Back-to-School Supplies List 2020

Send your kids back to school prepared and in style with our 2020 school supplies list

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Shopping for back-to-school supplies is a seasonal rite of passage for parents and kids alike, but it may look a little different this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re like us, you’ve probably been regularly checking your local news for school reopening updates and emailing your child’s school to learn about their reopening plans and safety protocols. You may be simultaneously hoping that schools can reopen safely but feeling nervous about sending them back. It’s a tough time to be a parent of grade school kids.

If your child’s school is reopening and it feels safe for your family, you’ll want to send your kid back feeling as prepared and confident as possible. Psychologists have found that back-to-school shopping can serve an important psychological role in helping families feel ready for the next stage of their child’s life and educational journey.

Shopping for school supplies can also inject a little fun into the lives of kids who have been feeling cooped up for months. For young trendsetters, back-to-school shopping is an opportunity to update their wardrobe, even if they’ll be accessorizing with a mask. Pandemic or no, little aspiring artists and writers daydream of finding the perfect pencil or notebook for creating their next masterpiece. Below is our Back-to-School Supplies List 2020 to help you and your child start the academic year strong.

1. Masks

School student with cat facemask

Studies have found that masks are one of the most powerful tools we have to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19. Disposable and reusable masks block respiratory droplets released when we speak, sneeze or cough. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends we wear masks when in public settings or around people outside of our household, and many schools are requiring them for the 2020–2021 school year. Masks may not have been a part of your back-to-school shopping last year, but they’re the top new essential for this year.

2. Hand sanitizer

Hands with bottles of hand sanitizer against a marigold background

Washing their hands with soap and water is another essential way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but your child probably won’t always have access to a sink. When they can’t wash their hands, the World Health Organization says alcohol-based hand sanitizers are the best backup. Just be sure to check with your child’s school before sending your little one off with a tub of hand sanitizer in their backpack. Some areas, like New York State, don’t allow alcohol-based hand sanitizers on school buses because it’s flammable. Your child’s school should also have hand sanitizer available in its classrooms. 

3. Tissues

Child using tissues

If your child isn’t wearing a mask at school, the CDC recommends sneezing or coughing only into tissues and disposing of them. Do whatever it takes to capture those respiratory droplets!

4. Notebooks

Student writing on a notebook in a classroom

Once you’re stocked up for COVID-19 precautions, you can move onto the classic back-to-school supplies. For some students, picking out their notebooks is one of the most exciting parts of back-to-school shopping. There’s just something about the feel and smell of the fresh pages at the beginning of a new school year.

5. Writing utensils

Pencils in a row on a notebook

Perfect for filling out standardized test bubble sheets or loaning to their friends and never seeing again, your child will probably go through a lot of No. 2 pencils, markers, colored pencils and crayons throughout the school year. They’ll also need pencil sharpeners and erasers

Buy a bunch of these now so you have a few on reserve for when they start going missing under your couch cushions.

6. Glue

Elmer's glue in a classroom

Glue is an important resource for your child’s school craft projects, but let’s be honest: Kids of all ages will also enjoy rubbing it on their hands and peeling it off like a molting lizard.

7. Scissors

Kids' multicolored safety scissors

Scissors are another crafting necessity on the standard back-to-school supply list. Depending on your child’s age, a pair of safety scissors may be your best bet.

8. Folders

Student holding school folders while wearing headphones

Folders not only hold kids’ assignments, but also help kids stay organized at school. Some attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) experts recommend using color-coded folders or another folder system to help students with ADHD manage their work and feel more confident in their academic abilities.

9. Rulers

Metal ruler next to a tape measure

Every school-aged child needs a ruler with English and metric measurements. We love using rulers for measurement activities to make math fun for kids.

10. Backpacks and Lunchboxes

Student with a new backpack walking

As a parent during the COVID-19 pandemic, masks, hand sanitizer and tissues will probably feel like the most essential back-to-school supplies. But for many kids, back-to-school shopping has often been about finding their backpack and lunchbox soulmates: the ones that reflect who they are and that they feel proud showing off in the cafeteria or in hallways. Making backpack and lunchbox recommendations is about as tricky as matchmaking for friends, but we like AmazonBasics Classic School Backpack as a cute, affordable option and Pottery Barn Kids backpacks and lunchboxes if Grandma is buying (watch for sales on these!).

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