Back-to-School Supplies: 120+ Must-Haves for Every Grade

Back-to-School Supplies: 120+ Must-Haves for Every Grade

Pop quiz!

Do you know exactly what your kid needs to bring with them for back-to-school?

No worries, mama ‒ you can cheat off us!

With our ultimate list of back-to-school supplies your kiddo needs for the best school year ever, they won’t even need to borrow a pencil.

We’ve got everything your child could possibly need for back-to-school, for every grade, from kindergarten to college, along with hints and tips to get more bang for your buck.

Eyes front ‒ school’s in session.

In this article: 📝

  • How do I plan for back-to-school shopping?
  • What supplies do I need for back-to-school?
  • Preschool back-to-school supplies
  • Kindergarten back-to-school supplies
  • Elementary school back-to-school supplies
  • Middle school back-to-school supplies
  • High school back-to-school supplies
  • College back-to-school supplies
  • What is the most popular back-to-school item?
  • How much do you spend on back-to-school supplies?






How do I plan for back-to-school shopping?

Back-to-school shopping can be a drag, but it doesn’t have to be.

With a little planning, you can make it a breeze.

Here are our top tips for back-to-school shopping:

  • Start by getting a list of supplies from your child’s school. This will help you know exactly what you need to buy.
  • Set a budget for your shopping. This will help you stay on track and avoid overspending.
  • Do your research. Compare prices at different stores before you buy anything.
  • Take advantage of sales and coupons. There are often great deals on back-to-school supplies, so be sure to look for them.
  • Get your kid involved! Let them pick out some of their own supplies, and they’ll be more excited to use them.

And to make things even easier, we’ve got simple back-to-school supplies lists for every grade.

How many outfits should I buy for back-to-school?

Well, it depends on a few factors ‒ the school dress code (whether they have a uniform), your child’s personal style, and your budget.

But here’s a general rule of thumb: you should have enough outfits to get you through a week of school, with a few extras for special occasions.

So about 5-10 outfits, depending on how often you do laundry.

Of course, you can always buy more outfits if you want to, but there’s no need to go overboard.

Generally speaking, it’s worth making sure you have:

  • 3 tops
  • 2 pairs of bottoms
  • A pair of sturdy, comfy shoes
  • Lots of socks! We love these by Bombas ‒ lots of cute designs for all ages, they don’t get holey, and for every pair you buy, they (with their donation partners) donate another pair to people in need. Win-win!
  • Three sets of PE clothes
  • One outfit for winter ‒ school jumper, winter coat, winter shoes, thicker trousers/tights
  • One outfit for summer ‒ lighter school top, light cardigan/jacket, sandals (if allowed)






What supplies do I need for back-to-school?

Now back-to-school season is upon us, it’s time to start stocking up on supplies.

But what supplies does your kid really need?

Sure, you’ll need the basics like a backpack, pens, and pencils.

But there are also some other supplies that might not be top of mind that could make your school year a lot easier.

And your list of back-to-school supplies can change depending on which grade your child’s starting.

But never fear, we’ve broken it down for you:

Preschool back-to-school supplies

Preschool back-to-school supplies

Back-to-school shopping for preschool can be a breeze, but it’s still worth being prepared.

Here are all the essential preschool back-to-school supplies you’ll need to get your little one ready for their first day of school:

  1. Backpack: A backpack is essential for carrying all of your child’s supplies. Make sure it is the right size for your child and that it has plenty of compartments to keep everything organized. We love this backpack set that comes in lots of different designs, with a matching backpack, lunch bag, and pencil case.
  2. Snacks: Preschoolers need to eat throughout the day, so make sure to pack plenty of snacks, like fruit, vegetables, crackers, and cheese.
  3. Lunch: You’ll also need to pack a lunch for your preschooler. Need some inspo? Think sandwiches, salads, and pasta dishes. And for their lunch, you’ll also need…
  4. Lunchbox: A lunchbox is essential for packing your child’s lunch. Make sure it’s leak-proof and easy for them to open and close. Our faves are these cute mini bento boxes ‒ BPA-free and dishwasher safe, too!
  5. Water bottle: Hydration is key! Make sure it’s the right size for your kid and that it’s easy for them to drink from, like this adorable rainbow bottle.
  6. Art supplies: Preschoolers love getting arty, so it can be worth packing some art supplies like crayons, markers, and pencils (like this complete kit by Crayola). Check with their preschool first, because they might already supply everything your mini-Picasso needs.
  7. Labels: Probably the most important thing on our list! After all, preschoolers might not remember what they brought with them. Label everything with your child’s name, so it doesn’t get lost. Our Peanut mamas recommend stitching them into their clothing (using fabric labels like these) and putting personalized stickers on everything else. And we mean everything.
  8. Folders: For their preschool registration paperwork and for their arts and crafts to keep them safe ‒ anything that’s not going on the fridge, that is.
  9. Clothing: Usually, your preschooler can wear their normal clothes to school, so dress them for the weather.
  10. Change of clothes: Accidents happen! Don’t forget an extra pair of socks (you’d be surprised how easily they can go walkabouts!)
  11. Sun hat: Especially if the preschool has a garden, to keep your toddler protected from UV rays. Opt for one that has built-in UV protection, like this one by SwimZip.
  12. Raincoat: Some preschools go out in the garden come rain or shine, so make sure you’re prepared ‒ plus, how cute is are these animal raincoats?

Kindergarten back-to-school supplies

Kindergarten back-to-school supplies

Time for kindie?

Kindergarten back-to-school supplies are pretty much the same as for preschool, but you might have to scale up some of the essentials as your toddler grows:

  1. Backpack: One of the most important things for kindie, as your child will be carrying it around all day long. Make sure it’s sturdy enough to withstand the rigors of kindergarten and that it’s comfortable to wear. And if your toddler is a Bluey fan, how about this adorable backpack of our favorite cartoon dog.
  2. Snacks: Pack plenty of yummy snacks they’ll actually enjoy ‒ have a chat with them which snacks they want to bring, then compromise with a mix of healthy and fun snacks.
  3. Lunch: Wraps, sandwiches, and even leftovers make great lunches for kindergarteners.
  4. Lunchbox: These Bentgo lunchboxes are loved by moms all round the world, super-cute and leak-proof.
  5. Water bottle: We love this mini YETI Rambler Jr. that comes in lots of different colors, so you can be twinning with your water bottles ‒ cute, right?
  6. Art supplies: Like the art supplies for preschoolers, but a little more grown-up, like this unicorn set.
  7. Books: Some kindergarten schools encourage toddlers to read their own books from home (as long as their labeled), so check with them to see if you’re allowed.
  8. Labels: Things can still go walkabout at kindergarten, so make sure everything is labeled with your toddler’s name.
  9. Clothing: Just like with kindergarten, go for weather-friendly clothes.
  10. Change of clothes: Just in case.
  11. Sun hat: To shield them from the sun.
  12. Sunscreen: Some kindergartens supply sunscreen, while others expect you to put some in your toddler’s backpack. It’s worth checking ahead. This one by Thinkbaby is one of the favorites among our Peanut toddler moms – it’s got SPF 50, it’s hypoallergenic, dermatologist approved, cruelty-free, and it’s specially formulated for baby’s skin.
  13. Raincoat: In case they do some (supervised) exploring outside in the rain.

Elementary school back-to-school supplies

Elementary school back-to-school supplies

Ready to tackle the back-to-school madness for your elementary schooler?

Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Backpack: Find a backpack that can survive anything – from textbook avalanches to juice box explosions, like this set that comes with a backpack, lunch box, and pencil pouch, with lots of designs for your elementary schooler to choose from.
  2. Notebooks: Like this set of 8 different colored notebooks or, if your kid likes fidget toys, this notebook with a built-in pop-it could be the one, Check with your kid’s school to see whether they’ll supply these first.
  3. Pens and pencils: Like these chunky pencils if they’re new to writing and these washable marker pens for when they’re feeling creative.
  4. Scissors: Like this pack of three cushioned scissors that come with covers for extra safety, for those elementary school art projects.
  5. Ruler: After all, things are starting to get mathematical! This pack of 2 rulers does the job.
  6. Erasers: Get a few, because they tend to go missing easily ‒ we love these cute animal erasers that come in a pack of 6.
  7. Pencil sharpener: Get one that’s kid-safe, just in case. This pack of three is easy to hold, and they’re clear, so you can see when they get full.
  8. Lunchbox: Full of their favorite treats and snacks. How about one with a funky design, like this retro tie-dye one?
  9. Water bottle: Like these cute CamelBak Eddy+ water bottles ‒ leak-proof, insulated, dishwasher-safe, and in lots of different designs.
  10. Clothing: Keep it casual and dress for the weather.
  11. Shoes: And don’t forget the socks!
  12. Labels: Never. Stop. Labeling.

Middle school back-to-school supplies

Middle school back-to-school supplies

It’s time to gear up your pre-teen prodigy for the wild ride called middle school:

  1. Backpack: A durable backpack with lots of compartments to handle the heavy load of textbooks, notebooks, and gadgets, like this North Face one that comes in lots of different colors.
  2. Notebooks: Grab a mix of spiral-bound and composition notebooks for different subjects. You can never have too many notebooks!
  3. Pens and pencils: Black, blue, and colored pens, mechanical pencils, highlighters – a full arsenal for your middle schooler’s writing and organizing needs, like this complete kit with Sharpies, Paper Mate pens, and lots more.
  4. Binders: Keep loose papers in check with sturdy binders and divider tabs for each subject ‒ we love this set of 6 marble-effect 3-ring binders for the aesthetic.
  5. Stationery set:: Rulers, erasers, stapler – all the stationery goodies to keep your pre-teen on top of their game, like this cute cat kit or this one for Marvel fans.
  6. Calculator: Depending on their math level, a basic or scientific calculator might be needed.
  7. Pencil case: Let them take their pick, pencil cases are an extension of their personality at school! For inspo, a few of our middle school faves are this boba tea standing pencil case, this sporty pencil box with a built-in calculator, or this multi-compartment functional pencil case in lots of colors.
  8. Art supplies: For the creative minds, throw in a sketchbook, colored pencils, markers, and glue sticks for art class brilliance.
  9. Headphones: A pair of headphones or earbuds for multimedia lessons and study sessions ‒ we’d suggest going for budget-friendly versions right now, just in case they go missing!
  10. Academic year planner: Help your kid stay organized with a daily planner to jot down assignments, test dates, and extracurricular activities ‒ we love this bilingual one made just for students.
  11. Essential books: Thesaurus, dictionary, and grammar reference books.
  12. Laptop: If the school allows it, a laptop or tablet can be a valuable tool for research and typing assignments. They don’t need lots of bells and whistles for middle school, so a budget laptop like the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 11 Chromebook should do the job.
  13. Water bottle: A spill-proof water bottle to keep your kid hydrated throughout the day, like this one with suggestions of how much they should drink throughout the day.
  14. Snacks: Pack some healthy snacks to keep hunger pangs at bay during those long study sessions.
  15. Combination lock: A combination lock for their locker, magnets, and fun locker decorations to make it their own.
  16. Language learning resources: For foreign language classes, how about some language dictionaries, bilingual books, or apps to aid their learning?
  17. Gym gear: Don’t forget appropriate athletic shoes, joggers, and a sweat-proof tee, for PE classes.
  18. Stress busters: Throw in some stress balls or fidget toys to help them stay cool during challenging moments.
  19. Smartphone: If you feel they’re old enough to have one ‒ but it’s worth checking out the school policy on cell phones beforehand. Something like a refurbished iPhone SE is great for middle schoolers, and it won’t break the bank.

High school back-to-school supplies

High school back-to-school supplies

Welcome to the high school battlegrounds – where academics meet drama and hormones collide!

But what does your teen need for back-to-school?

Well…

  1. Backpack: Some high schools insist on clear backpacks, while others let your high schooler choose whatever they want ‒ if they get to choose, they’ll probably be clamoring for the Fjallraven Kanken backback.
  2. Notebooks: All the notebooks!
  3. Pens and pencils: Black and blue pens, colored pencils, gel pens, mechanical pencils, highlighters – an arsenal to tackle essays, equations, and everything in between.
  4. Ruler: Get technical with this geometry set, complete with protractor and compass.
  5. Index cards: For exam cramming ‒ is 300 enough?!
  6. Scientific calculator: For those advanced math and science classes, a scientific calculator with all the bells and whistles is a must.
  7. Laptop: How about something colorful, like the HP Stream 14” Laptop, that comes in 6 different colors?
  8. Smartphone: iPhone or Android? The ultimate choice.
  9. Art supplies: If they’re taking art, these are a must. Sketchbooks, drawing pencils, and paint sets are all fuel for their artistic flair.
  10. Daily academic planner: This one comes in lots of colors, with a to-do list for each week.
  11. Headphones: Noise-canceling headphones (or earbuds, if they prefer) for those study sessions at home or in the (supposedly quiet) chaos of the library.
  12. Language resources: If they’re taking a language, that is ‒ French, German, Spanish, or even Latin.
  13. Watch: Either a classic analog watch or a new smartwatch to keep them on time.
  14. Gym gear: The full kit with a bag for everything to go into.
  15. Combination lock: Something sturdy to keep their stuff safe.
  16. Locker accessories: Like this locker set, with a shelf, mirror, whiteboard, and magnets.
  17. Textbook savers: Book covers or book socks to protect their precious textbooks from wear and tear.
  18. College prep materials: If college is on the horizon, get your hands on some SAT or ACT prep books or materials to get a head start on the entrance exams.
  19. Water bottle: Stanley cup, anyone?
  20. Snacks: Healthy snacks to keep energy levels up and ready for anything the school day throws their way.
  21. Portable charger: Keep their gadgets powered up and ready to go for those long days of classes and extracurriculars.
  22. Collapsible umbrella: Prepare them for any weather surprises with a compact umbrella that can fit in their backpack without taking up much space.
  23. Personal safety device: Like the She’s Birdie ‒ just in case.

College back-to-school supplies

College back-to-school supplies

Fledgling about to fly the coop?

We’ve got the ultimate list of college back-to-school essentials so they’re ready for anything that life throws at them.

Lots of these back-to-school supplies are from Amazon, so if your college student signs up for Prime Student, they’ll get faster delivery and exclusive offers, with 6 months for free, then 50% off after ‒ not bad!

  1. Backpack: Choose a durable and spacious backpack to carry their books, laptop, and other essentials around campus.
  2. Notebooks: Stock up on notebooks, notepads, and loose-leaf paper for taking notes in lectures and study sessions. Or, if you want to go more high-tech, how about a smart reusable notebook?
  3. Laptop: Invest in a reliable laptop that can handle academic tasks, research, and online assignments.
  4. Portable external hard drive: For backing up important files and projects, a portable external hard drive comes in handy.
  5. Pens and pencils: Get a variety of pens, pencils, and highlighters to keep them ready for any writing challenge.
  6. Pencil case: To keep it all together, like this elegant option.
  7. Desk supplies: Staplers, paper clips, sticky notes, and other desk essentials for an organized study space ‒ like this complete set, with a desk organizer.
  8. Headphones or earbuds: Noise-canceling headphones or earbuds to help them focus in while their roommate is partying.
  9. Academic planner: Keep track of assignments, exams, and social events with a planner for the school year.
  10. Index cards: For presentations and late-night study cramming sessions ‒ Amazon Basics do the job.
  11. Water bottle: Stay hydrated with a reusable water bottle they can carry to classes.
  12. Art supplies: Taking an art course at college? They’ll need the essentials.
  13. Bedding and linens: Comforter, comfy sheets, pillows, blankets, and, why not, some decorative cushions to spruce up their dorm or apartment.
  14. Towels: An absolute essential ‒ big bath towels are easily the best.
  15. Power strips and extension cords: So they have enough outlets to charge their devices and power their gadgets.
  16. Power bank: Keep their devices charged on the go with a reliable power bank.
  17. Laundry essentials: Laundry bag, detergent, and dryer sheets for a clean and fresh wardrobe.
  18. Personal care items: Don’t forget toiletries like shampoo and conditioner, body wash, face wash, deodorant, and toothpaste.
  19. Study lamp: A desk lamp with good lighting for late-night study sessions.
  20. First aid kit: A basic first aid kit for minor cuts and injuries.
  21. Mini fridge: If allowed in their dorm, a mini fridge can be handy for storing snacks and drinks.
  22. Microwave: Again, check dorm regulations, and if permitted, a microwave can be useful for quick meals.
  23. Storage solutions: Plastic bins or organizers to maximize storage space in their dorm room.
  24. Flip flops or shower shoes: Essential for shared bathroom facilities ‒ Crocs are great for flip flop fans, and Adidas sliders are another great choice.
  25. Cooking essentials: Pot, pan, cooking utensils, dinnerware, cutlery, glasses, mugs, and storage.
  26. Reusable food containers: Help them pack meals from the dining hall or store leftovers in reusable food containers.
  27. Personal safety device: Hopefully they won’t need a personal safety device, but it’s worth having.
  28. Tool kit: A basic tool kit for minor repairs and adjustments in their dorm or apartment.
  29. Foldable drying rack: For air-drying clothes in their dorm or apartment.
  30. Portable fan or heater: Depending on the climate, a portable fan or heater can make their living space more comfortable.
  31. Small whiteboard or corkboard: A college staple: the corkboard. Or you could get a combo whiteboard and corkboard to jot down reminders and display important notes.
  32. Cleaning supplies: Stock them up with cleaning supplies like disinfectant wipes, microfiber cloths, and cleaning sprays for their living space.
  33. Portable clothes steamer: A handy tool to keep their clothes looking fresh and wrinkle-free.
  34. Wall hooks or command strips: Hang towels, jackets, or decor without damaging the walls with wall hooks and command strips.
  35. Reusable travel mug: Keep their caffeine game strong with a reusable coffee mug for those early morning classes.
  36. Dorm decorations: Add some personality to their living space with posters, fairy lights, wall art, wall clock, and a rug.
  37. Stain remover pen: For quick fixes on clothing mishaps during busy days.
  38. Over-the-door mirror: A space-saving mirror that fits over their dorm or apartment door.
  39. Compact vacuum cleaner: A mini vacuum cleaner to keep their living space tidy.
  40. Mini safe or lockbox: For securely storing valuable items and documents.
  41. Reusable shopping bags: Handy for grocery runs and reducing plastic waste.
  42. Photo frames: Filled with photos of the family, in case they get homesick. Grab a Sharpie and write a message for them on the frame for all the feels. And if you want to give them an extra present, how about a classic Fujifilm Instax camera? Retro is in, after all.






What is the most popular back-to-school item?

You won’t be surprised at the most popular back-to-school item ‒ stationery!

Pens, pencils, notebooks, highlighters… some things never change.

And you can grab a deal with a complete stationery set like this one on Amazon, at $59.99 for 2 pink erasers, a binder pouch, a pack of index cards, 3 pack of highlighters, 4 BIC black pens, 4 red pens, 4 blue pens, 8 #2 pencils, 0.7mm lead refill, 12 pack of Crayola colored pencils, Sharpie permanent marker, 200 sticky notes, 5 pencil top erasers, and a Kleenex pocket pack.

Bargain!

How much do you spend on back-to-school supplies?

You don’t need us to tell you that shopping for back-to-school supplies can be pricey, especially as laptops and smartphones are pretty much required to study.

According to the National Retail Federation, families with a child in elementary school tend to spend $864 on back-to-school supplies each year.

And for college students, it’s even more ‒ thanks to all those dorm essentials ‒ adding up to an average of $1,199 per student.

But both of those figures are from 2022, so 2023 back-to-school spending is expected to be even higher.

Ouch.

How can I spend less on school supplies?

So we know back-to-school shopping can be a hit to our wallets, but what can you do to spend less?

Here are our top tips from the Peanut Community on how to save on back-to-school supplies:

  • Check with your school: Many schools have lists of required and optional supplies. Make sure you only buy the required supplies, and you can save a ton of money.
  • Shop around: Don’t just go to the first store you see. Compare prices at different stores to find the best deals. You can also look for coupons or use store loyalty cards to save even more money.
  • Hold out for sales: Prime Day can be great for bagging a bargain. But you’ll have to be a Prime member beforehand (if you sign up, you can also save on delivery costs throughout the year, too!). Plus, for college students, you can sign up to 6 months of Prime Student for free, then 50% off afterward.
  • Buy in bulk: If you know you’ll need a lot of the same supplies, like pencils or pens, consider buying them in bulk. This can save you a bundle of money over time. Or you can team up with other moms at school to buy in bulk together.
  • Shop second-hand: There are a lot of great second-hand stores that sell school supplies at a fraction of the cost of new supplies. You can also check online for used school supply listings ‒ second-hand books are a lifesaver!
  • Ask for donations: If you’re really struggling to afford school supplies, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are a number of organizations that provide free or discounted school supplies to families in need, like United Way, the Kids in Need Foundation, and Operation Homefront.






So there you have it, mama!

With these tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to a stress-free and budget-friendly shop for back-to-school supplies.

Don’t forget to treat yourself to a little something nice after all your hard work ‒ you deserve it!

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