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The definitive school supply list for every grade

All the necessities they need for back to school.

On a light green background: An orange HydroFlask water bottle, one pink and one green Fjallraven backpack, a pair of pink headphones, and a stack of notebooks. Credit: Reviewed / Getty Images / Hydroflask / Amazon

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For some it seems like summer has just arrived, but in parts of the country kids are headed back to school in just a few weeks.

Yup, it's time to start shopping for school supplies. Exactly what your favorite students will need depends on whether they're a preschooler or a preteen, but we've put together the definitive grade-by-grade school supply list so that all you have to do is simply click, order, and cross it off of your to-do list.

Where to buy school supplies

All the stores where parents like to shop—Target, Walmart, and Lakeshore Learning—already have their school supply aisles stocked and ready for the onslaught of returning students.

If your student wants a specific backpack or notebook—or Trapper Keeper for some Gen X nostalgia, because we hear they're back in style—you'd be wise to shop early, as ongoing supply chain issues are sure to impact the back to school shopping season.

If you prefer to shop online, you can still cruise the (virtual) aisles of Target or Walmart, but Amazon is another excellent choice for a wide variety of must-have items.

The basics for any school supply list

School supplies by grade

Preschool

1. A backpack that's just their size

A mustard yellow Fjallraven backpack on a green background
Credit: Reviewed / Fjallraven

A perfectly-sized backpack for preschoolers.

Standard-sized backpacks tend to be too big for kids under 4, 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 its 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.

$69 at Amazon

2. A lightweight reusable lunchbox

A green Yumbox lunch box on a pink background.
Credit: Reviewed / Yumbox

A bento-style lunch box that's just the right size for preschool kids.

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.

$31 at Amazon

3. A nap mat

A Wildkin napmat on a light blue background.
Credit: Reviewed / Wildkin

A cozy nap mat is a must for the littlest preschoolers.

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.

$50 at Amazon

4. Name labels

A pair of shoes with fire truck name labels inside
Credit: Mabel's Labels

Preschool labels help kids put shoes on the correct feet.

Don't even think about sending your child to preschool without labeling every single item they plan 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.

$21 at Mabel's Labels

5. A great water bottle

Two boys sit on a bench holding water bottles
Credit: Reviewed / Lisa Lawrence

The durable HydroFlask will take them through the day.

Your preschooler can sip from our favorite water bottle for kids thanks to its child-friendly 12-ounce size and 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.

$30 at HydroFlask

Kindergarten and first grade

1. A bigger backpack

A young boy sitting on a bench putting books in a backpack
Credit: Reviewed / Lisa Lawrence

A versatile, stylish backpack is a must-have for older kids.

Grade schoolers may still be little, but they need a backpack that's big enough to carry folders and notebooks. The Mackenzie backpack from Pottery Barn Kids is our favorite backpack for kids, thanks to its sturdy construction and ergonomic design. 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.

$64.50 at Pottery Barn Kids

2. A school supply bundle

A school supply bundle on a purple background
Credit: Reviewed / Amazon

Opt for a pre-packaged school supply bundle to simplify your shopping.

Get all the markers, crayons, pencils, and other basics in this handy all-in-one-kit designed just for kindergarteners and first graders. It includes all the essentials so that you don't have to deal with shopping for small items like a pencil case or glue.

$33 at Amazon

3. A clothing stamp

Name stamps on a green background
Credit: Reviewed / Getty Images

Name stamps are an easy way to label everything.

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.

$25 at Starlight Labels

4. A lunchbox for growing kids

The LunchBots Bento keeps lunches fresh and tasty.
Credit: Reviewed / Lisa Lawrence

The LunchBots Bento keeps lunches fresh and tasty.

The LunchBots Bento Stainless Steel Food Container holds just the right amount of food for kids who use up lots of energy at school—and it's our favorite lunch box for kids.

The five sections keep different lunch items separated, but you can also purchase coordinating condiment containers as well.

$41 at Amazon

5. A pair of headphones

A pair of pink headphones on a yellow background.
Credit: Reviewed / Puro

Comfortable and colorful headphones just for grade schoolers.

Virtual school is (thankfully) behind us, but they'll still need a good pair of headphones to use while at school. The PuroBasic headphones come in a range of bright colors and are volume limited so your kid doesn't hurt their ears while learning.

$29 at Amazon

Second and third grade

1. A school supply bundle

A school supply bundle on a purple background
Credit: Reviewed / Amazon

All the school supplies they'll need in one easy bundle.

As students get older, their school supply needs will be more complex, but thankfully these grade-specific school supply bundles contain pretty much everything they'll need for the year ahead.

Round it out with extra folders, a ream of paper, or other items specified by your child's school.

$33 at Amazon

2. A compact thermos

A Lunhbots stainless steel thermos on a yellow background.
Credit: Reviewed / Lunchbots

A stainless steel thermos is a great option for sending warm lunches.

If you have a child who doesn't like eating cold pasta, or you want to send hot soup for lunch during the coldest days of winter, the LunchBots insulated thermos is just what you need. The 12-ounce thermos is big enough to fit a decent portion of pasta, but the compact size means that it's not too unwieldy for smaller kids to carry.

$28 at Amazon

3. A bigger water bottle

A girl fills her Simple Modern water bottle
Credit: Reviewed / Lisa Lawrence

Each water bottle went through rigorous testing by parents and kids.

Make sure they're drinking enough water throughout the day by sending them with a water bottle that can hold 18 ounces of liquid.

Simple Modern water bottles have leak-free straw tops, and they come in a variety of cute prints. Even better, they're inexpensive, so parents don't have to fret when their second or third grader inevitably loses their water bottle.

$20 at Amazon

Fourth and fifth grade

On a light blue background: A JanSport backpack, a package of lined paper, and a pair of Puro headphones.
Credit: Reviewed / JanSport / Target / Puro

As they move through the grades, their school supply needs change.

1. A more grown-up backpack

For a backpack that's mature enough for budding tweenagers but that still comes in a variety of colorful designs, JanSport is the way to go. We love the JanSport SuperBreak Plus because it has just the right amount of pockets, a roomy water bottle holder, and comfy padded straps.

Shop at Amazon

2. Wide-ruled paper

In addition to the appropriate school supply bundle, they'll need a big package of wide-ruled binder paper. Stock up on this early, because it sells out quickly and could be hard to find this year due to ongoing supply chain issues.

$1 at Target

3. A better pair of headphones

Kids in fourth and fifth grade still need headphone for lessons on the computer, but most schools won't allow them to use ear buds yet. Opt for a pair of Puro wireless headphones that still have the volume limiting capacity that the ones for younger kids do, but that have a more sophisticated look. Plus, kids at this age are more apt to remember to charge their wireless headphones before they run out of power.

$99 at Amazon

For middle school

On a yellow background: An orange HydroFlask water bottle, a PlanetBox lunch box, and an L.L. Bean backpack
Credit: Reviewed / HydroFlask / PlanetBox / L.L. Bean

All the essentials for middle school.

1. A bigger backpack

They'll be carrying a lot more stuff every day once they're in middle school, so they'll need a sturdy backpack that's up to the task.

Our favorite school backpack, the L.L. Bean Deluxe Book Pack, easily contains all of their essentials—and more. With plenty of handy pockets and comfortable straps, this is a backpack that's likely to see your child all the way through to high school.

$55 at L.L. Bean

2. A bigger lunch box

A grade school-sized lunch box just won't do for growing teens and tweens. Make sure they have plenty of healthy food to keep them going all day long with the five-compartment Planet Box stainless steel lunchbox.

$43 at Amazon

3. A trendy water bottle

HydroFlasks are all the rage with the middle school set these days, and this is one trend parents can get behind, since it serves to keep kids hydrated.

The 20 ounce version of our favorite water bottle for kids comes in a nice selection of colors, and it even has pre-printed space for a name label on the bottom of the bottle so that it's easier to locate when it inevitably ends up in the lost and found.

$38 at HydroFlask

For high school

On a purple background: Jabra ear buds, a light blue water Simple Modern water bottle, an InCase backpack, and a graphing calculator.
Credit: Reviewed / Jabra / Simple Modern / InCase / Texas Instruments

They'll be ready for high school with these essentials.

1. A backpack that holds their laptop

If they're carrying their school laptop back and forth between home and school, they need a backpack that can keep it safe no matter how much abuse they dish out.

The Incase Icon Backpack looks grown-up enough to satisfy event the pickiest teen, but it's durable and roomy so they can use it as their main book bag.

$220 at Amazon

2. An even bigger water bottle

Keep your teenager hydrated with the 40-ounce Simple Modern water bottle. The durable water bottle comes with three different tops—straw, handle, and chug—to cover every drinking preference. Plus, the bottles are leak-proof, so your student won't have to worry about their homework getting drenched.

$28 at Amazon

3. A graphing calculator

Believe it or not, students are still using these in 2022. If your child's school district doesn't issue them a graphing calculator, you'll need to invest in one that they (and their siblings) can use for the high school years. The Texas Instruments model has a color display so they can more easily see their calculation results.

$153 at Amazon

4. Ear buds

If they don't already have a pair of ear buds that they use for watching videos on TikTok, they'll need a pair for actual school stuff once high school starts. The Jabra Elite 85t took top spot in our testing thanks to great sound quality and exceptional noise cancellation.

$230 at Jabra

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