Time to stock up for an unpredictable school year!
Time to stock up for an unpredictable school year!

Essential School Supplies for Whatever This Year Brings Us

Whether your kids are returning to the classroom, distance learning, or following a hybrid model, back-to-school shopping looks a little different this year, including stocking up on school supplies. If you're still waiting for your school to send out an official school supply list, or just want to know how to set up the homeschool, we've put together a shortlist of essentials for the 2020-2021 school year.

Whatever your school plan is for this year, this list has all your bases covered. From face masks to at-home school supplies and organizational tools, we’ve rounded up all the things needed to have a happy and healthy school year. Find more online learning tools in our Virtual Fun and Educational Guide.

Homeschool Supplies and Distance Learning

Setting up a homeschool, distance learning, or pod classroom at home means stocking up on some of the basic school supplies that your child would normally have access to at school. This list might depend on the age of the student, but it's often helpful to gather up and have a set place for the pencils, pens, pencil sharpener, stapler, hole punch, scissors, calculator, scotch tape, measuring tape, folders, paper, and maybe some basic craft or art supplies.

You might also stock your learning nook with board games, books, and other learning tools, such as maps and dictionaries. We've included a few more at-home school supplies that we found helpful during remote learning in the spring, minus the likely essential device (iPad, Chromebook, or laptop) given that need varies by district and student.

RELATED: Top Takeaways from CDC School Return Guidelines 


With a blended learning model or fully-remote model, a dedicated workspace can help kids focus. Photo courtesy the manufacturer

Desk

Setting up the right furniture may help set your student up for a successful school year.  Picking the right desk is a big part of any successful home school environment. This writing desk provides a nice surface to plop a laptop on and has few drawers for storage.

If you are short on space, this corner desk may come in handy, while even one of these lap desks can turn your sofa into a comfy spot to get some work done.


Kids have easy access to supplies in a rolling cart. 

Rolling Cart for Organizing School Supplies

Textbooks, chargers, art supplies, worksheets, graph paper, lined paper, blank paper…. students come with so much stuff. Start the school year off right by giving everything a storage spot in one of these rolling carts. 

This rainbow cart with lots of drawers has been a teacher favorite for a reason. It has tons of storage for all your different school supplies and subjects. If you like to keep things simple, this storage cart comes complete with storage cups and shelves. 


Dry erase boards are great for daily schedules, math problems, and even spelling.

Dry Erase Board

Dry erase boards are a classroom staple because of their versatility. It can be used to write out the day's schedule or date, work on math problems, write a spelling word, and so much more. Bonus points: because they are magnetic, these Scribbledo boards do double duty. Another one of our editors likes this dry erase board that comes with magnetic letters for preschoolers and other young learners. Another version of it comes with numbers, or you can just add those on by purchasing separately.


From Zoom calls to read-alongs, headphones give kids a way to tune in to online learning without the chatter of the rest of the family. 

Headphones 

With the lines between home, work, and school growing fuzzier by the day, it's worth it to invest in a good pair of headphones for everyone, including the kids, and especially if work stations overlap between siblings, in a pod, or next to a working parent.


Set up a cozy space with a bean bag chair. 

Cozy Reading Nook 

Almost any elementary school classroom is arranged with cozy, floor seating arrangements because teachers know that not every kid can read effectively while sitting at a desk. There really is nothing quite like cozying up to a good book. These bean bag chairs can turn any area of your home into your own personal cozy reading nook.

Wall Calendar

The spacious lined boxes of this giant wall calendar will keep everyone happy and organized. Keep track of all your zoom meetings, school project deadlines, daily assignments, and tasks in one handy space. 

RELATED: K-12 Online Schools Offer Full-time Curriculum


This math kit gives kids a hands-on tool for learning and reviewing math concepts. Photo courtesy the manufacturer

Math Manipulatives 

Hands-on learning tools are a must for any homeschool setup. The school supplies in this kit enable you to bring foundational concepts like addition, subtraction, and time spring to life. This math manipulatives kit comes with everything you need: base ten units, color tiles, snap cubes, and a geared clock.


Workbooks can help supplement in-school learning. 

Workbooks

Educational workbooks can supplement school learning, or even kickstart a homeschool curriculum. We rounded up our 13+ of our favorite workbooks for kids, from preschool and up to fifth grade.

Globe

We might not be able to travel the world just yet, but at least, we can show them it and get them identifying countries and thinking beyond local borders with a large globe perched on their homeschool desk. Splurge on this digital globe that talks back to kids with the tap of its Intellipen. It even sings national anthems!

The Create-a-Space Storage Center by Learning Resources offers a central spot for tracking school supplies. Photo courtesy the manufacturer

Storage Containers for All Those School Supplies

A cart is great, but sometimes I also like having one container with all the pencils, markers, scissors, scotch tape, and so on, that I can move from workspace to workspace. We've been big fans of this organizer from Learning Resources since Marie Kondo helped us kick into organizing mode a year ago. Also, these simple magazine file boxes are a great way to keep each kid's daily assignments, folders, and workbooks in one place.

RELATED: K-12 Online Schools with Full-time Curriculum


Kids may be asked to keep some disposable masks on hand at school. 

School Supply List for In-Person Learning

Face Masks 

From Disney to DIY, there are a lot of face masks from which to pick. Each kid might need several masks for any in-person learning, or pod classrooms, just in case one is dirty, breaks, or gets lost. We also suggest these handy mask accessories: 


Just like with other school supplies, you'll want to label face masks. 

  • Mask Case 
    Instead of risking their mask getting thrown into the bottom of a backpack, a mask case will provide your child with a place to safely keep their mask at the end of the day.
  • Mask Holder 
    These lanyard style mask holders will also enable your child to keep their masks safe during the school day.
  • Disposable Masks 
    We all know kids lose things. So having a few disposable masks handy will help you avoid panic when the inevitable happens.
  • Name Label for Masks
    Make sure that face mask is returned to you by labeling it with a clothing stamp, such as the Mini Stamper from Mabel's Labels, or its iron-on labels if you want to get fancy. (The stamp works best on lighter colored masks; the iron-on labels will be perfect for darker shades.)


Pack small spray bottles of hand sanitizer for in-person learning this fall.

Hand Sanitizer 

Hand sanitizers are a must for any school year, but especially during the 2020-2021 year. Purell has been my go-to for on-the-go sanitizing, but these bottles from Wish come with their own carabiner to place on a belt buckle or backpack for safekeeping. These hand sanitizer holders are not just adorable, but they will also keep a bottle of hand sanitizer handy at all times.

Back-To-School Box

Communal supplies will be a big no-no this school year. According to the CDC, students are at the highest risk when they are sharing classroom materials like pencils, markers, and crayons. This Back To School Supply Box is loaded with everything your child needs for the school year in a convenient bundle that they can take to school upon return or use at home.

Tissues

Heading to the teacher’s desk to grab a tissue might not be an option this year. Load up on some individual tissue packsto keep everyone in their seats. Bonus: If you can grab some extra disinfecting wipes anywhere, those are always appreciated, too, maybe especially this year.

Water bottle

Not only is having a water bottle good for the planet but avoiding the water fountain might help keep your family healthy as well. These Thermos bottles come in enough colors, and sizes, to keep everyone happy and healthy.

This article contains some affiliate links, which means we might earn a small commission if you make a purchase. There is no extra cost to the reader. We only recommend products and services that we have personally used or have thoroughly researched.

Photos by author and Mommy Poppins except where noted

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