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The Back to School Shopping Guide For Every Grade

back to school

No matter how old you are, there’s a certain thrill that comes with back to school shopping—even long after you’ve graduated. (Though after you’ve earned your diploma, it’s more about boots to splurge on or a new gadget for the office.) Traditionally, there are notebooks to buy, a backpack, and of course a new outfit for the first day of school, which is the ultimate style statement for any age. But then there’s the not-so-fun part of back to school shopping: keeping track of every single thing your kids need. That can be a lot to handle for parents, so to make life a little easier during this hectic time, we created school shopping guides for every age group. You’re welcome.


It’s probably hard to believe this day came so soon, but it’s time to send your toddler off to school. And yes, pre-school counts. While they won’t be learning calculus just yet—or needing the fancy calculator that goes along with that—a few basic school shopping supplies are still required. To give your little one a role, let him help you pick out a few of the essentials, like an Incredibles backpack or a pencil box in his favorite color. Now’s the perfect age to show them that school shopping and learning can be fun! Just don’t forget to tape a note from mom inside his new lunchbox for his first day.

Elementary School

Even if your little one is going into kindergarten, doesn’t she feel so grown up? Commemorate her first day by sending her off with everything she needs to ace the school year. As their work in the classroom expands and grows, so does everything that goes in their backpacks. Keep it old-school with a classic marbled notebook and your favorite crayons from when you were a kid. Round out the basics with washable markers and construction paper so that they can create little masterpieces. Finally, don’t forget the elementary school must-have: the perfect lunchbox.

Middle School

It’s time for tweens to leave the crayons behind and hit the big books. They’re getting serious about learning, so their desks and lockers have to keep up. Taking notes is the foundation of their school day, so get them everything they need for their binders, including loose-leaf paper, subject dividers, and a three-hole punch. They’ll also need folders to keep hand-outs organized. Expect them to start spending a lot more time studying, and index cards are perfect for creating flash cards, a tried and true method for acing every test.

High School

Your baby isn’t a baby anymore! High school is one of the most impactful times of their lives. Sorry, we didn’t mean to make mom cry. Let’s get back to school shopping. You’ll want to nab the necessities and a whole lot more for your teen. College isn’t so far away now and students need the basics to get them there. Let’s start with buying a combination lock for their locker, but you should probably let them handle the decorations inside. (Who wants anyone to know that their mom helped them decorate their locker?) This might be the stage where you can’t help them with their math homework anymore (does any parent actually remember trigonometry at this point?), so get them the tools to get the job done, including graph paper, a graphing calculator, a ruler and a protractor. Of course they’ll need a backpack to carry it all around, so make sure it’s a cool one.