Back to basics: A supply list for elementary school

Keep our school supply checklist handy to make your shopping as easy as A, B, C.

By GreatSchools Staff

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.

Writing essentials

Don’t waste your money on feather pencils, light-up pencil sharpeners, or pretty erasers that don’t work, teachers say.

No. 2 pencils (Stick with this classic to avoid classroom competition over whose writing utensil is the coolest — or most impractical.)

Colored pencils

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

A large pink eraser (The old-fashioned ones do the best erasing.)

Ballpoint pens

A box of crayons (Teachers recommend buying a 16-pack for younger kids, more for older ones.)

Water-based markers

Spiral-bound or composition notebooks

Loose-leaf notebook paper (Teachers can be picky about paper. Schools usually supply specially ruled handwriting paper to help younger children with letter formation. Older children use wide-ruled paper.)

Organizational helpers

Expensive folders with multiple pockets and zippers are often too bulky to fit in desks. Better to stick with more streamlined (and cheaper) models.

A three-ring binder

Pocket folders (If you get a folder with two pockets, label one “keep at home” and the other “bring back to school” to help your child organize his papers.)

A box for storing items (Teachers recommend one that’s eight inches long by five inches wide by two inches deep to hold pencils, crayons, erasers and scissors.)

Highlighters (These are probably unnecessary for kids in kindergarten through second grade.)

Index cards, ruled and unruled (for making flash cards)

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

Craft materials

Dioramas and other 3-D projects provide a hands-on learning experience for students. Most teachers recommend having these items available:

Drawing paper

Construction paper

A ruler with English and metric measurements

Glue sticks

A four-ounce bottle of white glue

Scotch tape

A stapler

Scissors (blunt ended for younger kids, pointed for older ones)

Watercolor paints

Home computer supplies

Printer paper

Ink cartridges

Nice to have

A sturdy lunch box

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.)