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12 Back-to-School Essentials You Didn't Realize You Needed (...until now)

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.

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 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.

Find more Back-to-School Ideas here!


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.

    July 25, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    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

    July 25, 2014 at 2:00 pm

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

  • Anna

    July 25, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    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

    July 25, 2014 at 2:34 pm

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

  • Laura

    July 25, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    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

    July 25, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    Glue sticks! Are they eating them???

  • Traci

    July 25, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    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.

    July 25, 2014 at 4:37 pm


  • Ben

    July 25, 2014 at 4:38 pm

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

  • Cait

    July 25, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    as a teacher, I cant live without Clorox wipes. 

  • Ally

    July 25, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    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

    July 25, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Feminine products

  • Jennifer

    July 25, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    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

    • Isabel Kallman

      Isabel Kallman

      July 25, 2014 at 7:05 pm

      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

        July 25, 2014 at 9:52 pm

        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

    July 25, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    Ink cartridges, for sure!

  • Nicole

    July 25, 2014 at 7:41 pm

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

  • Amy Ball

    July 25, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    Baby wipes!

  • mere

    July 25, 2014 at 10:58 pm

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

  • @mommy3sons

    July 25, 2014 at 11:13 pm

    Paper towels would be what I always need!

  • Altenali

    July 25, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    Diaper wipes, for sure!

  • Kim Hodges

    July 26, 2014 at 12:19 am

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

  • Hayley

    July 26, 2014 at 12:55 am

    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

    July 26, 2014 at 12:58 am

    Nutrition/granola bars, for sure

  • Mami2jcn

    July 26, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    They need paper towels for their classroom.

  • Felicity Marie

    July 26, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    Definitely wipes! I keep them everywhere.

  • Danyelle

    July 26, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    Vitamins/ emergenC.

  • mel

    July 27, 2014 at 7:33 am

    tissues and Chapstick!

  • Danielle Meek

    July 27, 2014 at 9:59 am

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

  • raggammuffin

    July 27, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    trash bags

  • Kelly D

    July 27, 2014 at 10:52 pm

    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

    July 27, 2014 at 11:33 pm

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

  • e michelle

    July 28, 2014 at 1:12 am

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

  • Maria

    July 28, 2014 at 1:13 am

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

  • Matti

    July 28, 2014 at 9:38 am

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

  • Hope

    July 28, 2014 at 10:11 am

    Allergy relief-we never have what we need!

  • Jean

    July 28, 2014 at 10:14 am

    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.

    July 28, 2014 at 11:00 am

    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

    July 28, 2014 at 11:49 am

    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

    July 28, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    paper towels, there can never be enough 🙂

  • Liz H.

    July 28, 2014 at 1:06 pm

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

  • CrystyNurse

    July 28, 2014 at 4:03 pm

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

  • Laura 6

    July 28, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    Diaper wipes!!!

  • Jaime

    July 28, 2014 at 5:10 pm

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

  • Leigh

    July 28, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    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

    July 28, 2014 at 9:12 pm

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

  • LBH

    July 29, 2014 at 12:22 pm

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

  • Martina W.

    July 29, 2014 at 7:53 pm

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

  • miranda

    July 30, 2014 at 12:00 am

    We always need more notebooks than I think we will need

  • Bill

    July 30, 2014 at 12:04 am

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

  • gary

    July 30, 2014 at 12:06 am

    We seem to need more napkins than usual

  • Claudia Luna

    July 30, 2014 at 2:35 am

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

  • Carolsue

    July 30, 2014 at 3:14 am

    Just found out my son has allergies, so ….
    Allegra® Children’s Allergy Tablets – Orange Creme

  • Teresa

    July 30, 2014 at 8:53 am

    I would purchase Digestive Advantage Daily Probiotic Capsules. 

  • Jessica Rose

    July 30, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    I am always running out of household items, after we just went to the store.  My school age daughter is always bringing papers home and fillings up the garbage can and I am always cleaning the counters, doors handles, germy surfaces, plus I have a toddler with many food and environmental allergy plus he’s in diapers so things get messy quick.  We also go through lots of laundry detergent because she changes clothes at least 4 times a day, school clothes. cheerleading clothes, play clothes and pajamas.  We spend a lot of money on household supplies.

  • Matthew P

    July 30, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    Hand soap, got to be careful about germs when going back to school.

  • Kerri

    July 30, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    We lose water bottles on a regular basis–Nalgene, CamelBak, etc.  Time to stock up again!

  • Renee Hsmrick

    July 30, 2014 at 5:29 pm


  • Krsitin

    July 30, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    We homeschool our eight kids. We go through 1.5+ packages of printer paper a month and always need more than the average amount of glue sticks, pencils, pens, crayons, pencil sharpeners (where do they disappear to?!), paper, printer ink and Sharpies.

  • OCGal

    July 30, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    Best thing we always have in our kids’ back-to-school backpacks (and my tote and dad’s briefcase) is the fantastic Colgate Wisp mini throw-away tooth brushes which don’t need water and which leave our mouths minty fresh. Most kids aren’t allowed to chew gum at school so a quick brush with the mini throw-away brush is a relief and makes the mouth fresh too via a little peppermint bead. The are handy for other times too – we always keep a couple in our glove compartment, our carry-on bags for long airline trips, up at our cabin for when guests have forgotten their own toothbrush, and the used brushes make great little tools to clean grout, clean pebbles out of sport shoe soles, etc… Try them and see, you’ll thank me!

  • Taylor

    July 30, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    As an academic advisor and teacher, I need coffee (especially the first week back)– so that’s on my back-to-school list. 

  • Jill

    July 30, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    Laundry detergent and stain stick!  That paint they use at preschool gets everywhere and half the time it doesn’t come out.

  • Stacey hale

    July 31, 2014 at 9:52 am

    Batteries!!! I guess it all makes sense but never thought that it would be considered a back to school item lol. Guess I better get to sticking up 🙂

  • Ashley

    July 31, 2014 at 11:24 am

    Baby wipes!  i used them today to clean Vaseline off the doorknobs, the windows, the walls…ah, having a 3 yr old.

  • Lauren

    July 31, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    Baby wipes, hands down. We can’t live without ’em now!

  • Cassandra Eastman

    July 31, 2014 at 11:17 pm

    I’d have to say BabyGanics Alchohol Free Foaming Hand Sanitizer for my kids to help keep them from getting sick! 

  • Kat

    August 1, 2014 at 4:54 am

    Wipes! Not just for the baby, we use them for cleaning on the go. Also, we always seem to need hand soap. We try to be diligent about washing hands after school, or just coming home from a public place in general.

  • Colleen

    August 1, 2014 at 9:28 am

    I always fail to realize we ALWAYS end up needing batteries!