The Ultimate School Supply List for Elementary

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Everything your child will need for elementary school. Get your school supply list and know which brands are best for each supply.

School supply list image

I still remember the first year I did most of my back to school shopping on Amazon. When I just about clicked to finalize my order, my husband wondered if I might find things cheaper at Walmart. Maybe. Probably on some things, probably not on others. For the most part, I went Amazon.

And I was so glad I did. 

Why? 

Because when I made my special trip to town to round off the school shopping Walmart was closed. Closed! Not their fault–power surge. But still closed. In the meantime, my Amazon products arrived on my front porch. 

See, I live far enough outside of “town” that I have to drive to town. Stores aren’t a block away. They are 10 miles away. So my trip was made special for Walmart, and they were closed, so I was glad I went with Amazon for the bulk of it.

That was a few years ago. I typically do a mixture of online shopping and in-person shopping. One thing I  have learned is when you see school supplies in the store, buy them right away. When you wait, things get really picked over. This is of course a little frustrating because we don’t get supply lists from the teachers until at best two weeks before school starts, in some cases two days before school starts. Meanwhile, school supplies come out about five weeks before school starts. 

So we guess.

But I have had enough kids in school for enough years that I have a good feel for what is needed.

This post contains affiliate links. 

School Supplies for School and Home

You will need supplies for school and you will need one for home so homework can be done.

Pencils

Every teacher will give you a list of supplies needed for the school year. If your school is anything like my school, the lists will vary from teacher to teacher. No matter what is on your teacher’s list, however, you will need good pencils, even if it is just to have at home. I haven’t tried a lot of brands because we found one that works and we have stuck with it.

My kids’ favorite pencil is the Dixon Ticonderoga pencil. It is also the favorite of many teachers. They write well, sharpen nicely, hold up well, and the erasers actually work. I bought this case of them, which is a really good deal. Usually, one box will cost $3-$4, and I got a case of eight boxes for less than $14. Again, enough for each child, one for home for homework pencils, and to give teachers for their classrooms. 

While I haven’t bought a lot of pencils, we own I think a million and one. Okay, exaggeration. Just a million. Seriously, kids get given a lot of pencils. There are cute pencils out there with fun designs and characters, but the vast majority of those just end up being a frustration. Your child will have homework and you will want good pencils to work with. And the pencils I linked are the number one bestseller on Amazon for pencils. So if I love it and then look it up on Amazon and see it is their best seller and rates well, I feel very confident in steering you in that direction.

Pencil Top Erasers

You can get a pack of 144 pencil top erasers for very cheap off of Amazon. Again, enough for everyone! 

These are nice if you need erasers for those pencils that have bad erasers, but they are also great for the nice pencils. Odds are you will run through the eraser before you run through the pencil. 

Pencil Sharpener

If you are going to have pencils at home and homework happening at home, you will want a pencil sharpener. A little more than five years ago, I bought the School Smart Electric Vertical Pencil Sharpener. With four kids using it, including one very obsessed artist who is sharpening pencils a whole lot, it is still going strong. I love it. It sharpens well and it is easy enough for all of the kids to use independently. 

Crayons

I went with Crayola Crayons because I think they are the best. Now, THIS is something I should have bought at our grocery store because they have these boxes on sale right now for .50 cents. 

Markers

Again, Crayola. I went with the super tips so they are easier to use for coloring school projects. 

Colored Pencils

I went Crayola and went for the Crayola Twistables. These are very nice–they are like a cross between a crayon and a pencil. They don’t have to be sharpened, which is handy in a classroom for teacher sanity. Kaitlyn absolutely loves working with Twistables. They are one of her favorite mediums, and she is far more artistic than I, so I trust her judgment here.

If you want a really nice colored pencil that is a little more money, the Prismacolor brand is fantastic. 

Highlighters

I don’t typically see highlighters as part of a school supply list until older ages. If you are getting highlighters for young kids, you might want to go for something from the dollar store–for some reason kids can be really hard on highlighters. If you want quality, I really like the Sharpie brand. I have some that have lasted me close to a decade, and I use them quite a bit!

Glue Sticks

I went with this big pack of Elmer’s glue sticks. On Amazon, you can often get a big package for the same price or cheaper than a much smaller package. This pack has 30 sticks, which is enough for each child to take some to school and for us to keep a few at home AND for me to give some to the teachers to have as extras. I like to donate things as much as possible. 

Scissors

This is an item I intend to purchase at a store in person. I want to get scissors larger than the little kid size (which is 5 inch). The size I like for a second grader is 7 inch from Fiskars. This is a great size for second grade through sixth grade. I can get that on Amazon, but the colors vary, and sometimes kids would rather choose her color.

Second grade is the first year we purchase a pair of scissors for the kids to take to school. 

Ultimate School Supply List pinnable image

Pencil Box

A pencil box is another item I like to get in person. That way, I can touch it and be sure the quality is good enough for the price. Walmart always has good enough pencil boxes to make it through the year. I always like to have pencil boxes stocked at home for homework stations. Sometimes I have had one per kid and other times I have just had a couple that hold various supplies for everyone to share.

Folder

A folder is a very common need in school. We just bought one at the grocery store (since Walmart was closed! And guys, there is no Target in my area. I know, feel sad for me. Silver lining is, imagine the money saved). Folders are always so cheap at back to school time that I would go for the store rather than Amazon.

Notebook

Notebooks are another very cheap item at stores at this time of year. We again bought our notebooks at the grocery store, which I usually do because our grocery store is cheaper than Walmart. I can get them for 5 for $1 at the grocery store. On Amazon, they are over a dollar each. A composition notebook might be needed instead of a spiral bound, so be sure you know which you need.

Stapler

If you don’t have a stapler at home, it would be good to get one so you can staple things if needed. It comes in handy for school work or even for sending notes to the school at times. 

School Supplies for Home and School

Stapler
Composition Notebook
Notebook
Folder
Pencil Box
Highlighters
Scissors
Glue Sticks
Colored Pencils
Twistables
Markers
Crayons
Pencil Sharpener
Pencil Top Erasers
Ticonderoga Pencils

School Supplies for the Classroom

These are some supplies that are nice to get for the classroom. Teachers often end up having to purchase things with their own money, and I am happy to chip in and add some things so they don’t have to buy so many. Plus, I want to MAKE SURE there are plenty of tissues and disinfecting items in the class my child spends all day every day. 

Disinfectant Wipes

I like to give one of these disinfectant wipes to each teacher each year. I am not particular on Clorox versus Lysol. I go with whichever I can get for less, and this year it was Clorox. Be sure to check Lysol and see if one is cheaper than the other. 

Hand Sanitizer

And we have the hand sanitizer. Again, I get enough to share with all of my children’s teachers. I want to make sure this is available in each of my children’s classrooms all year long. 

Tissues

I like to give each teacher a box of tissues. I just figure if every parent could give one box of tissues, it would go a long way and save the teacher a lot of money. 

Toys for Recess

You might not think of toys when you are thinking about school supplies. Teachers love getting toys for children to play with at recess. Our school is moving to a retrofitted middle school this year, and the playground isn’t quite done. So I wanted to be sure to have items to donate for recess since the playground won’t be an option for a while. 

McKenna loves these skippers, so we got a pack of 6 swing balls for her class to have. Other fun ideas are dodge balls, soccer balls, hula hoops, jump ropes, basketballs, footballs, etc. Some schools might even allow sidewalk chalk. 

School Supplies for School

Hula Hoops
Basketball
Soccer Ball
Jump Rope
Dodge ball
Skippers
Disinfecting Wipes Lysol
Tissues
Hand Sanitizer
Disinfecting Wipes
Hula Hoops
Basketball
Soccer Ball
Jump Rope
Dodge ball
Skippers
Disinfecting Wipes Lysol
Tissues
Hand Sanitizer
Disinfecting Wipes

School Supplies for the Child

These are supplies your child will take or use at school that are really just for your child’s benefit or convenience. Most of these will go back and forth between home and school.

Water Bottles

I love for my kids to have water bottles in class if their teachers allow it because then they have a better chance of staying hydrated at school. Your child’s teacher may or may not allow water bottles at the desk at school. If not, your child might want a water bottle to keep in the backpack for recess or after school.

Our current water bottle of choice is the Contigo Water Bottle.  I purchased this three-pack to get more bang for my buck. They hold up well–we have used these for three years and they are still going strong. They are not perfectly leak-proof, however.

 

Brayden loved the Contigo but wanted leak-proof and went with their newer design water bottle recently. He has loved it. It is the Contigo Stainless Steel

If your child is just starting off with a water bottle, I really recommend starting with something inexpensive and seeing how well your child takes care of it. We have started off with a Rubbermaid water bottle or just one of the many water bottles we have collected over the years. 

As your child shows responsibility, a stainless steel water bottle is always nice. 

Whatever your child uses, just be sure that thing comes home regularly to be washed ;).

Lunchbox

When we bought our first lunch box for Brayden, I was thinking we would use the same one for years. Wrong! So wrong. I threw that thing away once school was over. We get a new lunch box every year. They just tend to get a little gross after a year of constant use. We do that until they are going into 6-7 grade. By then, they usually eat school lunch more often than home lunch and the lunch box stays in good shape.

With that in mind, I don’t spend a lot on a lunch box, BUT I also don’t but the cheapest option (which actually is probably a brown paper bag). I have this criterion I look for:

  • Insulated–this is a must for me, which is why I can’t get the cheapest.
  • Easy to clean–some are much easier to clean than others. I want one that is either made of easily wiped clean material or has a plastic insert I can put in the dishwasher. 

That is really it. I know Bento Lunch Box style is popular right now and that might appeal to you. My hesitations with them is A) they are usually more expensive than I want to spend since I change it up every year B) If it is leakproof, it is hard for kids to open. If it isn’t leakproof…well it leaks. So I am not sold on that idea at this point.

We typically just get a lunch box in person, too. This is something to definitely buy as soon as you see them out. There are a lot on Amazon. Actually, so many that it is overwhelming for me to scroll through. Sometimes there are just too many options.

Last year, we got Kaitlyn’s lunch box on Amazon because they have more “grown-up” options. 

As a side note, have a plan for if your child loses a lunch box (or another item). McKenna lost her lunch box one year, then lost the new one I bought. So the next school year I told her if she lost that lunch box, she would use a paper bag. Well, she lost it. We will see how this year goes. 

Backpacks

There are a few ways you can go when buying a backpack. Way number one is to buy the cheapest backpack you can find and expect (hope) it will last your child through the school year. The perk to this way is that your child can have a new backpack that suits his/her current style preference each year. The bad thing is that while it is cheap one year, all of those years can add up over time to end up being more expensive than a nice backback.

Way two is to get a halfway decent backpack and hope it lasts your child a couple of years.

The third way, and way I have gone, is to get a really nice backpack and make your child use it until the thing is used into the ground. For preschool, Brayden had a cheap backpack (well, it wasn’t cheap in prince since it was a Steelers backpack my parents had bought for him, but the quality turned out to be not so great). The zipper broke part-way through the year, which is often a problem with anything inexpensive that uses a zipper. 

For Kindergarten, I was at Ross and found an Adidas backpack for $20, which seriously can’t be beat. I went ahead and bought one for Kaitlyn as well even though she was a year away from needing one for preschool. 

I am SO GLAD I did!

I super love the Adidas backpack. Brayden is going into his sixth year using the same backpack. Same one people. It is fantastic quality. Kaitlyn has been using hers since preschool and is going into third grade, so going on her fifth year of using it and it is still in perfect shape. They have gotten dirty, of course, and I just put them in the washing machine and choose my hand-wash cycle and good as new! This post contains affiliate links. 

When it came time for McKenna to go to school, I didn’t consider any other brand. I was not able to find one at Ross or any other comparable store so I purchased it from Amazon, which was more expensive than $20. I went with the Adidas backpack. There are a lot of options if you search Amazon for an Adidas backpack

You really can’t go wrong with an Adidas backpack.

 

Shoes

Another important item for school is shoes. You will want to be familiar with the shoe policy at your school. No matter what the policy is, just be sure your child is going to school in shoes that will allow your child to get the physical exertion needed during the day. There are a lot of cute shoes you can get, but even my girls end up wanting to wear primarily tennis shoes to school so they can be active during recess time. 

When buying tennis shoes, I have found that it is less expensive to buy nice tennis shoes rather than cheap ones. A nice pair will last your child through the school year even with everyday wear. The cheap kind get holes in the soles very quickly and you end up spending more to replace the cheap ones than you would just to buy the expensive ones from the beginning. We aren’t partial to any one brand. We jump around based on what feels good that year. Some brands we have liked are SketchersNike, and New Balance. As much as I love Payless shoes, for us I will not buy tennis shoes there if the child is in first grade or older. 

School Supplies for Kids

Contigo Vacuum Seal
Lunch Box
Rubbermaid Water Bottles
Nike Shoes
Backpack Adidas
Bento Lunch Box
Contigo Cortland
Contigo Vacuum Seal
Lunch Box
Rubbermaid Water Bottles
Nike Shoes
Backpack Adidas
Bento Lunch Box
Contigo Cortland

School Supply for You

Paper Organizer

This is not for your children but for you. You will be so happy if you have a good way to keep track of the papers that come home from school especially once there is more than one child bringing papers home. I love the ADVANTUS Panel Wall 3-Pocket Organizer. Love. I have written all about my process in the post Managing the Paper Influx.

Conclusion

As I said, the list will vary from teacher to teacher. Notebooks, folders, paper, crayons, markers, scissors, pencil cases…really that is all kind of personal preference and needs to be considered based on what the usage will be.

Will a folder be handled multiple times daily? Then a really good quality is probably a good idea. Or you could buy 10 of the ones that go on sale for 10 cents and switch it out every month. For a lot of these things you really can just go to Target, Walmart, Staples…whatever…and choose what is the best deal and be just fine. Just always keep in mind that children can be hard on things and sometimes the best deal is not what is the cheapest. 

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valplowman
valplowman

Valerie, also known as The Babywise Mom, is the mother to four children. She has been blogging on Babywise and general parenting since 2007. She has a degree in technical writing and loves using those skills to help parents be the best parents they can be! Read her book, The Babywise Mom Nap Guide, to get help on sleep from birth through the preschool years. You can also find her writing at Babywise.life, Today Parenting, and Her View From Home. Read more about Valerie and her family on the About page. Follow her on FacebookPinterest, and Instagram for more tips and helps.

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2 Comments

  1. Krysten Traylor
    August 20, 2016 / 11:16 AM

    Wal-Mart is a special trip for me too. We live about 25 minutes away and because of my husband's work schedule my two kids, 3 and under, have to come with me. I do a lot of shopping on Amazon too because it's more convenient. We get detergent, baby wipes, cat food, toilet paper, and paper towels delivered from Amazon.

  2. Valerie Plowman
    August 23, 2016 / 10:04 PM

    Krysten,I seriously love Amazon. I don't know what I would do without it.

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