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Before you shop for back-to-school supplies, it’s best to get a list of what’s required from your child’s school or new teacher. If the school list isn’t available yet, you can still take advantage of back-to-school sales by sticking to the basics that you know your child will need.

Basic writing supplies

No. 2 pencils (Parents should stick to the basics to avoid classroom competition.)

Colored pencils

Pencil sharpener (hand held with a top to collect shavings)

Large pink eraser

Ballpoint pens

Box of crayons

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.)

Basic organizational supplies

3-ring binder

Pocket folders

Box for storing supplies


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

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

Basic craft supplies

Drawing paper

Construction paper

A ruler with English and metric measurements

Glue sticks

4-oz. bottle of white glue

Scotch tape

Stapler (A mini stapler is best for last minute stapling emergencies and it usually fits in the supply box.)

Scissors (blunt end for younger kids, pointy for older ones)

Watercolor paints

Basic supplies for your home computer

Computer printer paper

Printer ink cartridges

Basic supplies to donate to the classroom

Facial tissue

Bottle of hand sanitizer

Ask the teacher if it would be helpful to have extras of any of the other basics supplies on hand.

Shopping tips

A number of states have “tax-free” days during back-to-school season, when state sales taxes are lifted.

Check our 10 tips for smart shopping for more advice to save your time, money, and sanity. Also peruse our list of supplies to keep on hand at home.

This list is meant as a general guide to get you started. Every teacher’s list is a little different. Some recommend specific brands, such as Fiskars scissors for example, or sizes. Some recommend buying in larger quantities than we’ve listed. Many will give you a shorter list. So check in with the teacher.

See the lists of back-to-school supplies your child will need in kindergarten, 1st grade, and 2nd grade and in middle school, too.