The Best Pens for Every Age Level

Five sturdy pens that will last the entire school year and beyond.

5 min read

Pens are personal and, with back-to-school season on the horizon, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of options to add to your online order. After all, your child may be as much of a doodler as a journal writer (or too young to be either). And if you’re adding to your teacher’s shopping list, we’re here for that, too. 

Just think twice about adding clickable pens to this list since the teachers we spoke to say this can be very distracting when they’re trying to, well, teach! Here, expert picks of five useful and long-lasting pens – all available from Staples — that will keep your kids’ words (and drawings) preserved for the entire school year.

Best Ballpoint: Paper Mate Profile Retractable Ballpoint Pens

Why it’s a fave: These pens (available from Staples) will soon be a student go-to thanks to two key things: They’ve got gel ink (smooth writing awaits) and the ink dries quickly so no smudging any class assignments.

“These have a soft comfort grip that rests against your middle or pointer finger. This is great for kids who are doing a lot of writing in class. They also come in fun colors like purple, pink, and light green.”—April Nguyen, @academicallyapril, a fourth grade teacher in San Jose, California 


Best Felt Tip Pen: Paper Mate Flair Pens

Why it’s a fave: These medium-felt tip points (available from Staples) come in a variety of super-fun colors and the inky points can hold up to even the heaviest pressing on paper. Bonus: the ink won’t bleed through your child’s notebook paper!

“I love these! They give a rich bold line that’s thin and they hold up fairly well even for young children. Younger kids love using a black pen — they want to see that rich, saturated black line. Also, these can take a beating and will last a long time!”—Rebecca Picker, an art teacher at Studio Sprout, her own studio for in-person and online classes, in Santa Cruz, California

Best Fine Tip Pen: Sakura Pigma Micron Fineliner Pens

Why it’s fave: These pens (available from Staples) are waterproof, fade-resistant, bleed-free, and quick drying. Just don’t lean too heavily on these pens as the nib is quite sensitive.

“These are great for high school age kids and older. You’re going to get into very subtle degrees of thickness and thinness with these pens so they’re an excellent choice for older kids.”—Picker

Best Gel Pen: Uniball Signo 

Why it’s a fave: If you want your words to last, consider this pen (available from Staples) to be your go-to thanks to its archival quality ink that’s immune to fading — and water, too.

“I really like a fine point gel pen and the Uniball Signo is a good one. I like the .5 mm one — it’s finer than most people are used to, but it’s smooth and fun to use.”—Caroline Weaver, founder, CW Pencil Enterprise


Best Permanent Pen: Sharpie Fine Point Felt Pens

 For a classroom diorama or art project, these pens are a definite must-have. Their felt tips — and fine points — guarantee bold lines and long-lasting color.

“I’ll use these pens with kids in kindergarten and older as long as I supervise them. Permanent markers are also great if you’re doing things like watercolor projects and want to create a strong line around or on top of that paint. I think it’s great to use adult materials. I always say if you use quality materials kids will make quality art!”—Picker

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Staples