5 Back-to-School Items Your Child Needs (+ 5 They Don’t) From an Elementary Teacher’s Perspective

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With back-to-school signage being hung far and wide at your local stores and emails from your kids’ school reaching your inbox once more, it’s the perfect time to discuss your BTS shopping list! Most schools will release each grade level’s supply list, but there’s often so many choices to be made in-store or in your online shopping cart – color, materials, brand, and so on – that it can feel overwhelming! You might find yourself wondering: what should I really be getting for my elementary-aged child to be successful this school year? Well, hold onto your hats, because this elementary school teacher is about to share 5 Back-to-School items your child needs (+ 5 They Don’t)!! 

Back to School Shopping Cart5 Items Your Child Needs This School Year

(+ 5 They Don’t)

Target shopping cart filled with school supplies

#1: Pencils Of course, these writing utensils are a necessity, but did you know that some pencils are simply better than others? Ask any teacher, and I’m sure they’ll agree with my dos and don’ts below.

Do Need: Regular, wooden, #2 pencils. If you want to go fancy, go Ticonderoga. Go crazy with color if you want, but if you’re seeking just the basics, that’s fine too! What you don’t want is…

Don’t need: Pencils with plastic coatings. They are your teacher’s worst nightmare. Why, you ask? They DESTROY pencil sharpeners and don’t write (or erase!) as well. A close second is mechanical pencils, especially for the younger elementary grades, because they often are simply a distraction. Use your judgement with what your child can handle regarding mechanical pencils, but please, oh please, forgo the plastic-wrapped pencils, no matter how cute the design might be.

Ticonderoga pencils for back to school

basic #2 pencils for back to school

#2: Folders Teachers usually request 2-5 folders for each child to help with organization, but not all folders are going to make it through the school year intact. Read on to find out why.

Do Need: Plastic Folders. They’re tough, stand the test of an entire school year and are almost indestructible. I like to go with light, plain colors because your child’s teacher will likely mark each folder with subjects, and lots of patterns or really dark colors make the markings hard to see. Finally, make sure you pay attention to if teacher requests a pronged folder, as not all folders have them!

Don’t Need: Paper folders. I can’t tell you how many students I’ve had where their paper folders have fallen apart by October. They simple don’t last and you’ll find yourself buying more school supplies midyear (or, in some cases, before the holidays!).

green plastic school folder with prongs

#3: Markers I love using markers with my students as a treat, as opposed to using colored pencils and crayons. Something about the vibrant colors and the special nature of getting to pull out markers always gets my students excited, so they’re totally a must have!

Do Need: Regular, washable markers. Please. Crayola is a favorite brand, but generic works as well.

Don’t Need: Sharpies. For the love of what is good in life, no elementary student needs to bring in Sharpies, and yet each year, I had students bring them in. Despite my best efforts to tell those students that Sharpies have no place in their educational career in my classroom, a desk or other surface gets irrevocably marked with a permanent marker and I single-handedly keep the Magic Eraser brand alive as I scrub away the markings each year.

back to school supply item

#4: Pencil Container A pencil box is totally necessary to help your child stay organized throughout the year, but some are welcome in classes and some…not so much.

Do need: A plastic, somewhat clear pencil box or pencil pouch (if that’s what the teacher requests). They’re durable, and a clear pencil box or pouch allows your child to see the contents for easy access.

Don’t need: A metal pencil box. So, so loud as students rummage through them to grab a crayon or pencil. Also, I’ve seen some students come in with fancy boxes with locks and keys incorporated. I don’t think I need to say this, but I will: an elementary student doesn’t need a pencil box with lock and key. I promise.

plastic pencil box

#5: Backpack Of course, another necessity, but there are some key factors to making the best choice when it comes to this back-to-school must-have.

Do Need: A backpack with a water bottle holder. Many school are pushing students to bring in a reusable water bottle, but if there’s no place to put it when entering and leaving school, it often becomes a disorganized mess of your child trying to carry too many things. Or, worse, the water bottle will just be left behind and join other water bottles in the lost-and-found. A water bottle holder is a total necessity. Pro tip: add a Carabiner clip to attach your child’s lunch box for one less thing to carry!

Don’t Need: Backpacks with insufficient pockets/storage, or missing the features I mentioned above! Always think utility over cuteness. (I know it’s hard with little ones! Last year, my son’s super awesome Storm Trooper backpack has three holes in it within two months. I learned my lesson as a mom!) Not all cute backpacks are bad choices, but be sure to thoroughly check out its features before purchasing!

backpack with water bottle pouch

Don’t Forget About Tax-Free Week

If you want to save some money while back-to-school shopping, then don’t forget that Florida has its Back to School Tax Holiday from July 31st to August 9th. According to the Florida Department of Revenue, “certain clothing, footwear, and accessories selling for $60 or less per item, certain school supplies selling for $15 or less per item, and the first $1,000 of the sales price of personal computers and related accessories purchased for noncommercial home or personal use are exempt from sales tax.” If you shopped like me, that means most of your BTS purchases are tax-free during this 10-day tax holiday!

If you prefer to hit up Amazon to make your life easier, that’s cool too! We’ve linked our favorite Amazon finds throughout this post! Happy Back-to-School shopping!!!

Back to School Shopping Cart


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