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The only school supplies list you'll need, according to a mom of 6

We even broke it down by grade level.
by Jordana Horn /

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It's back-to-school time ... again! This year, the TODAY Parenting and Shop TODAY teams came together to make the transition from summer vacation to schoolwork mode as seamless and easy as possible. We're bringing you the best back-to-school supplies, tips and tricks — all in one place.

When I was a kid, I loved going shopping for school supplies. First of all, I was a straight-up nerd who was much more comfortable in class than in camp, so buying school supplies meant getting back on friendly territory. Second, I loved the sense of order and possibility that came from fresh, clean notebooks with blank pages and sharpened pencils in a new pencil case.

Now, as a parent, things are different. I have six kids — ages 14, 13, 7, 5, 4 and 3 — headed to four different schools. I hate thinking about all the shopping that needs to be done, the lines to be waited in (thank goodness for online shopping) and the stress that lies ahead.

So, I’ve tried to anticipate a little bit of what these kids will need come September. Hopefully, this list will also help you to get a leg up on what needs to be done before they come running out of school that first day.

PRESCHOOL Supplies

Yes, technically, these kids have no homework (thankfully!). But, there are still supplies that you need for your littlest students.

1. Crayons

Crayola Crayons 24-Count Box (6-pack), $11, Amazon

TODAY editors, writers and experts take care to recommend items we really like and hope you’ll enjoy! Just so you know, TODAY does have affiliate relationships. So, while every product is independently selected, if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the revenue.

There’s a lot of coloring, inside and outside the lines, in preschool. Bring it home with this pack.

If you only need one box, Target has them for 50 cents each.

Crayola Crayons 152-Count Box, $13, Amazon

And for the Ferrari of coloring, how can you say no to the Ultimate Crayon Collection? OK, maybe I do still get a little excited about school supplies.

2. Stickers

Fine motor skills advocates strongly recommend stickers to help your child with those pincer skills they will need throughout life

Melissa and Doug Reusable Sticker Pad, $7, Amazon

On rainy days especially, I love a kit of reusable stickers.

3. Little kid scissors

Westcott Kid Scissors, $1, Amazon

Help teach your kids how to cut (and walk) safely with kid-friendly scissors. Advice: Don’t keep these in a place where children can reach them, unless you like unplanned haircuts.

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL Supplies

1. Glue

Elmer's Clear Glue Sticks (6-Pack), $5, Amazon

If you don’t like finding little balls of glue all over your house, and you prefer things on the neat side, I strongly recommend glue sticks.

Elmer's Galaxy Slime Starter Pack, $7, Amazon

For art projects and, of course, the inevitable slime-making, though, I recommend this colorful, kid-pleasing glue.

2. Erasers

Bazic Pink Erasers (4-Pack), $6, Amazon

The erasers on the ends of your pencils are going to be a distant memory by October. Gotta love the old-school pink eraser!

3. Posterboard and markers

Office Depot Poster Boards (10-Pack), $5, Amazon

You really don’t want to find out the night before that you need this for a project (been there, done that). Keep a stash in the house. Worst case scenario, you’ll use them for a lemonade stand or bake sale

Crayola 40-Count Washable Markers, $15, Amazon

Instead of permanent, pick up some washable markers ... in case your elementary-aged kiddo feels like coloring in the couch.

Middle and High School Supplies

1. Book Socks

Book Sox Stretchable Book Cover: Standard Size 6 Ultra Print Pack, $17, Amazon

I had no idea what this was until I became a parent, but apparently it's mandatory to cover textbooks with things like this in my son's school. Book socks! Who knew?

2. Combination Locks

Master Lock Padlock (Pack of 3), $10 (usually $13), Amazon

Ah, the joys of the gym locker room. Go the combination rather than the key route for locks. Just trust me.

3. Planner

Dated Middle/High School Student Planner, $8, Amazon

If your school doesn’t sell its own planner, then make sure to grab one for your kid so that they can keep track of their assignments. Oh … buy an extra for when your kid loses his. It'll happen.

4. Backpack

L.L.Bean Deluxe Book Pack, $50, L.L.Bean

A sturdy backpack this one from L.L. Bean is key in these years. Before buying a backpack, find out if your school allows roller bags that they can pull, and if there is time between classes to go to a locker or if kids will be carrying everything on their backs all day.

For more options, check out our list of the best backpacks money can buy.

School supplies for any kids at any age

1. PENCILS, PENCILS, PENCILS

ban.do Compliment Pencil Pack, $10, Urban Outfitters

If nothing else, get pencils. We still do have to write on paper, children. And perhaps when they are adults, this skill will be a distant memory, but for the time being, you can amuse and inspire your literate children with pencils like these.

And, make sure to pick up some basic No. 2 pencils too.

AmazonBasics No. 2 Pencils (30-pack), $5, Amazon

3. Index Cards

AmazonBasics Heavy Weight Ruled Index Cards, 100-Count, $3, Amazon

You will use these in elementary school to learn sight reading, and you may want to teach your open-minded middle and high school students that these bad boys can be a great study aid with homemade flashcards. Yes, obviously, one can do such things on a computer (your kids will remind you), but writing things out by hand is often a better way to memorize.

4. Shoeboxes

When you get any new back-to-school shoes for any member of your family, save the box. You will need this box at some point in the next few months for a project, and you will not have one. Then, you will think of this list and say,“I was a fool.” Don’t be that fool.

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