How to Help Your Sensory Sensitive Child Have a Great School Year

Here are some things I’ve learned about making things easier for my OCD/sensory sensitive child to experience success in school.

I’ll never forget watching my five-year-old son stand on the edge of the stage, crying silent tears and hiding his face during the school holiday program.

It wasn’t typical stage fright. As my first-born, he’d always been sensitive to lights, noise, and crowds. He’d also been recently diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome, OCD, and anxiety disorder.

Part of me was frustrated – all of the other children were angelically singing their part while their proud parents documented this milestone on video. I wanted that experience, too! And all of me was sad, because I could see that my child was clearly hurting, and I knew it wasn’t his fault.

Over the years — my son is now 14 — both of us have grown and learned a few tricks for navigating life’s various situations.. Here are some things I’ve learned about making things easier for my OCD/sensory sensitive child to experience success in school:

It’s okay if she doesn’t participate.

Those pep rallies, movie days, and field trips that seem like a reward to other students are a nightmare for sensory sensitive children.

Don’t insist that she play games at the class party or sign up for the overnight trip to the zoo. But do encourage her to participate when and how she can – make Valentines to hand out, wear earplugs during movies, and ask the teacher if another reward – a book or homework pass – can be substituted for other items or experience known to cause sensory overload.

Teach your child to be his own advocate.

In the beginning, I would meet with my son’s teachers and explain his diagnosis. But as he got older, I encouraged him to speak with the teacher himself when he had an issue in the classroom.

His teachers proudly let me know when he negotiated personal space (like designating a specific spot at the lunch table in middle school), or wrote reports on relative subjects when he couldn’t attend field trips.

Of course, I’ll gladly step in if he needs me, but I’m confident now that he can voice his own concerns.

See beyond her neurological condition.

As a parent, it’s easy to get wrapped up in what’s difficult for your child. But children with sensory processing disorders, OCD, anxiety, and other conditions can – and do – excel in school settings.

Instead of focusing on how she can’t attend band camp with her peers, rejoice in that amazing poem she wrote in English class, or another recent triumph.

My son has come a long way since that first moment on stage. Last year, he stood in front of hundreds of classmates and their families to speak at his 8th grade graduation. It was a moment I would never have predicted, but one that proves that with loving support, our children are capable of so much more than we imagine.

The Struggle: Back To School Shopping

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The waning days of summer mean our bored baby walruses – errr, children – are headed back to school.

Finally! BUH BYE, children!

So, let’s have a moment of silence for the numbered days of, “Are we there YET?” and, “Ugh, we never do anything fun!”

Of course, the start of the school year means it’s time for that dreaded scavenger hunt: back-to-school shopping.

While you numbly meander through the aisles of box stores, or slowly lose feeling in your mouse hand while loading up your virtual shopping cart, know that we salute you, and we honor the struggle.

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Check out the previous Struggle:

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What You Need to Know About Back-to-School Shopping

Nothing sucks the fun out of shopping like trying to comply with a school issued list of things your kid will never use.

My daughter started kindergarten last year. It was my first time shopping for school supplies. Sure, I’d heard from others how time consuming it was, but I wasn’t too concerned. “How hard can it be?” I thought. “They give you a list, you buy what’s on the list and that’s that.”

Oh, how naïve I was. It was only after three different shopping trips to three separate stores when I still didn’t have everything on the list that I realized: back-to-school shopping is intense. 

1 | It will be a scavenger hunt

My first attempt at back-to-school shopping was during my lunch break. I went to Target, my go-to one-stop shop, and returned deflated, with only a few items from the list. I wised up quickly and learned that this time-intensive activity will not fit into the “lunch hour” category.

On a separate shopping trip, I went to Safeway. Yes, there was food on my list. Nutritious snack bars and a juice pouch? I thought it was odd for school supplies, but bought them anyway like a good mombot. But I wasn’t done there. I still had to hit up Office Depot and scour the Internet to find everything on the list.

2 | It’s a numbers game

I needed to buy 15 glue sticks. No problem, right? Wrong. I could only find glue sticks that came in packs of two or four. Where were the single glue sticks? Why was everything packaged in even numbers? Would I be the super cheap mom if I snuck a glue stick out of the package and actually handed in an even 15?

Then came two pink erasers. Two! Easy. A number I can work with. Everything comes in twos. Wrong again. All I could find was a pack of three erasers. Seriously? The school supplies were mocking me.

3 | You will wish this task didn’t fall in your “quadrant”

While I was walking the aisles of Office Depot pushing a cart with a bum wheel, I thought to myself, “Why am I the one here doing this?” I envisioned my husband, snuggled up on the couch watching an episode of “House of Cards.” Don’t get me wrong, he does more than his fair share of the household duties, but at that particular moment, I wanted a trade. I wondered if he would consider swapping “financial planner” for “supply officer.”

4 | The list will be particular

Not just any old #2 pencil will do these days. Ticonderoga or Dixon work the best. There will be specific instructions like, “Two boxes of 16 crayons, 16 count only.” Again, it’s a numbers game. I could only find boxes of 24 count crayons. Crayons =1. Mom = 0.

5 |  You will find yourself being self-critical

I berated myself for not starting this process sooner. Why had I waited until September to start shopping? Oh, and then there was the backpack issue. I’m not a commercial, Disney-buying type of mom. I wanted to get my daughter a cute backpack with her name on it and a fun pattern. But I couldn’t find anything I wanted. They were all with unicorns and hearts. Eww. Where were the cute, designer backpacks in chevron patterns or polka dots? So, in my haste, I went with a “Frozen” backpack. My daughter was thrilled. Now she and every other kindergarten girl will have the same backpack. That won’t be confusing at all, will it?

6 | There will be an obscure, hard to find item on the list

For me, it was “a fold up poncho that comes in a little pouch.” Really? Where am I supposed to get that? Sure, we live in Seattle. It rains here. A lot. A poncho can keep kids dry. But does it really belong on the school supply list? I still haven’t found one and have considered sending my daughter with the purple poncho my husband wears at Husky football games. Bad idea?

7 | Right when you think you’re finished, there will be more.

In my case, I still needed to write “a comforting note” to my daughter, find a pair of socks for the “comfort pack,” and who knows what else I missed?

The Reason You Won’t Find Seat Belts on a School Bus

We’d never dream of putting our kids in the car without properly buckling them in. So why are school buses an exception? The answer may be simple.

I was in kindergarten when I rode the school bus for the first time. It was already very crowded when I boarded, and I was proud of myself for asking an older girl if I could squeeze onto the seat next to her. Then, the bus made a turn, I was unprepared, and I tipped into the aisle, catching myself with a hand to the floor. I wasn’t hurt at all – just very embarrassed – and I distinctly remember thinking, why don’t school buses have seat belts?

It’s a good question. All fifty states require us to buckle up in cars, and children must use car seats and booster seats until they have children of their own. (Kidding. It’s usually until they’re about 4′ 9″ and 10-12 years old.) Yet, when we wave goodbye to our most precious cargo as they board the school bus, they plop down on tacky brown pleather seats without another thought, and the bus rumbles off.

The American School Bus Council (ASBC) has my favorite answer, explaining that school buses are designed differently than passenger cars. “The children are protected like eggs in an egg carton – compartmentalized, and surrounded with padding and structural integrity to secure the entire container.” Large school buses are heavier and distribute the force of impact differently than passenger cars and light trucks do.

This exterior design, coupled with the interior’s high-backed bench seats situated closely together, make seat belts unnecessary. However, federal law does require seat belts on the small buses (let’s call them the half dozen egg cartons) because their weight and size are more similar to that of a small truck. But, I know – your biggest takeaway from all of this will be to envision a giant egg carton driving your kids to school from now on.

There are more reasons that our little Humpty Dumpties are safe on their school bus without a seat belt. School buses are inspected regularly, and they’re taller than most vehicles on the road. This lets the driver see better and raises the passenger section above the typical collision point of a car. Plus, its color and size make it highly visible and recognizable to other drivers, so, save for a few jerks, people know to stop for school buses.

The facts

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has done extensive research that supports the ASBC’s claims and determined that school buses are seven times safer than passenger cars. While more than 42,000 people are killed in traffic crashes in the U.S. every year, on average, six school-aged children die in school bus accidents as passengers. Of course, that’s six fatalities too many. Still, it’s undeniable that the safety stats favor the giant egg carton, especially when we consider that about 800 children die each year walking, biking or being driven to school.

Think of it this way: About 450,000 public school buses travel roughly 4.3 billion miles to transport 23.5 million children to and from school, and every single kid will step off of the bus safe and sound nearly every single day. When school buses do crash, the accidents are investigated, and the NHTSA references multiple studies, dating back to the 1980s, which determined seat belts would not have prevented the majority of injuries or fatalities that occurred. While this may not be helpful news to the families who lost children in such a tragic way, it should comfort the rest of us to know that these egg cartons on wheels are very safe, even if they don’t have seat belts.

It wouldn’t hurt to install them, though, right?

A seat belt may have saved my five-year-old self some embarrassment on the bus, but they still may not be as helpful as we’d hope. Seat belts are only effective when used properly. Otherwise, they can result in serious neck and abdominal injuries. Realistically, it’s nearly impossible to get and keep all kids strapped in safely on a school bus, given their squirmy nature and general hatred of being confined. Plus, who’s going to do it? The driver’s primary attention must be on the road, and aids don’t travel on every bus. For the small buses, preventing ejection trumps the risk of injury, and the little egg cartons hold fewer kids, so they’re easier to monitor.

There are even more practical matters to consider about installing seat belts. It costs extra money to do it, $8,000 to $12,000 more per bus, which comes out to about $117 million per state to phase in seat belts over ten years. Also, adding seat belts reduces the overall seating capacity of the bus because the belts take up space on the seat. This would require school districts to increase their bus fleet by up to 15% to transport the same number of people.

If towns aren’t able to add to their fleet, then more children would have to find alternative ways to get to school, and we already know that walking, biking, and driving in passenger cars is less safe than the bus. In fact, the NHTSA estimates we could see an increase of 10 to 19 fatalities a year if seat belts displaced some kids from their cushy egg carton. Consider also the added burden this could place on families who depend on the bus to get their children to and from school.

So, since the majority of injuries linked to school buses occur around them (think: a passing car hitting a kid getting off the bus), rather than in them, experts advise that money could be better spent on different preventative safety measures, rather than installing seat belts.

Why does it still feel like buses should have seat belts?

The National Safety Council and Ad Council really did an excellent job of drilling it into our heads that seat belts save lives, starting in the 1960s with their Buckle Up for Safety campaign. They did it so well that despite all of the data showing they’re not needed for the big egg cartons, the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) reports that six states (California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, and Texas) have laws mandating seat belts on school buses. In New York, for example, all school buses manufactured after July 1, 1987 are equipped with seat belts, but individual school districts decide whether children have to wear them, according to Patrick Kinane, the president and co-owner of Golden Sun Bus Services, Inc. in Oswego, New York.

In addition to the six states with laws on the books, the NCSL found that “twelve states have introduced bills that would require school buses to have seat belts installed,” though none of those bills have passed, yet. This perception that buses would be safer with seat belts is what Steven Colbert calls “truthiness,” i.e. when something is believed to be true, even if it’s not. Kinane said he often fields questions about seat belts from parents and sometimes even the kids. Parents are generally in favor of them, particularly for the youngest children.

The desire for seat belts comes from a good place. Everyone wants kids to be safe, and it makes intuitive sense that seat belts would help us achieve that, since they’re so effective in passenger cars. The reality, though, is that school buses are already the safest way to transport our kids. So, whether it’s due to a lack of research or a decision to ignore facts in favor of truthiness, the push for seat belts on school buses continues.

But, really, this is one debate where we should save our breath. We can wave goodbye to our kids as the school bus rumbles off without wringing our hands in worry. Mr. Kinane reminds us that “bus drivers care about the children they transport as much as they do their own children and often times will refer to them as ‘their kids.’ The children’s safety is the number one priority when they are transported back and forth to school.” When accidents do happen, these giant egg cartons are designed to protect our kids, and they do their job exceptionally well.

What’s The Parent’s Role With Homework?

If we want kids to invest in their education, we have to allow them to take on the responsibility of managing their school and homework.

The relationship our children develop with school (and yes, it is a relationship) begins as soon as they enter their first classroom.

School work and homework play an important part in our child’s first decisions concerning their education and their parents’ role in their education.

If we want our kids to invest in their education, then we have to allow them to take on the responsibility of managing their school and homework.

Here are some tips on how to stay involved, without taking over.

Tip #1: Set clear and reasonable expectations for both you and the kids. 

This might include:

  • We will require the kids set aside 15 minutes for homework or reading.  If the kids choose to noodle away their time, then we will bite our tongues and let the natural consequences do the teaching.  Obviously, as the kids get older you can revisit this issue and decide how much time they need to complete school work so you can factor that in to their busy schedules.
  • We will ask the kids about their classwork, homework and projects, but will not demand that they inform us.  If the kids choose to share, we will keep our opinions to a minimum and if the kids choose not to share, we will respect their decision.   The more you can promote their independence in this area, the quicker they will learn the lessons that will help them take responsibility for their learning.
  • We will provide a place for the kids to do homework but understand that they might not all use the space as we intended.
  • We will offer our assistance if we see the kids struggle, but we will not monitor their homework or demand they let us check their work.  After all, homework is suppose to help the teacher assess the students in her class and if you help too much, the teacher isn’t getting accurate information.
  • If our kids choose not to do their homework, we will support the school’s consequences which might include a loss of recess time or staying after school or taking a zero on the assignment or project.
  • We will do our best to help the kids create healthy study habits but will not jeopardize our relationship with them by forcing the issue.
  • We will remember that the mistakes our kids make when they are young teach them valuable lessons when the stakes are low. They will grow to understand the importance of investing in their education as they grow and mature.

Tip 2: Take into account Your Child’s Style as it pertains to homework.

Consider the following:

  • Some kids need to take a break
  • Some kids need to stay at it until they break through the frustration
  • Some kids need to engage in some physical activity to allow their brain to relax and refocus before returning to their studies
  • And some kids need to plug into their ipods or a tv or a computer game and go inside themselves to reenergize and refocus.

Many kids are beginning to identify the subjects that are difficult for them and subjects that come easy.  This may lead them in a direction of study later on in their lives.  It will certainly help them navigate the rest of their lives if they understand these key indicators of what interests them and what doesn’t.

Remember your kids are developing important life skills and taking responsibility for their own homework is the perfect place to allow these skills to blossom.

It is more important that our kids learn how to become organized, manage their time, problem solve, accept responsibility and build confidence in their ability to make choices and navigate their education, than it is to get perfect marks on their assignments.


  • What is your child’s learning style?
  • Does your child want downtime after school? Or is she able to jump right in?
  • Is your child able to tackle school work independently?
  • What is the biggest concern you have about handing the job of homework over to your child?
  • What does your child enjoy the most and the least about school?

[stag_button url=”” style=”black” size=”small” type=”normal” target=”_self” icon=”graduation-cap” icon_order=”before”]Make the most of the new school year with Vicki Hoefle’s free Back-to-School reboot course. [/stag_button]

3 Things We Learned On the First Day of Kindergarten

This morning, we saw our little guy off to kindergarten. He’s the younger of two and there will be no more. So, yeah, it was a big deal—but not in a way that a) we were crying about our grown-up babe, or b) rejoicing over the loads of money we won’t be paying for daycare. Mostly, we were excited about this new start for our eager 5-year-old, who’s been craving to be “big” like his brother.

Also, I learned three things on the first day of kindergarten, this second time around.

#1: Milestone days can be strangely emotional. You might expect a kindergartner on his first day to be shy. Clingy. Irritable. Or in serious go-mode. But you never know how the strong emotions of a big deal will manifest themselves. For instance, you might not expect a high-stakes day to end with an overly affectionate child acting like a cat, repeatedly rubbing his head all over your body as you sit side-by-side in a booth of a busy restaurant.

#2: There are always helpers. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” This quote, from Mr. (Fred) Rogers, is one of my favorites.

As an adult, when I see scary things in the news, it comforts me. This morning, when we asked our second-grader if he would walk his little bro from the bus to his classroom, he turned to his brother and said sweetly, “I would suggest that you find a helper. There are always a bunch of nice people helping in the hall.” We weren’t impressed by his suggestion, hoping he’d prioritize settling in his brother over rushing to hang out with his friends. But it’s true: You will always find people who are helping. And, very often, they’re not just your people.

#3: You can plan all you want… You can ask several times—several different people—how your kindergartener will get from his classroom to his after-school program. You might get several confident answers. There’s a list. There’s a paraeducator. There’s a parade down to the cafe. And, then, at quarter past five, when you show up to pick up your kid, a fellow parent (who’s also the school nurse) reports that your kid somehow ended up on a bus to go home. He was rescued. He was unfazed. And when he finally joined the after-school crew, “some nice girls” offered him a cookie, he tells you. But he said, “no thanks” because he already had a cookie at lunch. And he sat at the red table. And he made a new friend. And he played soccer with Mr. Dylan. And—even though it don’t all go just as you might have planned—“it was a really good day.”

How to Make the First Day of School a Total Success – For You

If you really want to get the year off to a stellar start, it’s time to approach this a little differently. Here’s how to make the first day of school a total success – for you.

After all, why should back-to-school be all about the kids? They’re the ones with the new wardrobes, fresh backpacks full of crisp supplies, and their whole lives ahead of them.

The night before

The trick here is to prep as many things ahead of time as you possibly can. Pack lunches, prepare backpacks, and lay out their clothes all the way down to the shoes. When they finally go to bed, it should look like a rapture happened right there in their room.

Check your stock of coffee and coffee-related accoutrements. Obviously this is some amateur level prep, but listen, I’ve seen worse things happen to better people. This may be one of the most important mornings of the year to have your coffee needs met, so don’t just assume you’re stocked. Confirm. Set it up so that in the morning either it’s awake before you are, or will be with the press of a button.

The big morning

Set the alarm 15 minutes earlier than it needs to be. There is a time vacuum that occurs when getting kids off to school and it pays to get ahead of it. Seriously.

Hide the screens. Absolutely no distractions to slow down the process of getting these people out of your house. Remember that episode of “Seinfeld” where Elaine wakes up late and scrambles to get a guest who’s overstayed his welcome to the airport on time? THERE’S NO TIME FOR GAMES. BUSINESS ONLY.

If making a special first day of school breakfast is important to you, by all means, have at it. But if you haven’t already mastered pancake art, for godsakes, don’t be a hero. Save that nonsense for a Sunday morning. Scramble some eggs and call it a day.

And once they’re off, consider some of these options:

  • Go get more coffee. At a coffee shop. Where you can blissfully sit alone and do whatever the hell you want. Read a book. Listen to a podcast. Stare, unblinkingly out the window and collect your thoughts for the first time in three months.
  • Book a massage. Or a pedicure. Or a haircut. (Anything but a dentist appointment. You deserve better than that.)
  • If drinking in the morning were truly frowned upon, then why did God invent the mimosa? The absolute best first school days have been the ones where my friends and I all gleefully convene at one designated location to toast a new year, drown the kindergarten mom’s tears in alcohol and gluten, and congratulate each other on not killing any of our offspring during the break.
  • Head straight to work if that’s what your schedule dictates, but do so wrapped in the comfort that this week (and the next 40ish to follow) won’t be costing you eleventy billion dollars in camp tuition.
  • Read a book in the sunshine. And then eat ice cream for lunch. Answer to no one.
  • Schedule a breakfast date with someone you’ve been missing.
  • Go home and crawl back into bed, free of guilt.

Only 179 more school days until summer vacation!

3 Steps to Better Family Routines for the New School Year

You want to enjoy your time with your kids, not spend it fighting about breakfast, getting ready, or homework. Thankfully, routines help solve that problem.

Without a solid routine, families meet all kinds of interesting and tiresome issues during the school year, including meltdowns, tears, fighting, breakfast in the car, mismatched socks, stinky breath, and incomplete homework assignments.

You want to enjoy the morning, afternoons, and evenings with your munchkins. You want them to do their part so you can do your part. You want the stress level low, and you want to get out of the house on time, get to soccer on time, and get the kids to bed – on time!

Don’t we all? Thankfully, routines make that possible. Here are my tips for designing and maintaining routines that support the family through all the transitions of the school year.

Tip #1: Know what you believe about HOW morning, afternoons, and bedtimes “should” be.

Once you know your preferences and what the perfect routine would consist of – for you – put it on a shelf and pull it out when the kids leave home at 18. No matter how awesome YOUR routine might be, if you don’t get the kids involved in the creating of the routines, they will never last longer than a day or two.

Tip # 2: Identify what you do now that works, and what isn’t working.

Write it down, so you can draw from it during your conversation with the kids. Then, invite the kids to sit down with you and talk about the morning, afternoon, and evening routines. Be honest about how some of the routines didn’t work all that well and highlight the parts that did work well.

If the kids know you’re open to listening to their ideas, and you want them to help you create routines for the entire family, they will be more invested in sticking to them.

Take into consideration your child’s natural rhythms, their needs (big breakfast, vs ½ an apple), their competencies (one is naturally organized, another needs a to-do list to refer to), and of course, their age and abilities.

Keep the routines simple. The more steps and requirements, the less likely you are to feel successful.

Remember, you’re building a lifelong skill here, so go slow in the beginning and trust the process.

Tip #3: Decide that you’ll give the new routine time to work.

We tend to jump from one routine to another if we don’t get immediate results. My recommendation is to wait at least two weeks before you start making any significant tweaks to any routine or system you’re trying to implement into daily life with the kids.

You have to allow for trial and error until you find the sweet spot. As soon as you find that sweet spot, you can take advantage of it until it’s time to make modifications.

Remember, kids grow and change and families change so stay flexible and make small adjustments instead of complete overhauls.

Over time, once your children realize you’re going about the routine and that you trust them to manage on their own, they begin to master tasks that lead to confidence and capability.

After the peaceful, relaxed and orderly routine is established, you’ll never look back!


  1. Are you able to challenge your assumptions about the best (and maybe right or wrong) way to do things?
  2. How will you include the children in setting up routines?
  3. Do you live with a night owl or a morning lark? Does your child like time to move slowly and methodically through his day or does he slide down the bannister and out the door, grabbing a protein bar on the way?
  4. How will you encourage yourself so you can support your children as they identify and develop routines that work best for them?
  5. What questions will you ask them, so they are thinking about what works best for them and why?

[stag_icon icon=”graduation-cap” url=”” size=”20px” new_window=”no”]  This post is an excerpt from Vicki Hoefle’s free Back-to-School reboot course. 



Start the School Year With Simpler, Better Lunches

Packing lunches ranks right up there with “getting kicked in the face” on my list of “crappy ways to start the morning.” I’m not sure why I detest it so much, but perhaps it has something to do with getting my kids to focus on the healthy part instead of haranguing me about how many M&M’s they can pack for dessert. Turns out, asking the internet for help is no less mentally exhausting.

With advertising disguised as blog posts and falling down rabbit hole after rabbit hole of creative ways to cut a damn sandwich, it’s easy to come away more discouraged than when you started.

So in the interest of taking the headaches out of your lunch research, here are 6 simple posts (which amount to literally hundreds of ideas) that don’t make me want to buy an industrial crate of Lunchables and call it a day.

30 Days of Lunchbox Recipes: No Repeats! via Peanut Blossom (bonus: they’re all peanut free!)

31 Days of School Lunchbox Ideas via 5 Dollar Dinners

One Whole Month of School Lunch Ideas for Kids via Super Mommy Club

A Full Year of Lunch Packing Ideas via What Lisa Cooks

Every “back to school” post on One Hungry Mama

For the aspirational among us:

Amanda’s Kids Lunch Column via Food52 (yes, I know she feeds her kids smoked salmon and chive flower sandwiches, which they allegedly eat, but well, the pictures are pretty and I like her philosophy…)

You can also follow our brand new Pinterest board Beyond PBJ where we’ll continue to find lunch inspirations you’ll actually find useful. Promise.

The Best Back to School Gear for Younger Kids

The only thing more jarring than the beginning of a new school year is being wholly unprepared for it. It doesn’t matter whether your household is sending off a freshly minted kindergartener or a been there/done that middle schooler- there’s plenty of gear to round up before the bus arrives.

In the interest of making your job just a tiny bit easier, and spending your money more wisely, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite back-to-school gear. (Sorry, grocery shopping for lunches is on you.)


[stag_icon icon=”share” url=”” size=”18px” new_window=”no”] View our ultimate back-to-school supply checklists.


Best Backpacks

Burton Youth Grommlet Backpack $34.95

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This kid-sized pack from Burton has all the bells and whistles. A padded pocket for a small laptop or tablet, a side water bottle pocket, and plenty of storage.

Marvel® Youth Day Hiker 20L Backpack $49.95

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The Burton Marvel Dayhiker is our favorite overall kid backpack. We’d buy it whether our kids thought it was rad or not (they do.

State Kane Kids Backpack (4 color options) $55.00

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For every State bag that’s purchased, they donate one to an American child in need. The colorful Kane kid’s pack is water-resistant and perfectly sized to keep kid’s carrying their stuff without tipping over like a turtle on its back.

JanSport SuperBreak Backpack (price varies)


Had I kept track of the Jansport backpacks I accumulated in middle and high school, I could be sending my kids to school with them twenty years later. Then, they could patronizingly explain to me how only dorky kids wear both straps at once. Ugh.God, MOM. Oh well, I’m sure they’d prefer to choose their own color now that there are several dozen options. Nirvana patches aren’t included, but a lifetime warranty is.

L.L. Bean Backpacks $24.95-$99.95

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LL Bean has been in the backpack game since forever. And with that much experience, they produce some of the best performing packs available. Even the scaled down version for the younger set doesn’t skimp on features. Including a padded back panel, reflective front strip, and plenty of room for everything, it’s far more likely your kid will lose it than wear it out. (Just how does one go about losing the only thing they’re responsible for? I wish I understood.) And if they do manage to wear it out? The lifetime guarantee has you covered.

Best Pencil Cases

ZipIt Monster Jumbo Pouch $9.99


Just look at this thing. It’s hilarious. AND it can unzip completely into one long zipper. If that’s not a pencil bag party trick, well, I don’t know. Should pencil bags have party tricks?

Blue Q Junk Drawer Pencil Case $5.99


These cheap, durable, and spacious zipped pouches are endlessly useful.

Kokuyo C2 Tray Type Pencil Case $10.50


Keep pens and pencils tidy and easy to sift through.

Best Lunch Box

Dabbawalla Lunch Bags $30.00


If lunch boxes are any indication, children are incredibly disgusting creatures. By Halloween, the inside of them are the scariest thing you’re going to see/smell ALL DAY. Unless of course you invest in one you can throw in the washing machine.  These colorful neoprene bags by Dabba Walla are insulated, machine washable and basically bulletproof.

Bentology Laptop Lunches Bento Kit $34.99-$41.99

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Laptop Lunches are the whole system, squish-proof. Before I bought this for my son, packing a lunch involved a mix of hunting down the miscellaneous containers that managed to make it home and wasting ziplock bags. Packing his lunch is his job, and listening to him whine about the logistics of it is worse than doing it myself. These bento-style kits, with their perfectly sized containers, take the pain out of putting it all together.

L.L. Bean Flip-Top Lunch Box $24.95

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This classic from LL Bean works everywhere from pre-school to a construction site. Sturdy, long lasting AND with the oft overlooked shoulder strap, pick a color you like because you’ll no doubt end up taking it to work some day.

Lunch box Accessories

Fit and Fresh Cool Coolers $7.99


Ice packs. Flat. Cold. They have one job and do it well.

LunchSkins Reusable Sandwich Bag $8.99


In the interest of conservation, (and not literally throwing money into the trash), these reusable sandwich bags are well worth the investment. Just throw them in the dishwasher, turn inside out to dry and they’re ready to go again.

BooginHead Screw Top Squeez’ems $7.99



Have you ever seen those nightmare Facebook posts of what people have found lurking in applesauce pouches? Shudder. Better yet,  have you compared the cost of them to just buying it in jars? And yet, kids seem to find this method of slurping their food IRRESISTIBLE. It’s possible that the delivery turns yogurt/purees/basically anything into some sort of crack. These refillable squeeze pouches take the waste and the mystery out of the pre-filled version that always find their way into your grocery cart.

Best Water Bottles

Contigo Swish Kids Water Bottle $10.50


The general consensus is that these are one of the few truly leak proof water bottles available. Any parent who’s attempted to blow dry homework knows the importance of this feature.

Klean Kanteen Kid Kanteen 12 ounce $15


Kleen Kanteen is hard to beat. Their stainless steel bottles last forever and the universally sized opening makes it easy to swap out lid types (sippy top, sport cap, or a plain old loop top) for whatever style suits the needs of the day.

Best Alarm Clock

Teach Me Time Talking Alarm Clock $3861kHuqmD5KL._SL1200_

This clock has features that benefit both the kids who get out of bed too early (it turns green to signal that Mom and Dad won’t sell you if you leave your room) and kids who need to be woken up to get out the door on time (a fully functional alarm, complete with snooze). As an added bonus, it combines a digital display with an analog face.

Star Wars Stormtrooper Mini-Figure Alarm Clock $29.99Screenshot 2015-08-10 13.46.08

It’s a Lego Minifigure that’s a clock. Self explanatory in its coolness. (And if Star Wars isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other characters to choose from.)

Best Back-to-School Technology – coming Wed August 12