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Gear up your kids for back-to-school cool

Try this list to stock up on great supplies for the young students in your life. TODAY contributor Elizabeth Mayhew shares her homework.

Need some hints to help get your child in gear for the new school year? Well, fear not. TODAY contributor Elizabeth Mayhew has done all the homework and has this list to help your family stock up for school:

Remember the excitement you felt when it was time to pick out that new Trapper Keeper? Well, now kids are picking out more than just binders and have much more to choose from. Back-to-school is big business. According to the National Retail Federation, families with school-age children are expected to spend $563.49 on back-to-school merchandise, $94.02 of that on school supplies alone. This year, the trends you'll see range from camouflage locker organizers, skull-and-crossbones binders, high-tech gadgets and plugged-in gear that makes going to school cool.

What's cool for school:

Alarm clock
These old-fashioned alarm clocks wake kids up with the friendly sounds of cats meowing, fish blowing bubbles or the cheering of “We Are the Champions.” All better options than yelling “It's time to get up” for the 15th time in one morning. ($24 at

Bags and backpacks
For the preschool set, lunchtime will be more fun when sandwiches are packed in a whimsical animal-shaped insulated lunch bag. Best of all, the bag unzips flat to become a placemat. ($10 at

Environmentally conscious Fleurville makes a trendy messenger bag that is Teflon- and PVC-free and can convert to a backpack. It comes with a removable insulated lunch bag and an organizer for school supplies. Available in two colors, camouflage and gingko. ($50 at

Pottery Barn Kids has a sports backpack with an exterior pocket that is big enough to hold a soccer or basketball as well as mesh side pockets for cleats, tennis shoes or water bottles. It comes with an MP3 holder with a grommet to hold headphone wires. ($39 at

Water bottle
Swiss-designed Sigg water bottles are made from a single piece of aluminum and are lined with a coating that prevents leaching or bacteria buildup. You can choose from more than 140 designs and 22 interchangeable lids. ($19 at

Notebooks and supplies
It doesn't get any cooler than Office Max's Schoolio Von Hoolio line of bags, notebooks, binders, book covers, pencil cases and pencil sharpeners. All items are decked out with skull-and-crossbones motifs for the style-conscious student. For those with a softer sensibility, choose one of their floral designs. (Messenger bag, $25; notebook, $1.99; book cover, .99 at Office Max)

Move over, Trapper Keeper: Mead's Five-Star Sound binder allows you to listen to music through your school binder. The binder has small speakers built in as well as room to store your MP3 player, cell phone, pens and homework. ($30 at

USB drive
A technology must-have, the pocket-size Imation USB drive stores students' documents, photos and music. Think of it as the new-age floppy disk, but better than its predecessor. It's more compact (can fit on your key chain), sturdier and holds more data. ($23 at

Study boards
For the easy-going student who likes to do their homework while listening to music, this mobile workstation has built-in speakers and a place to plug in an MP3 player. ($129 at The low-tech version has a snappy patterned work surface and cup holder. ($25 at

Locker organizers
Organize your school locker with magnet-backed hooks, dry-erase board, pencil case, pouch and fold-out locker shelf. For those who can't resist a touch-up between classes, the set is also available with a mirror instead of a dry-erase board. ($49 at