Back to School Must Haves

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It's that time of year again. Time to scour the isles and gather all those school supplies for the new year. I know how hectic this time of year is, so I've put together a list of everything your student could possibly need.  Everything from pens, pencils, markers, and scissors to calculators, folders, binders, and notebooks. I have spent hours researching, reading reviews, and trying out products to give you the best school supplies out there. Things that students love and that they need to have a successful year! 


Lunch Box

Here are a few options for lunch boxes. Everyone has different needs, so I picked a few that I really like and hopefully you can find something that works for you. Just click on the links to see the details of these lunch boxes. 

MY PICK: BUILT Neoprene Gourmet Getaway Lunch Tote - It's the perfect size to fit all my lunch items and it comes in lots of cute colors and designs. Big enough to fit an ice pack, drink, and all the food I need. 

-BUILT Neoprene Gourmet Getaway Lunch Tote 

-Wildkin Lunch Box

-Everest Cooler/Lunch Bag 

-Durable Deluxe Insulated Lunch Cooler Bag

Backpack

There are so many different options for backpacks and everyone needs something different, so I've made a list of my top picks. I have already reviewed each of these bags in detail in the article Best Student Backpacks, so check it out to see what these bags have to offer. 

-Ivar Urban 20 Backpack

-Ivar Urban 32 Backpack (Larger version of the Ivar Urban 20)

-Incase Campus Backpack

-Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag

-High Sierra Swerve Backpack

-JanSport Big Student Classics Series Daypack 


Pen: Uni-ball Jetstream 0.5 set of 3 

If you love to write or take notes with pens, the Uni-ball Jetstream 0.5 is a great choice. These pens have a fine point, 0.5, giving you amazingly smooth, crisp, vivid lines. The ink is quick drying, preventing smears and great for you left handers out there. Has a form-fitting rubber grip for comfort while writing. Pens are durable and long lasting. When you run out of ink, just buy some refills and keep on writing.

Pencil (mechanical): Pentel Twist-Erase III 

There are a few reasons why this pencil is great. First, it’s very comfortable to write with, having a large barrel and soft, latex-free grip. The grip for this pencil is squishy and smooth and easy to hold on to. This makes it great if you are writing for long lengths of time, but also just a great everyday pencil. 

Another thing I love about this pencil is the extra long eraser that twists up from inside the pencil. I used to go through pencils so quickly because the eraser would be gone. Which means I was discarding perfectly good pencils just because of the eraser. This pencil has an extra long eraser that can be refilled when used up. The perfect solution to the problem! 

This is a mechanical pencil, so you have a choice of three lead sizes. The best size for most people is 0.7 and is what I recommend. You can level up to a 0.9 for stronger lead if you tend to push hard when writing or level down to 0.5 for a fine line for those light writers. These pencils are durable and will last a very long time.

Pencil: Write Dudes USA Gold #2 Pencils 24-Pack

If you’re looking for a good old fashion pencil, the Write Dudes USA Gold #2 Pencils are a good choice. These pencils are made with 100% USA Cedar Wood giving you a great writing experience. The graphite core is bonded for superior strength, which means it sharpens to a fine point and resists breaking. This also means the lead won’t fall out, a common problem with other pencils. It’s comfortable in your hand and writes a smooth dark line. The eraser is good, allowing you to erase without smearing. This is a great pencil with a great price and performance.

Pencil pouch: Advantus Zippered Binder Pencil Pouch with Rivet Enforced Holes, Black (67024) 

If you need a pencil pouch to store pencils, scissors, highlighters, pens, and other school supplies, this is a great option. There are a few things I like about this pouch. One, it has a clear, see through panel to make it easy to see what you’re trying to get out. Next, it has rivet enforced holes that fit a three-ring binder. Also, it zips shut to keep everything inside and is a neutral black color. Some reviewers said this lasted the whole school year.

Crayon Box: Romanoff Pencil Box in Strawberry, Grape, Blueberry, Lime, Lemon, Tangerine, Hot Pink, Blue, Red, Purple, Green, Yellow, Purple Sparkle

Some students need a school supply box that can store their crayons, markers, scissors, pencils, etc. The Romanoff is a great option. It has plenty of room for everything students need to keep organized and get to easily. This box is durable and snaps shut to lock everything inside. Great for school or at home and can be used to store any small objects.

Pencil Sharpener (Electric): X-Acto School Pro Desktop Electric Sharpener 

If you need an electric pencil sharpener the X-Acto School Pro is great. Has a heavy duty motor made for heavy use. Has a special cutting system that indicates when the pencil is sharpened and avoids over-sharpening. It also has a pencil diameter selector that lets you choose from six different sizes that fits what you’re sharpening. Sharpens pencils to a fine, even point. Has a large shavings receptacle so you empty the container less.  

Pencil Sharpener (hand held): Staedtler Cylinder Pencil Sharpener 

Lots of students like/need to have a personal pencil sharpener that they can have at their seat. It’s quick, easy, and quiet. This is a plastic, hand held pencil sharpener that has a metal sharpener attached to the lid. The cylinder body catches the shavings and keeps them until emptied. That means no shavings on the floor or desk and no getting up to go to the trash every time it’s used. The top screws on for a stable holder. It sharpens pencils into nice, fine points without breakage. Comes in different colors, but you cannot choose the color. Great for school or home.  

Erasers (block): Pentel Hi-Polymer Block Eraser, 3 pack

If you do a lot of erasing, or just like to use a block eraser, Pentel Hi-Polymer Erasers are the best. These are high quality, non-abrasive erasers that erase cleanly and completely. You don’t have to use a lot of pressure to get these to work. All you have to do is read some reviews and you’ll know how great these are. As a kid, I always needed erasers and I used these all the time. Great for school, art, or home.

Erasers (pencil top): Pentel Hi-Polymer Eraser Caps, 10 pack

If you’re looking for a durable, high-quality pencil cap eraser, these are great. They are a little more expensive than the regular pencil cap eraser, but these are hi-polymer that erase easily and cleanly. Doesn’t smudge or tear paper and no ghosting. Fits most wood case pencils and are latex free.


Crayons: Melissa & Doug Triangular Crayon Set, 24-Piece 

I know everyone’s first thought for crayons is Crayola, but these crayons are great. They are a triangle shape, so they don’t roll away or off tables to be stepped on or lost. The triangular shape promotes writing-readiness skills by helping students use the correct writing grip. These crayons come in 24 vibrant colors made of break-resistant plastic, which means they last longer. One of the best things about these crayons is they have no paper around them. That means no crayon paper scraps after every coloring session that you have to pick up. A bonus, they come in a plastic flip-top case.

C-Joy Review:

“I use these in my classroom! The shape naturally encourages kids to hold the crayons properly. One set easily lasts the entire year (21 pairs of hands using them too!)”

I also really like the Crayola 24ct Mini Twistable Crayons. These crayons are in a plastic barrel that twist to allow more of the crayon to show. As you wear the tip down, no need to sharpen or tear off paper, just twist the barrel. Also, no paper around the outside to tear off and leave around. The one downside to these is the crayon is harder than the normal Crayola crayon, so the color is not as vibrant. But, since they are hard, they don’t break easily. 

If you’re a crayon traditionalist and you want to have that 64 color crayon box by Crayola, those are still a great choice. Lots of color variation and vibrance and that awesome crayon sharpener on the back of the box. 

Markers: Rose Art Double Ended Washable Super Tip Markers, 10 Marker Set

These markers are great for a couple of reasons. The best reason is there are two colors for every maker barrel. Coloring with purple and need blue? Just flip the marker over and keep coloring. Having two colors on each marker also gives you twice the colors while taking up half the space. Saves room at home or in the classroom. Those crayon/pencil boxes only have so much room and these are space savers. Another plus, they are washable. They are long lasting, non-toxic, and each color is unique and vibrant.

Also a great buy and always reliable are the Crayola Washable Markers 12 count. They are a great price, long lasting, and vibrant color.

Colored Pencils:

I have discovered woodless colored pencils and they are really great. Like the name suggests, they don’t have wood around the lead. They are all lead and they lay down a very saturated color. Downside, they are more fragile than regular colored pencils and can break if you aren’t gentle/careful with them. Also, they’re more expensive. But if you have a student who loves art and coloring, these are worth it.

My first choice for a woodless colored pencil would be the Koh-I-Noor Progresso Woodless Colored Pencils 24 Color Set. These have a lacquer coating, come pre-sharpened, and can be easily sharpened in any pencil sharpener. They are high-density and have five times more lead than a regular colored pencil.

The other option would be the Crayola 24 count Color Sticks or Crayola 12 count Color Sticks. These look less like normal pencils. They are literally a stick of colored lead. These are great because they don’t need to be sharpened and you can use the tip for thin lines and the side to color large areas. They also last longer because they are made entirely of lead, so they have four times more lead than regular pencils.  

If you’re more comfortable staying with the traditional, wood colored pencils, the Crayola 12 count Long Colored Pencils or the Crayola 24 count Long Colored Pencils are always a great choice. 

I also like the Crayola 12 count Twistable Colored Pencils. No sharpening. When the lead runs low, just twist the plastic outer barrel and more lead comes out. Downside, if you twist out too much, the lead can break and you waste the broken section. 


Stapler: Paperpro Nano Mini Stapler

The Paperpro Nano Mini Stapler is the cutest most capable stapler out there. Has one finger stapling power, making that paper you just wrote easy to staple together. Can staple 12 pages at a time and uses standard staples. Comes in translucent green, pink, and blue. The small size makes it great for school, work, or carrying in your backpack or work bag.

Scissors: Westcott Blunt Kids Plastic Handles with Microban Antimicrobial Product Protection 5”, Westcott Pointed Kids Plastic Handles with Microban Antimicrobial Product Protection 5" 

I like these scissors because of the antimicrobial handles which prevent the growth of bacteria. That’s a great thing if you’re using these in a classroom full of people, where colds and germs spread like wild fire. These scissors have stainless steel, non-stick blades that make them easy to clean. Great for use in the classroom or at home.

Ruler: The Classics 12” Flexible Ruler by The Pencil Grip

The flexible rulers, by The Pencil Grip, are great. Since they are flexible, the won’t break in a backpack or desk or if they fall on the floor and get stepped on. They come in the usual 12 inch length with standard and metric measurements clearly printed on the ruler. Long lasting and durable which means you only have to buy one, as long as it doesn’t get lost.

Calculators:

Texas Instruments TI 108 Calculator 

This is a basic calculator that will get the job done. It has the normal add, subtract, multiply, and divide functions. It also has positive and negative, square root, and percentage functions. Great for elementary students to check homework or use at school. 

Texas Instruments TI-30X IIS 2-Line Scientific Calculator

This scientific calculator handles one and two variable statistical calculations, three angle modes (degrees, radians, and grads), and scientific and engineering notation modes. Great for middle and high school students

Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus Graphing Calculator 

This graphing calculator handles calculus, engineering, trigonometric, and financial functions. It displays graphs and tables on split screen to trace graph while scrolling through table values. Has USB technology for file sharing with other calculators and connecting to PCs. This calculator is for high school and college students

Glue: Elmer’s School Glue & Elmer’s Disappearing Purple School Glue Sticks

Elmer’s Glue is probably the most used glue in schools. That’s because it’s safe, non-toxic, washable, and dry clear for a great finish. These glues can be used for many things including crafts, school projects, and decorations. The liquid Elmer’s Glue can bond paper, wood, cloth, and pottery. The Elmer’s Glue Sticks can be used photos and won’t ruin them.


Notebooks: Mead Spiral Notebook, 4 pack, 1 Subject; Five Star Spiral Notebook, 1 Subject 

I like the Mead Spiral Notebook, 1 subject, for school or work because it’s inexpensive, but does its job. With students going through paper quickly, a good price is important. Great for use in the classroom, journals, grocery lists, college notes. I also prefer 1 subject notebooks over multiple subject notebooks because I like to keep classes, subjects, etc. separate, like a certain color for each class. A downside is the covers of these can get beat up over time, but good news is, they aren’t that expensive.

If you want a sturdier notebook, I like the Five Star Spiral Notebook. The cover is made of durable polyethylene and has a heavy duty back cover. Has a no snag, spiral lock wire that holds it together and perforated edges for clean tear out.  These notebooks will last a long time, but they will cost you more initially than the Mead notebooks.

Composition Notebook: Mead Composition Book, Wide Ruled

Many students are required to have a composition notebook that they use for journal entries, daily math, etc. The Mead Composition Book is a great option. Has an option for college or wide ruled, multiplication chart on inside cover, and durable covers with secure sewn binding.

Graph Paper: Five Star Filler Graph Paper, Reinforced, 100 sheets; Ampad Graph Paper, 100 sheets 

If you need graph paper, there are two options that I would recommend depending on what you need. The Five Star Graph Paper is filler paper that goes in a three-ring binder. So, if you need your graph paper to be in a binder, Five Star is what you need. If you want a pad of graph paper, Ampad is a great choice. Has no holes, but you could hole punch if you needed to.

Loose leaf paper: Mead Filler Paper, Wide Ruled, 200 Sheets; Mead Filler Paper, College Ruled, 200 Sheets

If you like to use three-ring binders, the Mead Filler Paper is a good option for your paper. Get this paper in wide or college ruled depending on your needs or preferences. The 3-hole punch allows you to use this in a binder or folder with fasteners. Plus, it’s a great price!

Dividers: Avery Extra Wide Ready Index Dividers (10 tabs); Avery Big Tab Insertable Plastic Dividers (8 tabs); Avery Big Tab Write-On Dividers (8 tabs)

Everyone has different needs when it comes to dividers. I’ve chosen three options that fit different needs you may have. All are good quality and fit standard three-ring binders. These are also great because the rings are attached to the back of the binder and not the spine, which helps keep things in the binder from getting damaged or rolled up by the rings.

My first choice is the Avery Extra Wide Ready Index Dividers (10 tabs). I like these because they are big enough to stick out past page protectors, most dividers don’t do that. That makes it easy to pick a tab and open. The other thing I really love is that these dividers come with a table of contents page and matching preprinted divider tabs. So you just set up the table of contents page and you’re ready. No writing on tabs or inserting those little strips of paper.

My next two choices are very similar. I’ve chosen Avery Big Tab Insertable Plastic Dividers and Avery Big Tab Write-On Dividers (both have 8 tabs). If you like the idea of being able to insert your label and easily change out tab names, the Insertable Dividers are for you. Also, these are plastic, so they are a little sturdies. If you like to write on your tabs so you don’t ever lose those small, insertable strips, the Write-On Dividers are for you. These Write-On Dividers can be erased and rewritten on, so that’s always an option too.

Sheet Protectors: C-Line Clear Top-Loading Heavyweight Sheet Protector 50 count OR 100 Count

There are all different types of sheet protectors with different gauges, sizes, and styles that fit an array of needs. I’ve chosen sheet protectors that will work for school, home, or office and are a good weight and quality. I’ve found these sheet protectors in 50 count and 100 count options on amazon.com, but they are both priced at around the amount. So if you think you might use more than 50 at some point, the 100 count is the better buy.  

I’ve chosen the C-Line Top-Loading Heavyweight sheet protectors because they are extra durable for long-term storage of frequently used items. If you’re using these for a class at school, you want to be able to keep everything organized without the worry that the sheet protectors might rip after you’ve flipped through your binder for the thousandth time that semester. Since these are heavyweight, you can put multiple pages in the same sheet and not have to worry about it tearing. These are clear, top loading, acid-free, and archival quality. Also, these are said to keep photocopies from transferring ink onto the sheet protector, which is good for reuse. Overall, these are a good quality for items you will be frequently looking through.

Folders: StoreSMART Plastic Archival Folders (R900PCP6) (6-pack)

Folders are so important for school. They are always being used and you want a good quality folder that will hold up for a long time. These are great for students, teachers, offices, or at home. The StoreSMART Plastic Folders are really a great choice. These are made of stain resistant archival polypropylene plastic that won’t tear, wilt, or dog-ear. They have a clear overlay on the front and back, so you can slip in a cover sheet if you want to. There are two interior pockets and the left pocket has a place for a business card. They also come in 6 great colors, red, orange, yellow, blue, green, and purple, for topic distinction and organization. These do cost more than the paper folders, but you won’t have to replace these anytime soon.

Three Ring Binders: Avery Durable View Binder 0.5”-3”; Avery Heavy-Duty View Binders 

The Avery Durable Binders are a sturdy, inexpensive binder that can be used for school, work, or home needs. Comes in 0.5”, 1”, 1.5”, 2”, and 3” ring sizes so you can get a size according to what you will be using the binders for. Some schools/classes want you to have a certain size and these have a good variety of sizes. Also comes in six different colors: black, white, blue, dark blue, green, and pink. They have a plastic outer slip pocket to label or customize and two interior, vinyl pockets. The wide panels cover standard dividers and sheet protectors.

Avery also carries binders that are a step up from these, which is the Avery Heavy-Duty View Binders. These binders carry larger ring sizes, if that’s something you need, and a larger price tag. Sizes range from 1” to 5”. Also, these have four interior pockets for more organization. Have one touch EZD locking rings that open easily, keep pages secure, and are gap free to prevent gapping and misalignment.


Flash drive: Kingston Digital DataTraveler 101 G2 USB 2.0 Drive - 8GB, 16GB, 32GB

Everyone needs a decent flash drive that they can store documents, photos, powerpoint presentations, etc. The Kingston Digital DataTraveler is a great option. This flash drive supports Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP and OS X 10.5.X and above. Has a sleek capless design, so no cap to lose. It does has a piece that swivels around to cover the end of the flash drive. Comes in 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB storage to fit your memory needs.

Highlighters: Sharpie Accent Retractable Highlighters (Assorted 5 Pack)

The Sharpie Accent Retractable Highlighters are a great choice for all your highlighting needs. I like these because they are retractable. That means no messing around with caps, just click and start highlighting. Don’t worry about them drying out, there is a plastic piece that moves into place when the pen is clicked closed. They are smear resistant, but you will need to let any ink dry before highlighting over it. These have a narrow chisel tip that is good for highlighting or underlining. This pack comes in five different fluorescent colors including pink, yellow, green, orange, and blue. These are some complaints that the darker colors show through to the back side of pages, but that is common with many dark highlighters.

Index cards: Pendaflex Oxford Ruled Index Cards, 3x5, white, 1000 pack; Oxford Ruled Index Cards, 3x5, white, 100 pack

Index cards are great for school, work, and home. They have so many uses like for vocabulary words, writing recipes down, or research notes. These index cards are simple and have so many uses for students, teachers, parents, and in the office. 

Post it notes: Post-it Notes (Canary Yellow, 3” x 3”, 12 pads/pack); Post-it Page Markers (Assorted Colors, .5” x 2”, 50 markers/pad, 10 pads/pack)

Post-it Notes are great for so many things. I love using them for reminders at home and school to help keep track of assignments, grocery lists, appointments, etc. They are great for use in the classroom during lessons and for students ideas.

I also like the Post-it Page Markers. They’re great for marking pages while researching, flagging documents or notes that need to be reviewed, and you can write notes on the markers to let you know why you marked it. Great for students, teachers, in the office, at home, etc.  

Dry erase markers: Expo Low Odor Chisel Tip Dry Erase Markers, 4 Colored Markers; Expo Low Odor Dry Erase Pen Style Markers, 4 Colored Markers

These days most students need a dry erase marker for school. The Expo Dry Erase Markers are a great choice. They erase cleanly and easily and work on whiteboards, glass, and non-porous surfaces. These are low odor, non toxic ink, so they’re great for students. I’ve listed two types of Expo Dry Erase Markers. Both are great. The first one is larger and has a chisel tip, which means it is angled and can make a thick line or thin line depending on how you hold it. The second one is a pen style marker, which has a thin tip and is good for smaller writing areas. Both would be great for school, work, or home.

Hand sanitizer: Germ-X Waterless Hand Sanitizer, Original - 40 oz. 

Hand sanitizer is great for classrooms, kitchens, and offices. This Germ-X hand sanitizer is a good size and price. Just leave this by the door, near the sink, or on your desk to keep those germs at bay.

Tissues: Kleenex Facial Tissue (3 boxes) 

A lot of teachers want students to bring in a few boxes of tissues at the beginning of each year to share with the class. The Kleenex Facial Tissues are a great option. They come in a pack of three and each box has 210 tissues.

Assignment planner: House of Doolittle Non-Dated Assignment Notebook, 7”x11”

Keeping organized is sometimes hard, so an assignment notebook is a must. House of Doolittle makes a great daily planner. Each day has room for assignments for eight classes, Monday through Friday. Also has a “notes” section at the end of each week for special things happening or things that need to be remembered. There are no printed dates, but a spot to write in the dates of the week, so it can be used at any time. Has three hole punch that fits standards three-ring binders and a durable laminated cover that is wire-bound. Great for students who need help keeping track of assignments, tests, projects, etc.

Water bottle: Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Water Bottle with Sport Cap

Reusable water bottles are great. Take your drink with you, but cut down on waste. If you are looking for a water bottle for everyday use, the Klean Kanteen Classic is a great choice. They are made of high quality, food grade stainless steel that is durable, reusable, and 100% recyclable. It’s non-leaching, toxin-free, and BPA free. The sports cap makes it easy to open and close and cut down on spills. The slim design fits most cup/bottle holders, is dishwasher friendly, and accommodates large ice cubes to keep that water cold. Comes in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes to fit your needs.