Back to School Shopping

Back to school must-haves for kids

When the back to school brochures are piling up on the kitchen counter and every second television advertisement boasts about the "next big thing in the schoolyard," you know that the new school year is just one week away.

The last week of the school break means only one thing for kids - new stuff that just HAS to be better than everybody else's. The last week of the school break means something entirely different for the parents of those kids, however - losing the battle over buying that Barbie pencil case with FREE Barbie flip-flops inside. It is when you step inside the store and you are bombarded with "Can I have this, mum?" over and over that you realize that your child has an infinite number of wants, but what does he or she actually need?

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Here are the necessities every child should have to start the year:

  1. The Clothes. Be sensible. However much your daughter wants that sparkly pink jacket and however much your son is desperate for the shirt that says "I eat homework for breakfast," are these really sensible options for school? Steer toward items that will withstand the day-to-day wear and tear of school. Jeans and pullovers are necessities, but you can let your child chose a shirt that best captures his or her individual style without going over the top. As your child grows older, give him or her more freedom when choosing clothes (but still reel it in occasionally).
  2. The Shoes. The number-one factor to keep in mind when choosing kids shoes is durability and comfort; your kids are going to be in these shoes all day.
  3. The Bag. As with shoes, the bag needs to be comfortable and durable. A good school bag should be adjustable to accommodate growing children and should be large enough to fit a lunch and books inside. Keep in mind that heavier items should sit closer to your child's back to avoid strain to the neck and back.
  4. The Lunch. Now is the time to stock up on healthy "brain food" for back to school. Fruit and nuts are excellent brain food for your child. Fruit can be fun! Consider getting a FruityFaces fruit case. These are inflatable zip-up cases to make fruit more fun for little ones and reduce bruising. Don't deny your children a treat every so often, though. A chocolate bar or a packet of cookies can be seen as a reward for good grades.
  5. The Electronics. A personal computer for older children starting high school may be a good option. It gives them an incentive to get their homework done on time. Get younger children used to computers at an early age. Consider educational software that works at your child's own pace and can help him or her throughout school life.
  6. The Stationery. No matter how good your computer is, it is no match for good old pen on paper. Children of all ages and stages need pens, pencils, erasers, sharpeners, scissors, highlighters and a pencil case to put them all in. Perhaps consider buying some inexpensive, colorful grips, which are cylindrical in shape and slip over your pen or pencil to make it more comfortable and fun to hold. Avoid light-up or talking pens - imagine the disruption in class!
  7. The Cellular Phone. As your children get older, it is comforting to be at peace of mind that you can contact your children at any time and vice versa. Don't restrict mobile phone use, just set up a system in which you will pay for emergency calls or calls to the home phone or the cell phones of family members and your son or daughter will pay for any social calls he or she makes to friends. There may even be family smartphone service packages available from some phone carriers, which might be among the best mobile phone deals that you will find. Although despite what your kids may say, activating an iPhone is unnecessary; all they need is a simple phone to stay in contact. For younger children, it is important that they know how to use a public phone and that they have some money on hand in case of emergency. You and your young children may benefit from an i-Kids handset that includes a GPS device for parents to keep track of their youngsters.
  8. A Good Work Environment. Every child needs a space of his or her own to do homework. When purchasing a child's first desk, buy one that will see your child right through college. Teenagers may appreciate indoor plants that give any room a relaxed, serene feel. Limit music volume in a work area for improved concentration.

These last two necessities for going back to school cannot be found in the stores or brochures. They are personal qualities that both you and your child must share:

  1. Discipline and Praise. Talk to your child about self-discipline and the concept of work before play. At school, a disruptive student will be punished; this should remain the same at home. You, too, have to be disciplined and remain consistent to be a role model for your child. When a good report card comes home, make your child feel very special and respected with lots of praise.
  2. A Clean Slate and a Good Work Ethic. Let your children know that each school year is a clean slate. Whatever may have happened the year before in terms of grades and behavior is in the past. Tomorrow brings a new school year and a new opportunity to do the best possible.
By L. Singer