Back to School Supplies

What to get before they go back

Could it really be? Could it be time to start thinking about heading back to school? It could and it is! If you’ve visited your local Target lately, you’ll probably have noticed that the pool toys and gardening supplies are dwindling, only to be replaced with backpacks, lunch bags and pencil cases.

Many a late August I’ve found myself frantically digging through picked over supplies, desperately searching for a backpack devoid of superhero insignia, or a lunch bag that isn’t bright pink. Or I find myself running to five separate stores trying to find everything on my list and in the end paying top dollar at an overpriced stationery store because everywhere else was sold out.

So this year, I thought I’d save myself some trouble and make a list of supplies for my three children, one in high school, one in middle school and one in primary school. (But list or no list, who am I kidding? Look for me in August in the bare-shelved stationery section of my local department store. I’ll be the one tossing Barbie pencil cases aside and muttering angrily to myself!)

Although the supplies your child will need varies depending on their school and the courses they take, here are some guidelines. (And if your high school aged son or daughter isn’t too mortified to be seen in public with you, let them come along to choose their own stuff.)


There are plenty of cool backpacks available, but with most things regarding kids, the best choice comes down to personal preference and what they feel comfortable with. When my children were in primary school, they had backpacks with pull-out handles and wheels, so that they wouldn’t strain their backs. That was not cool by middle school. My oldest son’s prime requisite was a backpack roomy enough that he didn’t have to squeeze all of his things inside. Most backpacks come with side pockets and compartments for gym clothes, cell phones, money, etc. Your child may want a bright red bag emblazoned with Spiderman, or they might prefer a plain Jane duffel in neutral colors, so try to include them in the decision. For younger children, make sure you steer them toward a backpack that is ergonomically designed and won’t be too heavy.

And one safety tip regarding backpacks – never put your child’s name and/or personal information on the outside of a backpack where strangers can read it. Write it in permanent marker on the inside of the backpack, along with a phone number in case it gets lost.

Lunch Bag

I used to make my son’s lunch every day only to have it come home untouched. The beauty of high school meant that I could hand him $5 every morning for the cafeteria. It still came home unused every day (he just doesn’t eat lunch at school. Don’t ask me why – he eats normally everywhere else) but it saved me a lot of hassle.

My other two kids still need to take lunches to school though so here are some items that help me pack them a healthy lunch without creating too much waste:

  • lunch bag with separate compartments for morning/afternoon snacks
  • Re-usable drink containers
  • Re-usable water bottle
  • Tupperware containers
  • Freezer packs

Binder Supplies (high School/middle school)

When my children were in primary school they were each given Ziploc bags or ‘zippies’ by their teachers at the beginning of the year. Zippies were great – they held my kids’ agendas, pencil cases, permission slips and any loose sheets floating around. But alas, at the advent of middle school, students had outgrown zippies and were expected to organize themselves. Since my apples don’t fall too far from this tree, that was easier said than done, but I found that zipper binders were the perfect replacement for those primary zippies. They come with smaller compartments that let kids store pens, pencils and calculators as well as bigger pockets for storing review sheets.

Stock your child’s zipper binder with:

  • lined binder paper
  • graph paper
  • blank paper
  • dividers (one for each course)


Pencil Case Supplies

As your children reach high school, they need less room for crayons, markers, and glue sticks, but more room for tools such as calculators, math sets, and USB sticks.  Again, what they will need depends on the courses they are taking each term, but these are some of the items they will no doubt require throughout the year:

High School/Middle School

  • pens
  • math set
  • calculator
  • highlighters
  • paper clips
  • stapler
  • fine tip markers

Middle School/Primary School

  • markers
  • colored pencils
  • crayons
  • glue stick
  • All ages
  • pencils
  • pencil sharpener
  • erasers
  • ruler


Hygiene and Personal Safety Supplies (High school/middle school)

Make sure your kids choose appropriate clothing for physed class. Some other health items they can keep in their backpack or locker include:

  • deodorant (if they have phys-ed class)
  • feminine hygiene supplies
  • hand sanitizer
  • Kleenex
  • Sunscreen
  • Combination lock


Computer supplies (High school/middle school)

Although there is much debate about laptops for students (what about the families who can’t afford to buy their kids their own laptop?) if you are lucky enough to be able to afford a computer for your son or daughter, it can be a very useful tool. Even if they don’t have their own, they can still get a lot of mileage working between the home and school computers.

Some handy items are:

  • Flash drives
  • Printer
  • Scanner

About The Author

Mandy Webster
Mandy Webster is a writer at Ganz and the author of the middle grade Young Marian series, including A Viper in the Forest and Echoes in the Cavern. She’s also an artist and graphic designer whose work has been featured in InStyle, Redbook and Style at Home. A mother of three, Mandy has worked as an advertising copywriter as well as contributing to publications such as Playback, Strategy and Canada On Location.

3 Responses to Back to School Supplies

  1. nyprgirl says:

    Thank you these are great tips. Never thought about deoderant and flash drives. Flash drives????? as a grandmother I would have never thought of that…that’s considered a staple these days for high school. In this day and age HAND SANITIZERS are a must to carry every where. with 6 granchildren…1 in high school, 3 in middle scool and 2 in preschool i wan to say Again thank you for the great ideas.

  2. QUEEN123KING says:

    Thank you for the information great answers for this

  3. frogb says:

    Great ideas! Seems we always forget from one year to the next! And please don’t forget to pick up a few extras of each item to donate to your child’s school!