Back to school concept, Little asian girl or pupil buying school supplies in store, Selective focus

Back To School Essentials, According To 15 Parents

Believe it or not, back-to-school displays are already in stores across the country. And parents — either home with their increasingly bored kids or paying exorbitant camp tuitions — are counting down the days. But sometimes finding just the right equipment can be difficult. What are the back to school essentials? What items are worth spending a little more on and which ones are just as good generic? I asked parents to share a list of their favorites, because where would we be without other parents' recommendations?

Dorky confession: back to school shopping is my happy place. I'm a Hermione Granger/Lisa Simpson at heart, so not only have I pretty much always enjoyed school, but I've always loved everything that goes along with it. The pens! The pencils! The notebooks! The backpacks! The lunch bags! The back to school clothes you absolutely needed because you grew, like, a ridiculous amount of inches over the summer! It's all magic!

It's been a while since I've been able to enjoy a good office supply run for myself, but this August both of my children will be heading into the classroom full-time. It's definitely bittersweet to see your babies grow up, but part of the sweetness is the fact that I can do more back to school shopping!

Here are some of the products my fellow parents recommended from their own experience:


"We couldn't live without our Yumbox bento box (Yumbox, $28.00)."


"Reusable lunch containers (Thrive, $16.95) to avoid using Ziplocs, a non-leak water bottle (Amazon, $14.94), washable backpack (Amazon, $27.99), and good running shoes, like Nike or Under Armour."


"I'm happy I got my daughter a Pottery Barn Kids [backpack] (Pottery Barn, $18-$79.50). It's held up beautifully and it's cute. They also have enough colors and patterns that I haven't seen a repeat."


"Our backpack and lunchbox are still kicking! We have PBK backpack (Pottery Barn, $18-$79.50) and Costco lunchbox (Costco, $23.99). I would also say that good tennis shoes (Nike) and hand sanitizer for the classroom."


"Bento Boxes and reusable lunch bags. My dear friend is a ThirtyOne rep, so we have those lunch bags (ThirtyOne, $30-$128). They last years, even after multiple trips through the washer. We swear by Jansport backpacks (Jansport, $48-$55)."


"L.L.Bean backpack (L.L.Bean, $29.95-$99.95). At first we figured the ones you pick up in big box stores would be just as good, but they break before the year is up, even though they're almost as much money, really! We did this twice with my oldest before learning our lesson: don't skimp on a backpack. In the long-run you'll save money."


"We really love our Bentgo kids lunchbox (Bentgo, $24.99). We’ve had ours for a few years and will be getting a new one just to switch it up! We also couldn’t live without a kid-sized Hydro Flask (Hydro Flask, $29.95). Our daughter will pretty much only drink water cold — if I put ice in it before school in the morning it’s still solid when I pick her up!"


"For me, taking off work their first day back. Then I don’t have to miss seeing them off and welcoming them home. I can be there for them and focus on how much they have grown, which also means I can cry for how long I want and not worry about my makeup and puffy eyes at work. I can then go home and curl up in bed and watch a TV show start to finish!"


"Thermos Funtainer (Thermos, $15.99). These things are the best. We've had a million water bottles and these are the only ones that don't spill. Plus you can order replacement straws from Amazon (Amazon, $4.99), so they'll last forever."


"Ticonderoga pencils (Amazon, $9.95). There's a reason teachers as for them by name on supply lists. Generic pencils are constantly breaking and sharpen funny. Ticonderogas are the best."


"Some kind of grab-n-go breakfast. Kind Bars (Kind Bar Sweet & Salty Variety Pack, $57.14), fruit pouches (NOKA Organics, $14.99), Clif Kid Zbars (Boxed, $20.99). My boys wait until five minutes after the last possible minute to get out of bed, so we often have to do breakfast on the go."


"Bikes (Schwinn Elm Girl's Bike, Amazon, $88.00) and helmets (Lanova Toddler Helmet, Amazon, $28.99) for the trip to school."


"Scissors (Amazon, $9.99) and glue sticks (Elmer's, Amazon, $10.00) for home! I always buy them for school but forget that they'll need them at home as well to do homework and projects."


"I’m a fan of Mabel's Labels, their stick on labels (Mabel's Labels, $10-$38). They hold on well and kids lose stuff."


"Cute first day of school outfit! It's essential (OK, not really, but sort of)! I bargain shop for most of the back to school clothes, since she grows like a weed and nothing will fit her for long anyway and she doesn't have younger siblings, but I always splurge on one nice outfit. It's fun for both of us."