What’s the smart way to shop for school supplies? Eliminate the guesswork by getting a list from your child’s teacher ahead of time or waiting until school starts to find out what’s actually required. The teacher may recommend specific brands, sizes, or quantities, but even if the list isn’t available, you can still take advantage of back-to-school sales (many states offer “tax-free days” during this season) by sticking to the basics recommended below. And remember, you can’t go wrong with tools that help kids get — and stay — organized.

The basics

No. 2 pencils

Mechanical pencils

Colored pencils

A pencil sharpener (hand-held with a top to collect shavings)

A large pink eraser

Ballpoint pens (Get a few red-ink ones too, because some teachers have students do peer editing.)


Spiral-bound or composition notebooks

Loose-leaf notebook paper (Teachers can be picky about paper — most ask that students use the college-ruled variety.)

A ruler with English and metric measurements

Organizational helpers

Several three-ring binders (Some teachers require that a binder be used exclusively for their class.)

A three-hole punch (a regular one or one that fits in a three-ring binder)

A pencil case that fits in a binder

Binder dividers (The kinds with pockets are good for loose papers.)

Pocket folders

Folders that fit in binders

A calendar or planner for scheduling or recording assignments

A sturdy, supportive backpack (Some schools do not permit rolling backpacks because of space considerations, so check with your school before considering this option.)

Two combination locks (If the school lockers do not have built-in locks, your child might need one for the hallway and one for the gym.)

Study aids

Index cards, ruled and unruled (These are great for making flash cards.)


A calculator (Check with the math or science teacher first before investing in an expensive one. Graphing calculators, for example, are required in many high school math classes. Teachers advise parents not to buy a calculator with more functions than students will use.)

Craft materials

Drawing paper

Construction paper

Glue sticks

A four-ounce bottle of white glue

Scotch tape

A stapler (Even better if you buy these mini staplers that fit right into your child’s backpack for last minute stapling emergencies!)


Water-based markers

Home computer supplies

Printer paper

Ink cartridges

Nice to have

A stainless steel water bottle (To be extra safe, you might want to avoid plastic bottles that contain bisphenol A, a hormone-disrupting chemical linked to such health problems as heart disease and diabetes.)

Posterboard for visual aid presentations

Flashdrive for powerpoint presentations




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