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How to help your kids look back-to-school cool

Ring, ring — your style class is now in session. TODAY Style editor Bobbie Thomas offers some tips to make back-to-school shopping as easy as possible on busy, beleaguered parents.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

Ring, ring — your style class is now in session. Parents, get out those pens and notebooks right along with your kids, because the best way to get started is with a pre-shopping plan!

Kick-start the communication by putting together a list, looking at links and photos, and considering what can be reworked from your child’s existing wardrobe. This little bit of research before the big shopping day will go a long way. And thanks to sales, special promotions and collaborations, style is accessible and affordable.

Bobbie Thomas, TODAY’s Style editor and author of the Buzz column for In Touch Weekly, offers some tips to make back-to-school shopping easy.

Elementary school: ‘Girls will be girls, boys will be boys’
At this age, it’s not necessarily about trends for your youngsters, but rather about fun, gender-specific colors and images. Boyish blues and fire-engine reds are sure to get your little guy going, while girly pinks and purples are likely to draw your little darling’s eye. Think about superhero graphic tees for him, and bejeweled jeans or heart-print sweaters for her.

Many stores, such as and, will even group adorable items together so you can shop by outfit. While you can also look to your child’s favorite toys and TV shows for some inspiration, enjoy your reign over their look while you can!

As seen on TODAY:

  • ‘What a Hoot’ look, $16-$29.50; Check button-down shirt, $16.50; ‘I Rule’ school tee, $9.50; Corduroy pant, $19.50; Pirate slip-on sneaker, all from;
  • Pink quilted jacket, $25*; Baseball tee, $10.50; Camo canvas cargos, $19.50; Reversible vest, $25*, all from

Middle school: ‘Stand out in the tween scene’
Middle school can often mean big changes, and it’s not surprising to see a surge toward independence, especially in the way your trendsetters-in-training want to dress. Keep in mind that kids this age are likely at a crossroads where they want to be unique individuals, but also want to fit in with their peers.

Tweens are heavily influenced by TV shows, music and more, so you can help in this experimental phase by suggesting they create a “style diary.” It can be a folder filled with magazine tear-outs, a poster board of pictures or an online cybergallery. Then, together as a team, you can look for pieces to mix ’n’ match, layer and bring their personal image to life.

As seen on TODAY:

  • Buffalo-plaid tunic, $12; Sneaker graphic tee, $7; Distressed jean, $20; all from Miley Cyrus & Max Azria at;
  • Tony Hawk collection, $9-$25*,;
  • Board, $120,

High school: ‘High-fashion hallways’
From fashion magazines to celebrity style blogs, trends rule the school, and at this age, it’s all about finding age-appropriate looks for less. High school is a grooming ground, not only for education, but for self-discovery as well — and parental guidance is invaluable.

Age-appropriate advice is good, but you’ll want to be careful not to stifle self-expression. After all, there’s a big difference between saying when something is too tight, too short or disheveled versus trying to influence your child’s personal choices, such as colors and styles.

For example, try layering a tank top or opaque pair of tights to help blur revealing necklines and hemlines. You’ll also want to avoid comments that attack, but rather offer alternatives to consider. Self-respect is the foundation of healthy self-expression, and this is a precious opportunity to build a bond.

As seen on TODAY

  • Mossimo Boho print dress, $24.99,;
  • Foldover flat boot, $24.30,;
  • Arizona vintage boot-cut jeans, $17.99*; Front-button shirt, $19.99*; American Living polo, $12.99*; Striped sweater, $24.99*, all from

*Indicates current sale price or promotion.