Printable PDF

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 the classic to avoid classroom competition.) Start with a pack of 12.

Colored pencils

Pencil sharpener (manual with a top to collect shavings) 

Large pink eraser 

Ballpoint pens

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.)

*Kindergarteners may not need notebooks and paper yet. Check the teacher’s list.

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.

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.)

Box for storing items (Teachers recommend one that’s 8 x 5 inches and 2 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.)

*Kindergarteners may not need folders and binders or highlighters yet. Check the teacher’s list.

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

Ruler with English and metric measurements

Glue sticks (Some teachers prefer white to purple.)

A 4 ounce bottle of white glue

Scotch tape

Stapler (best is a mini stapler for last minute stapling emergencies. And it fits in the box.)

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

Watercolor paints

Home computer supplies

Printer paper

Ink cartridges

Nice to have

Sturdy lunch box

Water bottle (Stainless steel is recommended. Avoid plastic bottles; many contain bisphenol A, a hormone-disrupting chemical linked to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, birth defects and cancer. If choosing plastic, look for a BPA-free label.)

See the back-to-school supply list for preschool and 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade, too.

Share on Pinterest