When my editor asked me about the school supplies I’d be buying for my son this year, I explained that I would use the school’s provided list, as many parents do. However, for the other gear we need, I’m fortunate that most of our big-ticket items are still in good condition from last year and can be reused.
I started thinking about the things my friends who are parents have kept from their kids and whether or not my kid would still use them. So I called some people to ask. I was pleased to learn that many of them are holding onto the same things my kid still uses. When parents praise the same thing, you know it must be good.
Here are the 14 school supplies that my parent, friends, their kids, and I swear by. These products have helped us out and made school life a lot easier!
Lunch Bags & Containers
Reusable beeswax wraps are a great way to ditch disposables and have a yummy lunch. They work great for wrapping sandwiches, muffins, and even leftover pizza! Just remind your kiddo not to accidentally throw it away the first time you send one of these beeswax beauties to school.
Chantal Lamers, a writer and mom of two, based in Northern California had an interesting suggestion for an eco-friendly product. “I would love it if reusable lunch containers came with a cloth napkin,” she wrote. “I don’t know whether my kids use their napkins at school (haha!), but I always pack one for them.” She notes that Heather Taylor sells kid-sized napkins in brightly-colored, durable fabric, but any cocktail-size napkin will also work.
Many parents mentioned the Hydro Flask water bottle as their top choice. “It keeps the water cold for hours, and it’s very durable,” says Crystal Nielsen, a mom of two and a decorator based in Utah. Plus, she notes the strap is great for kids to carry the bottle when they’re doing outdoor activities. My friend Christine, a mom of three, also chimed in to say that while an investment, this brand’s products last for years. For snacks, Hydro Flask also makes parent-approved insulated food containers.
Stephanie Seferian, the mom behind the Sustainable Minimalists podcast, loves Thermos’ Foogo containers. “We use them nearly daily in my daughters’ school lunchboxes,” says Safari. “I love the Foogo because it’s made of stainless steel (not plastic) and keeps the food inside warm until lunchtime.” When her son started bringing lunch to daycare, his teacher specifically recommended these same containers, and theirs have been going strong for five years.
Lunchbots’ bento-style metal boxes are extremely popular, especially among parents. My friend Maria, who has two kids in New York City, says her older son has used the same bento box since preschool. I love that they’re dishwasher-safe and extremely durable.
Stephanie Seferian, the mom behind the Sustainable Minimalists podcast, highly recommended Thermos’ Foogo containers. “We use them nearly daily in my daughters’ school lunchboxes,” says Seferian. “I love the Foogo because it’s made of stainless steel (not plastic) and keeps the food inside warm until lunchtime.” When my son started bringing lunch to daycare, his teacher specifically recommended these same containers, and ours have been going strong for five years.”
Lunch sacks can be a pain to wash, but it’s important to find ones that are easy to clean. “Even if your containers are leakproof, there are no stopping kids from making a sticky mess,” says mom of two Elise Hay and founder of Organized Sanctuaries in Seattle. Hay likes neoprene options that can go in your regular laundry load and that air dries quickly overnight, like the ones from BUILT New York.
Lunch Bags & Containers
L.L.Bean’s backpacks are popular for a reason: they’re practically indestructible. Parents love the reinforced bottom and machine-washable fabric. Check out the new Mountain Classic School Backpack if the practical style puts you off. It has a sleeker retro look.
However, some parents I spoke with also noted that a novelty backpack (not as tough as a big-kid pack) helps kids get excited to start school. Bixbee backpacks are more durable than many of the ones marketed to toddlers.
Stationery & Supplies
Personalized labels are a great way to ensure that your child’s school supplies make it back home. “Mabel’s Labels are the best product I ever bought for my kids for school,” says Danielle Kurtz, a creative director and mom of two in Chicago, Illinois. “They never come off. Even after years of washing, they’ve often outlasted the water bottles and lunch boxes I apply them to.”
Paper Mate Flair Felt-Tip Pens are great for handwriting practice, especially for kindergartners. They’re easy and smooth to write with and don’t bleed through the paper. I ended up stealing my son’s pens because I liked them so much, and I had to buy more!
Stabilo markers have become a favorite of Friday Apaliski, founder of Sustainability Concierge in the San Francisco Bay Area. “They provide a more consistent line than crayons and don’t break as easily or dry up as markers. We use them on paper, on the whiteboard, and even on our windows,” she says. Plus, they’re easy to clean up. “At one point, a red one got used on a beige cloth chair, but just a little soap and water took care of it. No stains. No mess. No plastic. I am literally in love with these.”
Apaliski recommends Wisdom Supply Co. school year planners for both kids and parents. These planners come in printable PDF formats and have been incredibly functional for her family over the years. Additionally, she loves that they are sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Moleskine is a popular notebook brand among people like Hay and Ernest Hemingway. Every season, Moleskine releases limited edition collaborations, and its latest collaboration with Italian fashion house Missoni is graphic and fun.
Ayn-Monique Klhare, a mom of two from Raleigh, North Caroline, knows a thing or two about finding durable raincoats for her kids. She’s had great success with L.L.Bean’s wind and rain jackets, which her 14-year-old niece wore first before passing it down to Klhare’s younger daughter. “It’s still in great shape,” Khare says of the jacket, which is now on its fourth user.
If your kid’s school has a policy of sending them outside no matter the weather, you might want to invest in a full-body rain suit. According to Diane Boden, Frogg Toggs Ultra-Lite Suits are a great option, host of the Minimalist Moms Podcast. They’re easy to put on over clothes and keep your child dry. Boden’s husband also wore one of these suits on a recent trip to Alaska and loved it.