It’s THAT time of year: The mornings are getting chilly, Instagram is full of back to school photos, the kids’ jeans are suddenly all capris, and that school supply list is sent home. While you should definitely support your PTA and buy their box of basics, we have you covered for what your kids will really need for the best school year.
Whether you are committing to school in the classroom, virtual school from home, or a combination of the two, we know it’s challenging this year. More importantly, we have some items on here to make your life easier and help you feel more put more together. Consider this your ultimate back-to-school shopping checklist.
From backpack essentials to new-generation needs, we’ve rounded up the school supplies you (and your kids) will actually look forward to using.
The Best Digital Calendar
I highly recommend Google calendars. I have all the kids a different color, my blog work, and my homeschooling work, and items the kids’s dad needs to know about other colors. It helps me to put an appointment in while I’m making it. It automatically syncs to the kid phone, and my computer.
An Ideal Paper Planner
I have my paper planner that I use to plan my day around the other activities. My favorite paper planner is an Erin Condren. After several years of other brands, a friend gifted me one, and I’m never going back. It’s customizable and extremely user friendly.
Pack a Perfect Lunch with the Perfect Tools
This really good lunch advice, especially for Pre-K or kindergarten moms is shared by Jessi, part of our sister site; Iowa City Moms:
- “Practice eating “school lunch” with your kiddo.
- Make sure they can open everything you send with them.
- Talk about not eating off of the table in the lunchroom!
- Set a timer for 15 minutes and talk about how they may not finish eating and that’s ok.
- Practice packing everything back up and talk about what is trash and what should come back home in their lunch box.
Being at school all day and eating lunch is a big adjustment and your child’s teacher will be super appreciative if you have prepared them for the experience!”
Local sign language interpreter Jessica relates her lunch packing strategy: “I buy enough lunch supplies for 2 weeks on the weekend. We use snack sized zip bags. Each kid picks what they want and then I get everything into baggies for them to pack the night before school. If they don’t have their lunches packed the night before, they have school lunch.”
Tiffany tells us “Bento box type Tupperware and little ones that fit sauces are a must for lunch box containers. I pack my kids lunches so the reusable containers are a must have.”
Jessi also recommends these Bento boxes for packing lunch: It seals up well and is easy to wash (You can even pop out the tray and stick it in the dishwasher! It also fits nicely in the $5 lunch bag from Walmart too!”
End the Morning Dressing Struggles
Elastic shoe laces are a must have for back-to-school for anyone who doesn’t have time to tie shoes! They’re also for the people who try, but whose laces are always trailing behind them getting shredded and muddy.
I will say they are a pain to put in initially, but once they’re in, you’re golden.
Underdress shorts are a must around here! You can’t hang upside down in the party dress you wear every day and let your undies show. These are inexpensive and durable.
Eldridge mom Stefanie recommends a six cube organizer as must have for back to school organization. “We have a six cube organizer with bins – my kids “pack” their clothes for the week on Sunday night. This makes mornings faster and also helps me with their special dress up days and such.”
You can also use the over the door hooks in the bedroom or closet to set up a system like Stephanie’s.
Moline mom Christy tells us she has a row of hooks by the door. “We use most for them to hang their bags and jacket up. Those hooks are a lifesaver from bags and coats thrown on the floor as they tear into the house.”
I’ve linked some over the door hooks which could easily be made into a drop zone like Christy’s, if you don’t have room right next to the door.
Fabric No-iron Clothing Labels are perfect for labeling all the things. They’re washable and last forever. My child needs strings attached to his belongings, and even then I’m not confident it would still get his shirts and water bottles home.
Your child may still lose all the of his things, but at least it has his name in it!
Must Have School Supplies- for at home school or in person school
Ticonderoga 96 pack is recommended by so many homeschoolers and teachers because they’re smooth to write with and easily erased. You won’t believe the difference a good pencil will make in your life!
Quad City teachers Kaitlyn and Kirsten add that when teachers specifically request certain brands it’s because those name brands are important when it comes to pencils, crayons, and markers! “If your kid’s teacher asked for Ticonderoga or Crayola, please buy that brand. We aren’t trying to waste your money, they just last longer and are better quality!”
Your quest for the perfect pencil sharpener is over! As a homeschooling family, we sharpen a lot of pencils. We’ve tried all the kinds of pencils and all the kinds of sharpeners. (Well, maybe not all, but pretty darn close.) This little baby does the trick.
We use it almost every day, because pencils are forever disappearing around here. If you sharpen any number of pencils, do yourself a favor and get this one. As a bonus, it’s so fun and easy to use, our four year old is now in charge of sharpening.
I recommend Easy Peasy Homeschool for any kind of extra practice your child might need. It is a site with all ages, all subjects. If you need math practice go here. Extra reading help, here you’ll find fun games and review. Someone to read to your child while you make dinner? Yep.
The Greenlight card Karen, Bettendorf mom of four, swears by the Greenlight card to raise fiscally responsible kids. With one starting college at Iowa this month, she ought to know! With Greenlight, you can pick the stores where your child can spend. Or let them spend anywhere. You can add money from anywhere. It’s all up to you, with our patent-pending parental controls. You can even tie the money they get to their chores. Chores is the new app feature that helps you easily manage one-time or weekly chores, and motivates kids to get them done.
A laminator is a must have for mom. I use my laminator probably once a week. I have a lot of reasons I love my laminating machine, but I think Mique of Thirty Handmade Days sums it up nicely:
“The main thing is that it makes me feel more on top of my life. I feel like I’m organized and have gone the one extra step to make sure that I’ve finished it off.
I also love that I can turn regular lists/charts/bookmarks (insert cool project here) into things that will last- no more ripped up backpack tags, chore charts, printed games.
I have made several “books” too – for the car, social stories for my oldest who is on the autism spectrum, to preserve old school papers, you name it.”
Another mama level back-to-school must have is a mini scanner for artwork, paperwork, permission slips, receipts, envelopes, recipes, business cards you’re given, photos from pre digital days, medical forms, pretty much anything that will fit really. This is a life saver and a paper eliminator.
Do I need a scanner in my life to help me keep track of things? Yes.
Will I likely still not be able to find the thing I need when I need it? Also yes.
But at least it will be digitally somewhere, instead of in a physical messy, eyesore of a pile somewhere. The Doxie Scanner for kids’ artwork, receipts and more is ideal for moms with busy families.
The nice thing about this one is, instead of being the kind you feed the original through, you can scan lay it on top of notebooks, books, scrapbooks, keepsakes, anything. It’s about the size of a book itself, so it’s completely portable.
It seems like you may not actually need a printer at home these days since students can send in so many thing digitally, which I absolutely love!
I find that we use our home printer quite often, from printing out practice handwriting sheets to various labeling around the house, from coloring pages and kids’ finished projects to planner pages for me to try and stay organized.
We’ve had an HP printer for several years and it hasn’t kicked the bucket yet! There are many features we use regularly, and it’s got a high level of use over here. The ink isn’t too expensive. I highly recommend.
If the kids’ artwork is piling up and you’re not excited about scanning it, you could try the Artkive App on for size. You can send them a box of your child’s masterpieces and they’ll send you the digital files.
This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting this blog by clicking through them!