The essential back to school supply list - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

The essential back to school supply list

© Hemera / Thinkstock © Hemera / Thinkstock

Michelle Ullman

Many schools send home a list of recommended supplies at the beginning of the school year, but if your local school does not, there are standard items likely to be on any list. Many items are geared toward children of a specific age; others are useful for all students. With back to school sales in full gear, you should be able to buy everything on your list at a discount.

Bring your child with you to do back to school shopping, and have her pick out her favorite backpack, lunch bag and other items. The excitement and fun of having new school supplies takes some of the sting out of the end of summer vacation.


A backpack is a necessity for kids of every age. Preschoolers might have a change of clothes, snack and crayons in their pack, while a high school student will have textbooks, lunch and gym clothes. Choose an appropriately sized pack for your child. The straps should be wide enough to be comfortable without digging into the shoulders or neck, and adjustable for a good fit. An extra zippered pocket is a good spot to stash a snack, cellphone or keys.

Most of the fun of buying a backpack is choosing the style. Cute animal faces, fairies or cartoon characters are popular among the preschool set. Elementary kids are likely to want a backpack with popular super heroes, video game characters or bright colors. Middle school and high school students want to look cool, and are likely to choose a colorful pack, or one with a bold pattern.

Lunch Bag

Unless your child buys lunch every day in the cafeteria, a lunch bag is a must. A sturdy, insulated canvas bag won't break, and will keep things cool until mealtime. The bag should be well insulated, have a separate compartment for sandwiches or other room-temperature foods, and enough room for a drink, main entrée and a couple of smaller items. Along with the lunch bag, select several reusable containers for holding sandwiches, fruit, crackers or other foods, and also choose two or three reusable water bottles. Finally, be sure to purchase a couple of cold packs to slip into the bottom of the bag to keep foods cool and safe.

The youngest children will love bags designed like a fire truck, puppy's face or flower. Elementary kids will probably pick a bag with a popular movie theme, cartoon character or their favorite singer. The older kids are likely to choose a retro design, solid, bright color, or geometric pattern.

Writing Tools

School means writing. Even older kids who use a computer for assignments still need a selection of pens, mechanical pencils and highlighters for studying. Elementary kids will need crayons, markers and pencils sized for their writing skills. Kindergarteners will love a box of fat crayons, chunky pencils, and thick, washable markers.


The youngest children might only need a notebook for drawing or practicing forming letters, but middle school or high school students will need a notebook for each class, or a large, 3-ring binder with a section for each subject. Stock up on loose-leaf paper to refill the binder, or buy multiple notebooks while they are on sale for rock-bottom prices.


Entering the world of middle or high school can be overwhelming. Instead of one class, there are now five or six, each with different projects, textbooks, and homework assignments. An organizer or planner notebook is essential for keeping track of assignments. Be sure your child has a section for each class, and remembers to write down assignments each day.

Hand Sanitizer

Whatever the age of your child, tuck a small bottle of hand sanitizer in his backpack, and make sure he know to use it frequently throughout the day. School is a germy place, and you don't want your child coming home with a cold or the flu.


High school students are likely to need a calculator. Depending on their class, a regular calculator might be sufficient, or they may need a scientific calculator for advanced work. Check with the school for recommended models.

Alarm Clock

The youngest kids will need you to wake them up each day, but as kids get older, have them take responsibility for setting an alarm each night, and waking up on time each morning. Being woken up by their favorite song on their iPod might make it more tolerable, or look for a clock with a display that changes color or a clock with a cute design.

General Supplies

Be sure you have plenty of basic school supplies on hand. Typical items are:

Felt tip markers
Staple free stapler
Glue sticks
Lock for bicycle or locker
Flash drive for older kids
Sticky notes

Most kids are sorry to leave behind their days of freedom, but glad to be back with their friends and regular routine. Make the transition from vacation to learning a little sweeter with a full stock of new, useful supplies your child got to pick out by himself.

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