) take the weight off their back.
3. A lunchbox for growing kids
The LunchBots Bento Stainless Steel Food Container holds just the right amount of food for older kids who use up lots of energy at school. The five sections keep different lunch items separated, but Rachel also suggests investing in a set of the coordinating condiment containers as well. Another tip from Rachel: "Use colorful silicone baking cups to hold chunks of fruit, pretzels, popcorn, nuts, and other small snack items. The cups help create more space and are especially useful for sectioning-off foods like pineapples and raspberries—which sometimes get leaky after being cut up—from seeping into sandwich bread."
- Get a LunchBots Bento Stainless Steel Food Container at Amazon for $43.99
- Get a set of three LunchBots Condiment Containers at Amazon for $25.99
- Get a set of 24 AmazonBasics Reusable Silicone Baking Cups at Amazon for $9.99
4. A compact thermos
If you have a child who doesn't like eating cold pasta (hello, me), or you want to send hot soup for lunch during the coldest days of winter, you need MIRA's Stainless Steel Lunch Thermos. The 13.5 oz. thermos is big enough to fit a large portion of pasta, but the compact size means that it's not too unwieldy for smaller kids to carry. It's also vacuum insulated, so it keeps food hot for five hours (or cold for 10), and it doesn't leak.
5. Colorful pencils
Take some of the sting out of the end of summer by sending your child back to school with fun school pencils. Sunil Doshi, our VP of Product Development, says his eight-year-old son is "super excited" about the pack of BIC Xtra-Fun Stripes Graphite Pencils he picked out. The insides of the colorful pencils contain standard, break-resistant #2 lead, and the erasers are latex-free.
For older kids
1. The best backpack
Kids headed into the wilds of middle school and high school need a sturdy backpack that can hold all of their stuff without being hideously uncomfortable. The L.L. Bean Quad Pack is our top-rated pick for older kids (and adults) who need to carry books, papers, and a laptop on a daily basis. The Quad Pack has lots of pockets to hold all of your child's school items, and plenty of back padding to cushion the wearer.
2. The best laptop for students
A great laptop is a must for students who need to take notes or write a lot of papers. Our favorite laptop for students is the Asus Chromebook Flip C434. It has a lightweight aluminum body so it's not too heavy to carry from class to class, but the coolest feature is that the lid can be rotated so that it can be used as a tablet.
3. A big water bottle
Keep your teenager hydrated with the CamelBak Eddy water bottle—another recommendation from Sunil's sons. The durable water bottle holds 0.75L of water, and comes with a straw top so kids can drink out of it without having to tip it up at an awkward angle. The bottles are leak-proof, spill-proof, and are sold in a pack of two, making this a super-affordable back-to-school purchase.
4. A lunch bag that's not juvenile
If your kid is planning to bring his lunch from home, keep him—and his lunch—cool with Fulton Bag Co's Upright Lunch Bag. The unassuming handled lunch bag is what Sunil's sons will be carrying to school this year because it's crush resistant, insulated, and the interior has an adjustable divider to separate lunch ingredients. The handle also features a swing clip so that it can be attached to a child's backpack.
If your child prefers to listen to music while she studies, invest in a pair of our favorite headphones for kids, the Puro Sound Labs PuroQuiet Kids Headphones. The PuroQuiet Kids headphones offer two great features: They're volume limiting, and they have noise cancellation. The limited volume keeps kids from potentially damaging their hearing, while the noise cancellation feature can help kids focus.
Prices are accurate at the time of publication, but may change over time.