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12 Back-to-School Essentials You Didn’t Realize You Needed (…until now)

By Wendi, Kelcey & Marinka

It’s still summer, but we know you’re probably already compiling that back-to-school checklist. And we’ve got some ideas for you – items that you might not even realize you need until you really need them! These are time-saving, must-have items and our recommendation is that you get them sent directly to you via web. These are the things you and your kids never want to run out of during the school year. Is there a bigger waste of time than going from store to store to find something when you’re already busy? Instead, order everything you need at the same time, at the same place, and bam! They will arrive at your doorstep… every week, or every month or on whatever delivery schedule you choose.  A subscription service actually makes parenting during the school year easier.

Must-have items for back-to-school:

1. Vitamins

The start of the school year means a new outfit, meeting your teacher and unfortunately lots of germs. Hand washing is of course a must (I want to install a camera at the sink to make sure my kids actually do it!). But also make sure your child is armed with a great multi-vitamin. Parents might want to take one too, as well as some vitamin C when they feel a bit under the weather from ridiculously long days at work and home. (Update: we trust that you’ll check with your and your child’s healthcare provider before starting vitamins and supplements.)

2. Wipes

When it comes to the best inventions ever, baby wipes are pretty high on the list. Throw a pack in your kids’ backpacks for extra cleanliness on the bus or at school. Put a pack in your car too. Awesome for any kind of mess and I personally won’t do an after school run to the ice cream shop without some wipes to clean up those sticky, satisfied faces.

3. Dental Floss

Remember that time you spent all day at school volunteering for teacher appreciation week only to find out later that you had a poppy seed the size of Kansas stuck in your front teeth? Not this year, baby! Always keep a package of dental floss in the car and one in your purse and you’ll never have those embarrassing moments. And I’m sure the nickname Poppy Seed Mama will eventually fizzle out. And be sure to also order some extra floss for your tweens and teens to throw in their backpacks and lockers. Because kids are anxious enough without having to spend half their math class trying to extract something wedged in between their front teeth. A quick trip to the bathroom with some floss and they can focus on learning — umm… whatever it is they are learning these days.

4. Printer Ink

Somehow I’m always printing and signing those school permission slips at the very last minute and that’s of course exactly when the printer ink runs out. It also happens when my kid is trying to print out an important school project. So until we live in a world where ink cartridges are no longer necessary and that will obviously be a very beautiful thing, bring down your stress level and make sure you’re stocked up.

5. Deodorant

It’s a good thing if your tween or teen raises their hand in class. But it’s a bad thing if they forgot to put on their deodorant that day. Ewwww. Keep their armpits armed with a steady supply of odor-busting sticks, creams and tubes, perfect for sports, cheer and general school day arm-waving.

6. Feminine Protection

As any woman knows, there’s nothing worse than getting your menstrual cycle when you’re unprepared. (Also known in legend as “The Day I Wore White Pants.”) Keep your tween or teen girl ready for those unexpected moments with a stash of feminine protection for her locker, and maybe a few for her backpack or purse, too. (And maybe put a few in your glove compartment and your bag and your wallet and…)

7. Batteries

The start of the school year for us means A, AA, AAA, C and D. Oh, those aren’t grades; they’re batteries. It seems we’re always in need of a few for science projects, calculators or (gasp!) video game controllers. (Hey, kids need a little fun and privileges during the school year.) Keep your household juiced with regular shipments and you’ll never run out of batteries. Or, more important, you’ll never need to run out for batteries.

8. Allergy Relief

It can be hard to concentrate on 2x+4y=? when you have red, itchy eyes, a sniffly nose and non-stop sneezing. That’s why we keep our kids armed during the seasonal allergy months with over-the-counter allergy relief that doesn’t make them drowsy. (Then maybe they can tell me what 2x+4y equals because I have no idea.)

9. Coffee

The kids go back to school and suddenly, you have to be awake in the mornings. Gone are the lazy summer days of waving them off outside, or yawning your way through their gaming/TV morning bliss. No, once school’s in session, you have to wake up the kids, make sure they’re dressed, have eaten and brushed their teeth.  Sure you can try getting them ready for their school day without your morning coffee, but don’t blame me if you get calls from the principal wondering why your middle schooler is wearing pajamas for the second week in a row.

10. Nutrition Bars

“Mom, why did you put those delicious nutrition bars in my bag?! YOU ALWAYS DO THAT?” Sound familiar? Well, the reason that it doesn’t is because no teen in the history of teendom and/or nutrition bars has ever uttered those words. Let’s face it, school is for learning, but it is also for hanging out with friends. And checking in with teachers, talking to the coach, returning that book to the library and just being a kid. Which can get in the way of getting a delicious and nutritious lunch. Or, if your kid has a crazy early (like my daughter did last year- 10:30 am!) or too late lunch, a nutrition bar is a perfect tide-me-over so that your student can focus on learning (and being with friends) rather than wondering whether everyone can hear her stomach rumbling. (They can.) Obviously, it’s also perfect as a quick and convenient after-school snack for when your kids’ school day extends into the later afternoon because of extracurricular activities.

11. Skin Care Products

One of the best parts about having a tween is that you can start sharing acne treatments. After all, you both want clear, clean skin when you’re seen around the school. And then, after all of the drama that ensues after your tween realizes he/she will still have acne into their 40’s, you can treat yourself to a soothing wrinkle cream for all of the new ones that cropped up overnight!

12. Surface Cleaner

You know how one moment you are relaxing at home, and the next moment your kids are back from school, and suddenly, they’re touching everything. With their hands. Hands on the counter, where you are preparing dinner; hands on the kitchen table, where you are reading a magazine; hands on the wall, which you like hand-print-free? And not just any hands, either. School-germ-infested hands. School-bus hands. Hands that have not been washed since the last time you nagged. That’s where the surface cleaner comes in handy! Yes, handy! A few sprays and the school germs are gone! Your home is as pristine as if you’d homeschooled your kids.  The surface cleaner is also great for getting rid of school project debris, like glue and glitter and whatever else sticks to your table.

More Back-to-School Ideas From Alpha Mom:

  1. Lunchbox Napkins for Back-to-School
  2. Free Printable Lunchbox Notes, Tags & Stickers
  3. Pom Pom Craft for Back-to-School
Wendi, Kelcey & Marinka
About the Author

Wendi, Kelcey and Marinka

This post was jointly written by Wendi Aarons, Kelcey Kintner & Marinka.

You can usually find her at Wendi Aarons. Kelcey Kintner, a Florida-bas...

This post was jointly written by Wendi Aarons, Kelcey Kintner & Marinka.

You can usually find her at Wendi Aarons. Kelcey Kintner, a Florida-based mother of five, writes the humor blog, The Mama Bird Diaries. Wendi Aarons is an award-winning humor writer and blogger who lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and two sons. Marinka lives in NYC with her two kids, a cat and a TV set. She’s the author of the humor blog, Marinka NYC.

Wendi, Kelcey & Marinka are also co-founders of the cheeky advice site, The Mouthy Housewives and created the popular @PaulRyanGosling Twitter meme. They are also individual contributors to Alpha Mom.

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Michele H.
Guest
Michele H.

I find I am always running out of personal care items (shampoo, toothpaste) when I least expect it, or at the worst possible times. Part of it comes from buying multiple bottles/tubes at a time, so I get accustomed to a new one being in the closet. 

Liv
Guest
Liv

Laundry detergent – specifically the Method free and clear kind. My son’s clothes get so dirty!

Anna
Guest
Anna

Chapstick! In the backpack, in the car, in the purse. Burt’s bees is a favorite in our house. I know we don’t want to think about winter, but it’s essential once the cold winds start to blow…

Allison
Guest

We are forever out of art supplies – crayons, markers, paper, etc.

Laura
Guest
Laura

Clean socks. My daughter leaves them at ballet, swim….and if she brings them home, they are left in the sports bag instead of put into the wash.

Karena milford
Guest
Karena milford

Glue sticks! Are they eating them???

Traci
Guest
Traci

Chapstick! Always losing and always finding them in random spots weeks or months later. Also Pet Food and Cat Litter! The pets are not always top priority so keeping their staples on hand is ALWAYS hard to remember!

Jenn S.
Guest
Jenn S.

diapers!!!

Ben
Guest
Ben

laundry detergent…so…many…dirty…clothes!!!

Cait
Guest
Cait

as a teacher, I cant live without Clorox wipes. 

Ally
Guest
Ally

It’s a toss up between printer ink and wipes! Somehow I always manage to lose permissions slips. I swear our ink must evaporate at a rapid rate, because I’m always out of it. And wipes…with 4 kids I should just buy stock on one of those companies. 

Emily
Guest
Emily

Feminine products

Jennifer
Guest
Jennifer

I don’t know about the vitamins advice.  There have been a lot of reports that make me think you need to talk with your doctor before taking multi-vitamins 

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/09/opinion/sunday/dont-take-your-vitamins.html?pagewanted=all

Isabel Kallman
Admin

Thanks for the article and the recommendation to talk to your doctor first. I don’t have my vitamin bottle in front of me (I am traveling) right now, but I think they all come with the disclosure that one should talk to your doctor. I give our readers the benefit of the doubt that they talk to their health care provider before taking vitamins and/ or supplements. 🙂

Jennifer
Guest
Jennifer

Actually, vitamins don’t have to have that disclosure.  Centrum doesn’t have it.  I think people think all vitamins are safe since they are ubiquitous.  A reminder to check with your doctor is a good idea.

Fabs
Guest
Fabs

Ink cartridges, for sure!

Nicole
Guest
Nicole

Tea! I need black tea to get me going and maybe a soothing herbal at the end of the day.

Amy Ball
Guest
Amy Ball

Baby wipes!

mere
Guest
mere

Laundry detergent – for those times when they forgot to mention that they need their class shirt for a field trip the next day!

@mommy3sons
Guest
@mommy3sons

Paper towels would be what I always need!

Altenali
Guest
Altenali

Diaper wipes, for sure!

Kim Hodges
Guest
Kim Hodges

personal care items- deodorant especially, but also shampoo, toothpaste, etc. 

Hayley
Guest
Hayley

With kids in gym I’ll need two of all the basic skin-care supplies, like Caress Daily Silk Body Wash and Neutragena Oil-Free Acne Wash.

Kristyl
Guest
Kristyl

Nutrition/granola bars, for sure

Mami2jcn
Guest
Mami2jcn

They need paper towels for their classroom.

Felicity Marie
Guest
Felicity Marie

Definitely wipes! I keep them everywhere.

Danyelle
Guest

Vitamins/ emergenC.

mel
Guest
mel

tissues and Chapstick!

Danielle Meek
Guest
Danielle Meek

Paper towels, tissues, and other household items I wouldn’t think about. 

raggammuffin
Guest
raggammuffin

trash bags

Kelly D
Guest
Kelly D

My kids always need Flintstones Multivitamin Supplements to stay healthy during the school year and we stock up on hand soap so they can wash their hands when they get home.

Susan Christy
Guest
Susan Christy

Batteries, and they are offered through Target’s Subscription Service. 

e michelle
Guest
e michelle

wipes! and tons of germ x! kids are little balls of germs! one germ and the whole house is sick for a week!

Maria
Guest
Maria

Toothpaste! I’m always in my bathrobe when I remember we’re out

Matti
Guest
Matti

We need coffee, Seventh Generation hand wash/soap, and toothpaste delivered monthly!

Hope
Guest
Hope

Allergy relief-we never have what we need!

Jean
Guest
Jean

Tide – any kind except the high efficiency kind (don’t have that kind of washer). With my son constantly forgetting napkins, Tide is the only detergent that gets “mystery stains” before they come out of the washing machine.

Cheryl S.
Guest
Cheryl S.

Hand soap! I am eternally telling my daughter to go wash her hands. That, and laundry detergent. She has a uniform (and only so many) so I can’t slack on laundry during the school year!

Linda Stewart
Guest
Linda Stewart

I’m terrible with remembering Vitamins. The other stuff, we usually always have a stock of. Vitamins … not so much. We do the general over the counter vitamins for the boys but we’ve found that each of them have different tastes for which ones they will take without a fight so I usually end up buying three different kinds/flavors and struggle to remember which one needs what kind.

Bekki
Guest
Bekki

paper towels, there can never be enough 🙂

Liz H.
Guest
Liz H.

Dish soap (we like Method) for cleaning all those water bottles and other lunchbox essentials.

CrystyNurse
Guest
CrystyNurse

We are always running out of Paper Towels, dishwasher soap, and the all-important COFFEE!!

Laura 6
Guest
Laura 6

Diaper wipes!!!

Jaime
Guest
Jaime

Baby wipes – I’m convinced they can solve any problem!

Leigh
Guest
Leigh

It’s a toss up between tissues and hand sanitizer! Between allergies and germs, we use a ton of tissues,  but we also go through a ton of hand sanitizer to try and combat germs as much as possible.

Kristen
Guest
Kristen

Thought the old backpack would last, but we need a new one.

LBH
Guest
LBH

Good lord, SOCKs. And Socks. And More Socks.

Martina W.
Guest
Martina W.

We definitely need hand soap! I like the Method hand soap in the Mickey Mouse shaped bottle!

miranda
Guest
miranda

We always need more notebooks than I think we will need

Bill
Guest
Bill

We seems to go thru so much peanut butter when I start making lunches

gary
Guest
gary

We seem to need more napkins than usual

Claudia Luna
Guest
Claudia Luna

Printer ink! We have to do a lot of school printing. (Permission slips, homework, etc.)