Favorite Cool Back to School Tools

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Our Family’s Favorite Cool Back to School Tools

  By:  Rachel Harris, Managedmoms.com

Since I have now had kids in grade school, middle school and in high school (how did that happen so fast?!), I feel qualified to share some our favorite tools when it comes to having a successful school year.  And we have learned through trial and error, so read on to see our school supply, lunch box and a few other miscellaneous picks when it comes to cool school tools. 

Our Favorite Kindergarten Adjustment Tool

Our own Kindergarten teacher, Michelle Willis, and many other teachers, recommend reading the book called The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn with your Kindergartener.  Then after reading the book together, Mrs. Willis says to make a kissing hand by tracing one of their hands on construction paper.  Next draw a small heart in the middle and have all family members sign their names or glue a family picture on the palm.  The child can then put their own kissing hand in their backpack and take it out when they need comfort during those first few weeks.  Both of my kids enjoyed doing this.

My Daughter’s Top Picks For Supplies & Best Backpack

For grade school and beyond, my tween girl says to highly recommend mechanical pencils versus regular pencils because not having to stop to sharpen a pencil contributes to better focus and better productivity she says.  That makes sense to me.  She goes on to say that the best mechanical pencil is the one with the grip on the handle by Bic called Big Matic GRIP.  Using mechanical pencils without the grip gives kids a rash on their hands she informed me…which I didn’t know!  She also recommends buying one with refills or remember to buy the refills when you buy the pencil.

Her second favorite cool school tool is the Precision Thin Sharpies.  For outlining, drawing, labeling, making letters and more, she tells me that for school projects that allow a Sharpie, this is the absolute best tool.  We found a nice 12 count pack with different colors on sale for $8.39.  Office Max is having a 20% off almost everything sale through August 3rd and the sale even applies to tablets and eReaders. 

My daughter also suggests getting the Expo Dry Erase Markers in different colors because she says that grade schoolers now use white boards quite a bit in class.  She says when kids didn’t have a dry erase marker, she saw classmates hurriedly using their fingers on their dry boards.  Since we didn’t have dry boards when I was in school, I hadn’t realized this, so I was glad that she told me. 

Of course, before you buy any of her suggested favorite cool school tools, you may want to check your teacher’s supply list or save your receipt to get a refund just in case your child’s teacher doesn’t have plans for the kids to use dry boards or Sharpies.

Last but not least, my girl has tried all sorts of stylish back packs, as well as shoulder bags and oversized purses to tote her school books.  At the end of the day, the classic and highly reputable JanSport is the best for both storage and comfort on the child’s back.  Plus the JanSport website says that all of the JanSport products come with a lifetime warranty.  I also found Jansport in several best of lists including one by parents.com.  JanSport has added some decorative backpacks, so the kids have more to choose from now.  JanSport is sold at retailers that include Kohl’s, Sports Authority, JC Penney and many other stores and at www.jansport.com.

My Son’s Top Pick for Middle School & High School

My teenaged son says that the most helpful tool to have is a Weekly At A Glance Academic planner.  So many of us store our calendars on our Smart phone, but it is smart to have a back-up paper book planner that is lightweight and easy to quickly record homework assignments and test dates in at a moment's notice.  Plus it is good to have this on hand to refer back to later when your student is trying to balance academic commitments with extracurricular demands.  However, here is a good tip…both of my kids’ middle school and high school gave a free one to students at schedule pick-up day and/or at meet the teacher night, so check first before you spend the money on that school supply.

My Picks:  Mom Top Picks for Our School Year Situations

*Best homework organization tool that I swear by
– this item is expensive, but it is the best tool that I have found to keep both of my kids’ at home school supplies organized, mobile and easy to find when we are in a pinch.  The Container Store in Scottsdale sells the Jumbo Utility Cart for $59.00.  Although pricey, we have used ours now for the last three years and it has held up through the test of time and with my changing children and their  increased academic demands as they have grown older.  The cart comes with translucent plastic drawers that pull out with ease.  Needed items can be viewed and accessed instantly with no more late night searches for needed project supplies or early morning frantic searches for binder covers.  Plus it neatly rolls back into a closet so it is hidden, but accessible in seconds come homework time.  I swear by this item.

*Best lunchbox – I’m a big fan of the Built brand because my Built laptop case has survived kids, traveling and my freelance career, which has me toting my laptop all over town.  It still looks brand new.  So we put the Built lunch box to the test and we love that, too. The Big Apple Buddies Lunch Sack insulates food on the go for up to four hours and is durable and reusable, which is earth-friendly.  Plus it comes with a soft handle buckle that unsnaps and attaches to a backpack or book bag.  It also wipes clean, which is a plus, and it is PVC, BPA and latex-free.  This Built lunchbox sells for $16.99 at www.builtny.com.  Built also makes accompanying sandwich and snack packs, which is a better choice than the plastic baggies that pollute our earth.

*Best late morning item for girls – If you are like our family, there will be more than one late morning.  We have definitely gotten better through the years, but some mornings are just more hectic than others.  That is why I keep a late morning hair care kit in my car, so my daughter can quickly do her hairdo on the way to school if needed.  I keep Goody’s TangleFix brush, Goody Ouchless hair bands and Goody headbands in the kit and it has saved us more than once because girls do care about their hair, especially as they get older.  Boys...not as much, I have discovered.

*Best Take To School Kid Care Kit Items  – Since my kiddos are now going into 6th and 10th grade, we have some experience with items that my kids like to have on hand for comfort during the school day.  I call this my quick care kit and I try to make sure that both of my kids have one packed in their back pack.  The essentials include hand sanitizer (my personal favorite is Hog Wash by Dermavine), sunscreen, lip balm, rubber bands for girls to secure their hair during PE....and one that surprised me that both of my kids told me to include is mints or Tic Tacs.  I truly didn’t think of this, however they told me when they feel hungry an hour or so before lunch, a Tic Tac will satisfy their urge and get them back on task to focus on the work at hand until the lunch bell rings.  Who knew?  However, check with your child’s teacher and/or school for middle school and high school to be sure that those food items are allowed in class.

So there you have it.  Some of these items have helped my kids form good study habits, while others have saved the day on a late morning.  Plus some of the additional items add to my kids’ comfort during the busy school day, too.  What are your tried and true top cool school tools?  Tell us in the comments section and be sure to check out my blog at www.managedmoms.com for more parenting topics, recipes, pet pics and more.  Happy new school year!