A Few of My Favorite Things: Back to School Edition


It’s hard to believe that summer is almost over, and the kids are heading back to the classroom. With two elementary school-aged children and one preschooler, I’ve tried many different school-related supplies and products. Here are some of my favorites.

I’ve Got Your Back(pack)

All three of my children use the STATE Bags backpacks. For my younger two (first-grader and preschooler), we use the Kane Kids backpack. This year, I upgraded my third-grader to the Kane Kids Large because I know she’ll be lugging her laptop back and forth every day. Besides being durable, practical, and fashionable, STATE Bags is a mission-driven company supporting American children and families in need for every bag purchased. They also recently launched a line with Target, and I’ve been able to find some colors and patterns on sale in the past at retailers like Off Fifth and Bloomingdales.

Better Than a Brown Bag

I remember preparing for my daughter to start kindergarten and endlessly researching the best-insulated lunch box and water bottle combinations. It took a little trial and error, but I think I perfected the best way to “brown-bag-it.” I use the Bentgo Kids (or, for my oldest, the regular Bentgo size) insulated, compartment-style lunch box. The box is ideal for a sandwich, some vegetables, fruit, and crunchy snacks. I then put it in an L.L. Bean lunch bag (with monogramming available) along with an ice pack and a small Rubbermaid juice box filled with ice water. It’s easy for my kids to tote everything to the lunchroom, and the food stays cold and fresh. To keep snacks cool, I’m a big fan of PackIt freezable snack bags with a built-in ice pack.

It’s All in a Name

If my son’s head wasn’t attached to his body, I swear he would lose it. And so, labeling all of our things is critical for school and camp. We have tried a few different personalized name label companies, and they’re all pretty similar. Lately, I prefer Label Daddy. I also realized it’s practical to label everything with our last name instead of my children’s first and last names since we hand many clothes and items down and share items like water bottles or food containers. It also helps me avoid re-labeling (or telling teachers and counselors that things that say “Wyatt” are actually Ethan’s). Another handy way to label clothes and similar items is a name stamp. I really like this basic one I bought last summer with our last name on it.

Staying Healthy and Safe

For children returning to school in person, I anticipate many schools will continue to require face masks for safety and protection against COVID-19. Last year, we tested out many different mask brands, and our clear favorite (for the kids and me) was Vistaprint. They fit well, offer a filter pocket, and come in various fun colors and patterns. Additionally, sending the kids to school with mask chains allows easy on-off during meals, mask breaks, and outdoor time. I prefer a mask chain with a safety release like this one I purchased on Amazon.

Home School Helpers

Every year, we purchase all of our school supplies for in-school learning, but many other products for home use help extend learning. For example, my daughter loves to read, and we allow her to stay up after we say goodnight and read well beyond her daily homework requirement. To help her read comfortably in bed, we purchased a clip-on light. In addition, it’s great to have an extra set of kid-friendly headphones at home for online learning and educational games. This top-rated pair from JBL is safe, comfortable, and designed for kids. Finally, if you anticipate your child will be learning from home and spending time in front of screens, you may want to grab some blue-light-blocking glasses. I bought this set for my daughter and son this past school year.

Seize the Day

It can be virtually impossible to keep up with school and extracurricular schedules. And while my husband and I rely on a shared Google calendar, I also think there’s a place for analog organization. I started using a magnetic whiteboard calendar in my kitchen, and it has been a lifesaver. I update it weekly with after-school activities, special events, appointments, weekend plans, and more. I even use different marker colors for each family member. My older children really like having desk calendars in their rooms to mark holidays and other special events. They also enjoy pulling off each month when it’s over and seeing what’s ahead. For preschoolers, this Melissa & Doug magnetic calendar is a lot of fun and highly visual.

What are your back-to-school, must-have items?

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