Must-Have Back-to-School Essentials for Kids K-12

posted in: Gift Guides
School supplies on a desk

Believe it or not, it’s that time again! While the kids are enjoying summer break, parents need to start thinking about all the gear kids will need for school in the fall. With the list from the school plus everything your kids need, it’s a lot of shopping!  Here are my top picks for K-through-High School.  Have college-age kids? Check out my roundup for dorm essentials here


Dakine Campus M 25L Backpack ($45.46 and up)

My daughter used this backpack for a full school year and it still looks like new! It has functional storage sections, including a roomy center, fleece-lined sunglass pocket, a padded laptop sleeve, and mesh side pockets for water. It is designed to be comfortable and supportive with an S-curved back panel, shoulder straps, and an adjustable sternum strap. The 25L size is ideal for middle school or high school, but there are smaller and larger sizes available as well as dozens of fabulous colors and patterns to choose from. 

Shop now: Dakine Campus M 25L Backpack 

Adaptive Crossbody

JanSport Central Adaptive Crossbody ($34.99) 

This adaptive bag from Jansport can be attached to mobility devices, like wheelchairs or walkers, or it can be worn crossbody with the detachable strap. The bag features easy-release buckles, a one-hand open-close, and is roomy enough for snacks, a small book or two, a pencil case, and a phone. Available in a variety of colors and patterns so kids can express their personal style. 

Shop now: JanSport Central Adaptive Crossbody 

Duffle Bag

Academy Sports Nike Brasilla 9.5 Duffle Bag ($32)

This compact duffle is the perfect size for after-school activities, like sports, dance, and more. It has a few outer pockets, including a vented one that expands inside the bag where kids can keep shoes or dirty clothes. There are carrying handles as well as a detachable shoulder strap and a coated bottom.  Available in Bicoastal, a pleasant green, as well as Black. 

Shop now: Academy Sports Nike Brasilla 9.5 Duffle Bag

Snack Bags

Melii Reusable Snack Bags ($9.99 for 4)

These generously sized, zipper bags are ideal for holding sandwiches, snacks, and fruits. There are several cute colors and patterns available that are sure to make lunchtime fun! They can be reused countless times so you’re not dumping more plastic into landfills.

Shop now: Melii Reusable Snack Bags 

Food Box Family Set

Klean Kanteen Rise Food Box Family Set ($64.95) 

This set of three leakproof lunch containers can accommodate many different lunch options. The set includes a large container for an entree-sized lunch, a sandwich-size container, and a snack size, all made of certified 90 percent post-consumer recycled 18/8 stainless steel and food-grade silicone.  The bases are oven, microwave, and dishwasher safe! 

Klean Kanteen also has really nice water bottles so check those out as well. 

Shop now: Klean Kanteen Rise Food Box Family Set

Infant Lunch Box

Urban Infant’s Yummie Kids Lunchbox ($19.95, regularly $24.95)

Ideal for younger kids just starting school, this soft lunchbox has an insulated interior with a spot for your child’s name as well as pockets for utensils and an icepack. The lunchbox can be wiped clean and includes allergy alert cards. Available in lots of fun patterns and colors.

Shop now: Urban Infant’s Yummie Kids Lunchbox

Just Shoes for Kids

Just Shoes for Kids SoYoung Insulated Lunchbox ($32) 

This generously sized, machine-washable lunchbox has a removable insert for easy cleaning and includes a handle and a detachable messenger strap for carrying.  Available in several stylish and modern designs, including a trendy rainbow pattern.  

Shop now: Just Shoes for Kids SoYoung Insulated Lunchbox

Many Blue Cats Thor Copper Vacuum Insulated Water Bottle

Zazzle Thor Copper Vacuum Insulated Bottle ($39 and up)

These 22oz. bottles are available in a variety of cool patterns and can be personalized with your child’s name. The 18/8 grade stainless-steel bottles feature durable double-wall insulation, which keeps drinks hot for 12 hours and cold for 48. It will fit in most car cup holders and it has a metal handle.  

Shop now: Zazzle Thor Copper Vacuum Insulated Bottle

Mott's No Sugar Added Applesauce Variety Pack

Mott’s No Sugar Added Applesauce Pouches Variety Pack ($11.42 for 20)

If the kids are reluctant to eat fruit at lunch, they will love these convenient pouches. Good news for you is that they contain zero sugar and are a healthy source of Vitamin C. Good news for the kids is that they taste delicious and are fun to eat! The variety pack contains a mix of apple, strawberry, and mixed berry.  

Shop now: Mott’s No Sugar Added Applesauce Pouches Variety Pack

Ripple Chocolate Vegan Protein Shake

Ripple Protein Shake ($7.98 for 4)  **Amazon Prime Day sale: Save 30 percent off!

Older kids will love these delicious vegan shakes that are available in Chocolate, Vanilla, and Coffee and contain no artificial sweeteners. The shelf-stable shakes contain 20g of protein from peas and are made without soy, nuts, or gluten. Non-GMO Project verified. 

Shop now: Ripple Protein Shake

Red Drop

RedDrop The Drop Period Prep Kit and Growing Up Powerful Book ($29.99) 

This period prep kit will help young girls feel prepared, powerful, and ready for their next cycle (or their first)! The colorful kit comes in a resealable pouch and includes your choice of pads and a pair of period underwear as well as a lavender-scented body wipe, five flushable feminine hygiene wipes, a fun holographic on-the-go pouch, a hall pass, stickers, and the Growing Up Powerful guidebook book.

Shop now: RedDrop The Drop Period Prep Kit and Growing Up Powerful Book

ZitSticka Extra Strength Killa Acne Patches for Face

Zitsticka Killa Acne Extra Strength Patches ($18)

Acne patches are all the rage, but sometimes more power than the norm is required. According to Zitsticka, these patches are 5x more powerful than competitor patches and the only ones on the market to start working within two hours. 4 out of 5 users claimed that this patch reduced the size of their zit in one use. The patches have microdarts to help flatten and treat deep early-stage zits, so they are handy to keep on deck for those inconvenient eruptions.  

Shop now: Zitsticka Killa Acne Extra Strength Patches

SuperMouth Hydroxamin® with Fluoride System

SuperMouth Hydroxamin with Fluoride System Ages 6 to 12 – Complete ($94.73)

If it’s a challenge to get your kids to care for their teeth regularly, a new school year is the perfect time to start a new routine! This system was invented by a dentist and makes tooth care fun instead of a chore. There are several sets available, but this Complete set includes fluoride Mouthpaste with Hydroxamin (with vitamins K2 and D3) in your choice of 4 flavors, a toothbrush with 13,000 super soft bristles, expanding Mouthfloss, prebiotic spray, a Mouthcleaner to exfoliate the tongue, alcohol-free fluoride mouthwash, and engaging educational materials.  

Shop now: SuperMouth Hydroxamin with Fluoride System Ages 6 to 12 – Complete

Make No Mistake Erasable Markers

Make No Mistake! Erasable Markers ($13.95 for 12)  

In addition to the usual pens and pencils, add these to your kids’ supply box! These chisel-tipped erasable markers allow kids to express their creativity without the stress of permanency because “mistakes” can be erased. The eraser can also be used to create patterns in the color they’ve already applied. Ages 3+.

Shop now: Make No Mistake! Erasable Markers

HP All-In Plan

HP All-In Plan (starting at $6.99/month)

If you have kids in school already, you know how much printing you have to do! Rather than investing in (and being responsible for) a new printer, consider HP’s new All-In program, which you can try risk-free for 30 days with no upfront costs. You choose between 3 popular top-of-the-line models that will be shipped to your home with ink, which is also automatically delivered before you ever run out. You also receive dedicated 24/7 Pro live support, plus next-business-day replacement of your printer at no additional cost. There is also an option to upgrade after two years so you’ll always have the latest and greatest equipment for your printing needs. 

Shop now: HP All-In Plan

Textured Sensory Labels
Mabel’s Labels

Mabel’s Labels Textured Sensory Labels ($19 and up)

If your child struggles with anxiety, these new personalized labels have textured surfaces to keep kids’ hands busy and prevent them from losing their possessions at the same time. Perfect for water bottles, binders, backpacks, and pencil boxes.  There are 8 cute designs available.  

Shop now: Mabel’s Labels Textured Sensory Labels

Follow Trae Bodge:

Smart Shopping Expert

Trae Bodge is an accomplished lifestyle journalist and TV commentator who has specialized in smart shopping, personal finance, and retail for more than a decade. She has appeared on TV over 1,000 times; including Today Show, GMA3, NBC Nightly News, Inside Edition, and network affiliates nationwide. She has been named a Top Voice in Retail by LinkedIn, and her expert commentary has appeared in Forbes,, Kiplinger, Yahoo Finance, and numerous others.

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