The Ultimate Back-to-School Supplies List for Elementary School Students

Make back to school shopping a breeze.

10 min read
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Depending on the day, it may seem like the last school year just ended or like it’s been summer forever. Either way, getting ready for the new school year ahead will help you and your kid(s) feel ready to start off on the right foot. Whether it’s their first first day or their fifth first day, here are the elementary school supplies you need to be prepared for the year ahead. The right stuff will help them thrive, from the first day to looking ahead to sweater weather and beyond. Embrace that full box of crayons feeling (nothing broken or lost, yet!).

Excellent Kids’ Headphones

“Technology in the classroom is becoming more standard for many schools, including at the elementary level, but without headphones it's just chaos,” says Katelyn Denning, a life coach for working moms and the mom of a kid starting first grade, and one starting fourth in Cincinnati, OH. She recommends the Sony corded over-ear headphones from Staples. They are reliable, sturdy enough, yet not so expensive that if they get lost, you can't replace them.

A noise canceling pair will help your kid focus. “Our family also prefers corded headphones as opposed to Bluetooth so that even the littlest ones can easily get them plugged in and working,” says Denning.

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Perfect Pencils for New Writers

No elementary school supply list would be complete without pencils. Miami-based licensed occupational therapist Yana Musheyev swears by My First Ticonderoga Pencils, available at Staples. “They’re a great pencil for beginner writers,” she explains. “The larger size is ideal for children in the early stages of their writing development.” They’re #2 pencils so they will check off that box on your kid’s teacher’s list. Buy some extra, as pencils have a way of mysteriously disappearing. Pencil grips can also help little hands maneuver and master their grasp, too. Bonus: get them in your kid’s favorite color.

…And a Box to Keep them Safe

Denning’s pick is a “good old-fashioned hard plastic pencil box.” Her kids are required to have a pencil box where they can keep their own set of daily essentials like pencils, markers, a pair of scissors, and an eraser. 

“I like the hard pencil cases over the soft ones for many reasons, but mostly because they're more fun to decorate,” says Denning. “We love to create a name tag that we affix to the top with clear packing tape and then I usually print a family photo or colorful image and quote to tape to the inside of the lid, so the kids see it whenever they open up their pencil box. For my younger kids, it's been a comforting thing to see your family when you're maybe missing them during the day.”

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Tools to Help New Readers

For kids learning to read — or struggling to do so because of dyslexia or other challenges — Musheyev suggests colored overlays like the hand2mind FingerFocus Highlighter Sets, available from Staples. Early reading can be stressful, but cheerful, colorful finger pointers can help make reading easier to manage. These help kids focus on each word as it comes. Read together and demonstrate how the sentences and stories unfold, one word at a time.

A Yoga Mat

Taylor Adams, a second-grade teacher in North Hanover Township School District in NJ, keeps a stash of yoga mats in her classroom. “They are perfect for independent reading time, as well as a place for kids to sit during small group work,” she says. “I also use them for brain breaks. It’s important for the kids to feel comfortable while they learn, and yoga mats provide great opportunities for that!” Repeat this at home — it can also help your kid create their own designated personal space within a busy house.

Fun Water Bottles and a Functional Lunch Box

My kids are still in preschool, but sometimes a snazzy water bottle can make a small but impactful difference in feeling excited about the day ahead. (My daughter loves one with sloths, and my son’s current obsession involves a rocket ship motif). It’ll also encourage them to stay hydrated throughout the day. The Hydro Flask 12 oz. Kids', available from Dick’s Sporting Goods, is lightweight and comfy for small hands, and its easy-to-clean straw cap helps prevent spills. 

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If you’re packing lunch, you’ll want a box that is big enough to pack both the lunch and snacks they’ll need to keep their growing brains and bodies ready to learn and play. At the end of the day, you’ll be grateful for a lunchbox that easily wipes clean. Reusable snack bags or little plastic containers mean you can pack plentiful snacks with much less waste. Stasher bags are miraculously durable and dishwasher friendly. They don’t leak, and can even get popped into the microwave. 

A Quality Backpack That Won’t Hurt Little Backs

A fun, functional backpack will help your kiddo keep track of all their things — a big first step toward independence. “Choose a backpack that distributes weight evenly across the back and has adjustable straps to ensure a proper fit,” Musheyev advises. Adjustable, padded straps are a must; make sure “the end of the backpack rests against the lower back, not past or at the hips,” says Musheyev.

The kid-approved Jansport (you can get these from Dick’s Sporting Goods) is a classic for good reason–it’s durable and cute, with plenty of pockets and a suede leather bottom that can handle (almost) anything. Pockets can help your little one stay organized — practice always keeping the pencil case in the same pocket, for example.

Plus, Show Some Love for the Classroom

“If you're able, I think providing basic supplies for the classroom is a great way to show your kids' teachers that you support them,” says Denning. “It's often the unglamorous supplies that make the biggest difference.” She recommends boxes of tissues, antibacterial wipes, dry-erase markers, or card stock. “Teachers spend enough of their own money as it is. So, starting the year with a supply cabinet stocked full of necessary items helps everyone feel prepared for the year ahead.” Here's to a wonderful year for your whole family.

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Must-Have Elementary School Supplies Checklist

Here’s an overview of the back-to-school supplies list we recommend for the first through fifth grade: 

  • No. 2 Pencils

  • Pencil grips

  • Pencil sharpener

  • Ruler

  • Erasers

  • Crayons

  • Colored pencils

  • Glue sticks

  • Colored construction paper

  • Blunt-tipped scissors

  • Plastic folders

  • Wide-ruled notebooks

  • Lunchbox and snack bags

  • Water bottles

  • Yoga mat

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Staples