The only thing more jarring than the beginning of a new school year is being wholly unprepared for it. It doesn’t matter whether your household is sending off a freshly minted kindergartener or a been there/done that middle schooler- there’s plenty of gear to round up before the bus arrives.
In the interest of making your job just a tiny bit easier, and spending your money more wisely, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite back-to-school gear. (Sorry, grocery shopping for lunches is on you.)
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This kid-sized pack from Burton has all the bells and whistles. A padded pocket for a small laptop or tablet, a side water bottle pocket, and plenty of storage.
For every State bag that’s purchased, they donate one to an American child in need. The colorful Kane kid’s pack is water-resistant and perfectly sized to keep kid’s carrying their stuff without tipping over like a turtle on its back.
Had I kept track of the Jansport backpacks I accumulated in middle and high school, I could be sending my kids to school with them twenty years later. Then, they could patronizingly explain to me how only dorky kids wear both straps at once. Ugh.God, MOM. Oh well, I’m sure they’d prefer to choose their own color now that there are several dozen options. Nirvana patches aren’t included, but a lifetime warranty is.
LL Bean has been in the backpack game since forever. And with that much experience, they produce some of the best performing packs available. Even the scaled down version for the younger set doesn’t skimp on features. Including a padded back panel, reflective front strip, and plenty of room for everything, it’s far more likely your kid will lose it than wear it out. (Just how does one go about losing the only thing they’re responsible for? I wish I understood.) And if they do manage to wear it out? The lifetime guarantee has you covered.
Best Pencil Cases
Just look at this thing. It’s hilarious. AND it can unzip completely into one long zipper. If that’s not a pencil bag party trick, well, I don’t know. Should pencil bags have party tricks?
These cheap, durable, and spacious zipped pouches are endlessly useful.
Keep pens and pencils tidy and easy to sift through.
Best Lunch Box
If lunch boxes are any indication, children are incredibly disgusting creatures. By Halloween, the inside of them are the scariest thing you’re going to see/smell ALL DAY. Unless of course you invest in one you can throw in the washing machine. These colorful neoprene bags by Dabba Walla are insulated, machine washable and basically bulletproof.
Laptop Lunches are the whole system, squish-proof. Before I bought this for my son, packing a lunch involved a mix of hunting down the miscellaneous containers that managed to make it home and wasting ziplock bags. Packing his lunch is his job, and listening to him whine about the logistics of it is worse than doing it myself. These bento-style kits, with their perfectly sized containers, take the pain out of putting it all together.
This classic from LL Bean works everywhere from pre-school to a construction site. Sturdy, long lasting AND with the oft overlooked shoulder strap, pick a color you like because you’ll no doubt end up taking it to work some day.
Lunch box Accessories
Ice packs. Flat. Cold. They have one job and do it well.
In the interest of conservation, (and not literally throwing money into the trash), these reusable sandwich bags are well worth the investment. Just throw them in the dishwasher, turn inside out to dry and they’re ready to go again.
Have you ever seen those nightmare Facebook posts of what people have found lurking in applesauce pouches? Shudder. Better yet, have you compared the cost of them to just buying it in jars? And yet, kids seem to find this method of slurping their food IRRESISTIBLE. It’s possible that the delivery turns yogurt/purees/basically anything into some sort of crack. These refillable squeeze pouches take the waste and the mystery out of the pre-filled version that always find their way into your grocery cart.
Best Water Bottles
The general consensus is that these are one of the few truly leak proof water bottles available. Any parent who’s attempted to blow dry homework knows the importance of this feature.
Kleen Kanteen is hard to beat. Their stainless steel bottles last forever and the universally sized opening makes it easy to swap out lid types (sippy top, sport cap, or a plain old loop top) for whatever style suits the needs of the day.
Best Alarm Clock
This clock has features that benefit both the kids who get out of bed too early (it turns green to signal that Mom and Dad won’t sell you if you leave your room) and kids who need to be woken up to get out the door on time (a fully functional alarm, complete with snooze). As an added bonus, it combines a digital display with an analog face.
It’s a Lego Minifigure that’s a clock. Self explanatory in its coolness. (And if Star Wars isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other characters to choose from.)
Best Back-to-School Technology – coming Wed August 12