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20 Essential Back to School Supplies for a Super Successful Year

Updated for 2021

Even though it’s the middle of Summer, it’s time to start thinking about school supplies. Many kids in Los Angeles will be starting classes again in just a few weeks, so whether we are 100% on board with that or not, we need to get them ready.

While each teacher may have a specific list of school supplies they use in their classes, families can get a jump start on the shopping by stocking up now on some of these essential Back To School Must-Haves. No matter what grade your kids are in, some school supplies are universally needed, and they will probably often need to get upgrades.

Related: see the School Calendars for Los Angeles Public Schools.

This post contains affiliate links to our MomsLA Amazon Shop.

colored pencils

Essential School Supplies for In-Person OR Distance Learning

1. Printer Ink

Make sure you’ve got some extra cartridges. You’ll most likely be printing out a lot more than usual. You definitely don’t want to run out of black ink while in the middle of printing out your child’s weekly assignment.

2. Printer Paper

Likewise, you’ll need plenty of printer paper. Order more than you think you’ll need. Always better to have extra on-hand. (And remember, you don’t have to just save your printer paper for the printer. It works great for art projects, too.)

2A. Printer

It follows that you’ll need a printer to go with all that paper and ink, too!

Find our Printer Picks in our Amazon Shop.

3. Headphones

Between on-line lessons and content-related games, a comfortable pair of headphones might be what you need for peace in the house. (Of course, you know your child best. Younger children might need you to listen-in to instructions.)

4. Backpack

Some kids wear out or outgrow their backpacks every year, so this is a purchase you’ll probably be making quite a few times! Some kids like to have a backpack with their favorite characters on them, and as they get older they will probably want more solid colors. And some kids use rolling backpacks because they have such heavy books!

5. Lunch Box or Lunch Bag

Even if your child is getting served hot lunch at school, they may want to bring some snacks along just in case. Lunch bags are so high tech these days, with serious insulation, multiple compartments, and so many designs to choose from. You’ll probably also want to consider getting a Bento Box type, so you can really go all-out!

6. Water Bottle

Staying hydrated is super important, and you want to send your child off to school – or to play – with a large container of water to drink. Many schools have refillable water stations now, so they can always get more during the day.

Find all our backpack, lunch bag and water bottle picks in our Amazon shop!

backpacks at the store

7. Pencils

There are so many options here. Decide on these with your child – mechanical pencils (don’t forget extra lead) or wood pencils that need to be sharpened? (Though some pencils are sold pre-sharpened, you’ll want to have a sharpener available. This might be the year you invest in a small electronic sharpener.)

8. Erasers

And don’t forget about the erasers! Get creative and pick out some fun ones in designs that match your child’s personality and interests.

9. Pens

Older students will most likely be using pens (except for math) so have a stash of those on-hand. Erasable pens make life easier. And Highlighters become more important as kids get older. Some students respond well to highlighting passages, important dates, etc. Make sure you get some in colors other than standard yellow.

Find all the Pens and Pencils in our Amazon Shop.

10. Basic Office Supplies

Think stapler and staple remover. Scissors. Ruler. Glue (liquid glue or glue sticks). Tape. 

See all the Office Supplies we think are cool in our Amazon Shop.

11. Essential Art Supplies

Crayons, colored pencils, and markers. Crayola is known for their large assortment, including washable markers and colored pencils with erasers. And don’t forget a box of “Colors of the World” crayons, so your child can create a true self-portrait.

pencils in painted jars
Side note: you can make these pencil holders from Mason Jars and use them at home and as teacher gifts!

Get our Art Supplies Ideas here in our Amazon Shop.

12. Small Dry Erase Board

Your child won’t run out of ways to use a small dry erase board. Great for working out math questions and writing practice (some boards come with lines on them for just this purpose). 

13. Dry Erase Markers and Eraser

Don’t forget some fun colors in addition to a standard  black and blue marker.

White Board and Dry Erase Markers and Supplies in our Amazon Shop.

14. Index Cards

For many students, index cards are an absolute essential study aid. For younger students, they also work as flashcards – great for practicing letters, multiplication facts, states and capitals, etc. 

15. Three-ring Binder (or a few)

You’ll also need dividers to separate the papers for each class as well as plenty of binder paper.

16. Spiral Notebooks

Some students find it helpful to have one single-subject spiral notebook for each class. 

Tons of Paper Goods, Notebooks and Supplies in our Amazon Shop.

17. 2-pocket Folders

If your child isn’t using a binder, a 2-pocket folder is an effective way to keep important class papers in one location. You can also make things easier by designating one color for each class. Math class might use a purple spiral notebook and purple folder, for example, while history class uses a green spiral and green folder.

18. Accordion Folder

Still another way to organize school papers is by keeping everything in one spot in an accordion folder. Designate one section for each class, and have extra spaces leftover for school forms, school contact information, etc. 

display of school supplies

19. Pencil Pouch/Box

Your student will need a way to keep all those pencils and highlighters organized and neatly stashed away when not in use. Now’s the perfect time to purchase a fun, colorful pencil pouch for your child.

20. Post-Its

Sticky notes are a great way to write yourself a reminder, mark a particular page in a textbook, or keep a password handy near the computer.

21. Student planner and/or desk calendar

While many students put important dates into their phones, it’s also helpful to have an analog version of keeping track of upcoming assignments, projects, and Zoom meetings. A desk calendar is easily accessible so parents can also keep track of their child’s progress on long-term assignments.

Calendars and Planners in our Amazon Shop.

22. Snacks

Now is the time to stock up on some easy-to-grab, no-mess snacks kids can enjoy while working. Just a few ideas to get your list started – raisins, trail mix, pretzels, granola bars.

Wendy Kennar is a mother, writer, and former teacher who has lived her entire life in the same Los Angeles zip code. You can read more from Wendy at her website WendyKennar.com where she writes about books, boys, and bodies (living with an invisible disability).

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