Back to school: Must-have school supplies

Back to school - Must-have school supplies

It’s not news that schools across the country struggle every year to stock their classrooms with everything they need for a successful school year. They must provide requirements such as textbooks, of course, plus basics such as paper and pencils.

Sometimes, however, stocks of these supplies are a struggle to maintain for the entire year. What can you do to help? One way is to make sure your student is fully prepared. Check out this list of must-have school supplies and make sure your kids are stocked up.

Back to school Must-have school supplies

The basics

  • Some things are just given. Students need pens and pencils, and they tend to lose them — so one is not going to cut it. Buy them in bulk, and you won’t regret it. Your kids will want to keep some in their backpacks so they’re prepared each day, and they’ll need a supply at home. This pack of pre-sharpened pencils (bonus!) will be enough for your scholars while leaving plenty to donate to the classroom. Stay away from mechanical pencils. Between replacing the lead frequently (which typically gets dropped all over the floor) and running out, these can be a teacher’s nightmare.
  • Don’t forget a small pencil sharpener to carry around, along with some good old-fashioned durable erasers. Forego the small, pencil-top erasers; they crumble into small pieces easily. If your student must have cute erasers with pictures or in animal shapes, consider keeping these for your at-home supply; they can be distracting in class.
  • If your child is still in elementary school, she will likely need crayons or colored pencils, depending on age and teacher preference. A small box for school and another for home should last most of the year.
  • Another item in great demand for elementary-school students: glue sticks. You might be amazed at how quickly one child can obliterate an entire glue stick. Keep some in their backpacks and at home, and send a pack to the teacher.
  • Along the same lines, a pair of scissors (blunt-tipped for younger kids; regular for older) will prevent students from having to share one sticky, dull pair that barely even cuts anymore. Write your child’s name on them in permanent marker to make sure they don’t get lost the first time they get used.
  • Many teachers request that upper-elementary and high-school students have pens handy, too. Black, blue and red are sufficient; teachers don’t enjoy reading yellow and orange handwriting. These ballpoint pens would do quite nicely. Again, keep what your student needs, and donate the rest.
  • Most students from kindergarten on are asked to have a highlighter or two, often for editing and highlighting key details and facts. These highlighters give your student some variety and enough for school and home.
  • While you’re at it, your student will need something to keep all of these writing utensils in. We like these pencil pouches from Amazon. They’re roomy enough to hold lots of supplies and able to be secured in three-ring binders. If your student carries different binders to different classes, put one in each so he always has what he needs.
  • Schools are working to cut down on paper usage, but sometimes, you just have to write stuff down. Elementary-school kids need ample supplies of wide-ruled paper; older kids need college-ruled.
  • Middle-schoolers also need graphing paper for all the fun math they can’t wait to do. Keep a supply in her binder and the extra at home.
  • Speaking of binders, even students in the low grades are usually asked to have one or more binders to help keep their work organized. These binders get dropped, tossed, stepped on and maybe even kicked on a near-daily basis. Unless you want to replace them every few weeks, opt for good-quality ones that, if you’re lucky, will last the entire school year. Keep a few extra at home just in case.
  • In the effort to help students stay organized by subject, teachers often ask them to keep pocket folders in their binders. These help keep homework, tests, and teacher notes (hopefully the good kind!) straight and neat.
  • If you aren’t a teacher, you might be amazed at how many excuses students can come up with to get out of their seats and wander the classroom. (Then again, you’re a parent, so you might have a clue.) Give them one less excuse by supplying small staplers — one each for school, home and your spare stash.
  • We love these PackIt lunch bags for at-school snacks and healthy lunches that stay nice and cold until lunchtime. At night, simply fold them up and stick them in the freezer. Pack lunches in the morning without worrying about food getting warm. Wipe the bags out with a sanitizing wipe, and they’re ready for the next day.
  • Finally, your scholar needs a heavy-duty backpack. Like binders, this backpack will be put through the ringer. (Just stand anywhere on a school campus and watch what backpacks endure.) They’re swung around the body and head by the strap; used to playfully hit their friends; thrown across the blacktop on the way to the tetherball court; used as a “safe” spot for tag; sat on; used as an umbrella; and sometimes, even tossed on roofs and into trees. Invest in quality on this one.

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Back to school Must-have school supplies


We might call them “extras,” but more and more schools recommend them.

  • Let’s start with planners. You already know that students can always use help with planning and staying organized. Many schools provide planners or offer them for sale. Take advantage of them: They’re sanity-savers for you and your student. A basic one such as this academic planner will help your student keep track of homework, tests and important dates. If it only came with someone to remind them to actually write things down, it would be perfect.
  • With the use of technology on the rise, your child likely spends a lot of time on electronic devices. Many of the programs and apps kids use are geared toward individual work, and headphones keep them from disturbing those around them. Many schools provide some for students to use, but students must share them. Avoid the “ick” factor of rarely cleaned, shared headphones, and send these simple headphones or basic earbuds to school with your student.
  • Post-it notes and Post-it flags help kids mark text in books, jot down quick notes as they read, and make “to do” lists. Be prepared: These things are addicting!
  • By the time your budding mathematician gets to middle school, she’ll need a scientific calculator to help her with her homework. You will, too, when you help her with homework.

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Back to school Must-have school supplies

Bonus supplies teachers love

Kids of all ages are walking germ and dirt magnets. Whether playing on the playground equipment, hunting for worms in the dirt, doing cartwheels in the grass, or sneezing into their hands, they need help staying clean — and teachers need help with kid-cleaning supplies. Forget the “Best Teacher” mugs or drugstore candy: Teachers appreciate sanitizing supplies for gifts:

  • Sneezes are like yawns: highly contagious. A classroom of students can empty a brand-new tissue box in one day. Consider supplying your child’s teacher with extra tissue each month or so.
  • Classrooms often run out of antibacterial soap. Some extra bottles to set at the classroom sink would sure help with dirty hands after recess, before lunch, after crafts, after sneezing — really, all day long.
  • Speaking of washing up, many classrooms lack sinks for hand washing altogether. An extra supply of sanitizing wipes and bottles of hand sanitizer are like gold to a teacher.
  • Last but not least, desks get covered in dirt, pencil markings, dried glue and other unidentified substances but don’t always get washed as often as they should. Teachers need a good supply of cleaning wipes to get through the school year.