Back-to-school supplies that’ll get your kids excited to hit the books

For the fourth year running, the hottest backpack accessory is … hand sanitizer.

Hand-picked back to school items
Back-to-school items hand-picked by a parent of two. Pottery Barn Kids

You’ve purchased every item on the teacher-issued classroom list, but you’re not done yet. Here’s a list of supplies that will make them happy to kiss summer goodbye.

Cartoon starter backpack

Vbiger Amazon

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Kids feel school-ready when they pick out the perfect backpack, and this Vbiger nylon and polyester line has half a dozen fun design options. Smaller than your standard bookbag, it’s ideal for a kindergartner or preschooler’s first foray into carrying their own stuff And at a fraction of the cost of most “big kid” backpacks, you can sweat less about them quickly growing out of it. $16.

Tangle Jr.

Tangle Amazon

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Before there was the fidget spinner, there were Tangles. And now, the Tangle Jr. is slowly encroaching on the fidget spinner’s turf, showing up in classrooms and on school buses to help relieve tension and improve cognitive ability for young students who can’t seem to sit still. Along with the standard look, Tangle Jrs are available in fuzzy, hairy, textured, and metallic variations. This artist collection set comes with three for $27.

Bento box containers

Spencer Amazon

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Is there anything more wasteful than packing a child’s lunch? Plastic sandwich bags and preservative-laden single-serving snacks like fruit cups and chips are a drain on the budget. Not to mention, they never seem to be the right portions for your child. Locking down a durable Bento Box lets you opt out of those problems. Your sandwiches stay fresh without a plastic overcoat and you can save money by purchasing sides like crackers and fresh fruit in bulk quantities.

Spencer offers seven color choices—gold, grey, pink, navy, lavender, and green—all of which are a huge aesthetic upgrade over clear baggies with egg salad smeared across the inside. They’re also dishwasher safe and BPA free. $17.

Trekker Kids Water Bottles

Contigo Amazon

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The Contigo Autoseal Trekker water bottle is BPA-free and spill-proof. A button on the side lifts the containers autoseal and allows the liquid to pass through. This set comes with two 14-ounce bottles, so you don’t have to wash them every night. $12.

Hand sanitizers and holders

Pocketbac Bath and Body Works

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For the fourth year running, the hottest backpack accessory is … hand sanitizer. And no one stocks more combinations of creative, kid-friendly sanitizer/holder designs than Bath & Body Works. Their Pocketbac line is like catnip for kids. And with promotional sales always running, they’re less expensive than the patches you made your mom sew to your Jansport (and they kill more germs too). $6-$8.

Chalk of the Town T-shirts

Don’t like this design? Erase it and start again! Chalk of the Town

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Having trouble picking a first day of school shirt with the perfect message? Customize it yourself, or let your kid design their own. Chalk of the Town shirts can be drawn on (and erased) just like a chalkboard, so your kiddo can rock fresh looks until they grow out of it. Buy a single shirt, and suddenly your kid has the perfect shirt for Spirit Day, Valentine’s Day, Taco Tuesday, and any other day she’s feeling particularly expressive.

For maximum social media success, buy a size up and mark the shirt to commemorate the first day of school, then do the same with the (presumably more snug) shirt to commemorate the last day of the year. Now you’ve got the ultimate side-by-side shot. $18-$30.

Mabel’s Labels

Label, stamp, or tag anything your child owns. Mabel’s Labels

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Think of Mabel’s Labels as insurance on all the back-to-school purchases you’re making this year. Mabel’s has fully customizable markers for everything your forgetful kid carries or wears: bag tags, stamps for the inside of clothing, and of course super durable labels (waterproof, microwave/dishwasher safe). Let your child do the customizing and they’ll hardly notice they’re doing something practical. Sure beats those boring Ptouch labels that always seem to fall off.

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