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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

Comments from readers

"um Yeah thats a little much for most schools. My Kid is in kindergarten and the only thing she uses on daily basis is pencils, crayons, scissors, glue and construction paper. Plus teacher gives writing sheets etc. and DO Not provide 2 or 5 of anything unless you want to supply all the other kids. I do not mind helping when I know I am. BUT I thought I was supplying stuff for my child. then 2 months into school I got a note that my daughter needed more crayons. UM I sent her with 4 packs. Apparently they take all the supplies and combine them in a box. They even took her pencils out of her book bag. Said she only needed 1. and they gave her school supplies to other kids who's parents didn't bring them any. No offense But I am a full time student with a part time job. I do not have money to provide random kids with school supplies "
"i think these are some pretty good supplys ...but mine were different. "
" Me and my family just moved to Whittier during the summer and I have a 5th and a 7th grader.I have a lot of questions for example will they be going to the same school,if so when does it start,what supplies will they need and is this a uniform school?I try calling the school and leave messages but still no call backs. "
"Why do you only mention Target as a supplier? Why not mention WalMart? Their prices are less expensive."
"Interesting enough, besides a backpack, the school supply list for Kindergarten has been nothing. The teacher informed us that all supplies will be provided for in the school. They use special pre-printed work sheets, mini-chaulk boards and something called flip crayons to promote hand dexterity."
"I love it.. it helped sooo soo much!"
"nice list!"
"Great reference tool!"
"I love this list...great job on keeping us informed!"
"Thanks for the guide!"
"Thanks for this....VERY helpful for getting back to school organized!!"
"This is a good idea!"
"my list calls for 2 of everything, including 2, 4 packs of dry erase markers. My son's class has 21 students. Does the teacher really need that many markers for 1 year of school? "
"very helpful, and wonderful that it's online! "
"This really helps for getting ready for school."
"Helpful thanks"
"Great tips. Love this web site."
"Love it"
"Thanks for the list!"
"All the basics are covered! Love it!!"
"This is similar to what we had to send."
"Thanks for the good info"
"These are all great tips!"
"It is hard to believe all the items they want you to send for your child."
"We were not asked to purchase quite a bit of the things on this list, although I am sure the supplies are coming from somewhere. We were asked to bring pencils, paper, composition books folders, crayons, glue sticks and scissors. In the past we have been asked to bring markers, stickers, post it notes, colored pencils, pens, and ziplock bags. Overall, a great list to get people thinking!"
"very helpful!"
"Our school has the parents pay for the supplies at the beginning of the year and the teachers order it. This is GREAT! Teachers get exactly what they are looking for at a bulk rate. There is no issue of Susie's pencil is prettier than mine. If a child can't afford supplies the school supplies them."
"This checklist is very helpful as it covers the preferences of school teachers and can help guide parents better than generic supply lists."
"Nice detailed list. :)"
"Thanks for the great list!!!"
"This is my first time visiting this site and I appreciated the article. I will be coming back to read more!"
"thanks for making this available!"
"great list. big help."