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Back-to-school shopping? Check out these educator-approved essentials

From backpacks to Post-It notes, here's what to buy for the school year.
Father and son going to kindergarten
VioletaStoimenova / Getty Images

The upcoming school year is quickly approaching for families all over the country, and that means preparing the back-to-school supply list to help kids of all ages approach the school year confidently and safely.

Former elementary school teacher and TODAY Show lifestyle contributor Meredith Sinclair stopped by TODAY with Hoda & Jenna to share the back-to-school gear and organizational tools she has on her radar. From transparent Post-It notes to Owala water bottles, Sinclair's picks will help your little Einstein from study sessions to recess.

Keep reading to check out all of Sinclair's back-to-school picks and some more favorites rounded up by the Shop TODAY team.

Back-to-school essentials seen on TODAY

JanSport Central Adaptive Backpack

Sinclair's first back-to-school recommendation resembles a classic Jansport backpack, but it offers so much more. Since the backpack has a shortened height and increased depth, it can fit securely against a mobility device’s backrest, making the backpack accessible to more students.

JanSport Central Adaptive Crossbody

The crossbody bag trend continues to coast, and this adaptive crossbody is compatible with a variety of mobility devices, according to the brand. The crossbody bag has a removable shoulder strap, easy release buckles and finger loops, which can aid with dexterity limitations.

JanSport Superbreak Backpack

Sinclair also loves the JanSport Superbreak backpack. which has padded shoulder straps "for extra comfort and support," according to the brand. Sinclair says the backpack is available in "kidcore" shades for extra fun this school year.

JanSport Half Pint Mini Backpack

Whether you're shopping for a little one who needs a smaller backpack or a teen who wants to hop on the corduroy train, Sinclair recommends shopping JanSport's half pint backpack. She says it has "all of the cuteness you could ever imagine" in one little bag.

JanSport Right Pack Backpack

Sinclair thinks this backpack is a long-time favorite for "good reason." Its special features include a suede leather bottom, a side water bottle pocket and an internal laptop sleeve.

JanSport Lodo Pack

If you're shopping for a student who is always on the move, Sinclair recommends the Lodo Pack. The backpack includes adjustable gear straps, ample zipper pockets with cord zipper pulls and a padded laptop sleeve, so your student can hold everything they need.

Bentgo Kids 5-Compartment Lunch Box

Sinclair recommends this Bentgo 5-compartment lunch box for the kiddos who can't stop spilling. The lunch box has leak-proof technology and a drop-proof design to protect this affordable school essential from those inescapable clumsy moments.

Bentgo 5-Compartment Lunch Box

While the Bento Kids lunch box has adorable patterns little ones won't be able to resist, the brand also offers lunch boxes in solid colors for the tweens and teens who are too cool for school. But everyone has their clumsy moments, so this lunch box also features the same leak-proof and drop-proof design.

Owala Kids FreeSip Water Bottle

Even little kids need an emotional support water bottle, and Owala's Kids Free Sip Water Bottle fits the bill. Sinclair loves the colorful option because of its built-in straw and wide-mouth opening. The bottle is also leak-proof for clumsy kids.

Owala FreeSip Water Bottle

No need to envy the adorable colors on your kiddo's water bottle because Owala also created a Free Sip option for adults. Sinclair says, "If you’re one of those people who likes bottles that spill water everywhere, you’re out of luck" because the FreeSip is completely leak proof.

Post-It Transparent Notes

Worried about those hefty damaged textbook fees? Worry no more thanks to Sinclair's studying staple: transparent Post-It notes! After you stick them on the textbook, you can write and highlight to your heart's content.

Skylight Digital Calendar

Sinclair stands by the Skylight Digital Calendar, which comes from the bestselling brand of digital photo frames on Amazon. Complete with a touchscreen, the digital calendar "shows schedules and photos with extraordinary clarity, color and brilliance," according to the brand.

Acrylic Monthly Calendar

Finished with brass, this acrylic monthly calendar is the tasteful back-to-school decor your kiddo needs to keep their room and their life organized. The calendar includes hardware for mounting.

Alltripol 5-in-1 Charger Doc

Thanks to this 5-in-1 charger doc, you'll only need one cord to charge up to five devices. Sinclair says you can say goodbye to "messy charger cables" because this doc gets rid of the extra charger clutter.

More back-to-school essentials

The Basics

Vans Old Skool Checkerboard Backpack

A backpack is a must on any back-to-school shopping list. This bestseller from Vans has a retro-inspired design that's perfect for all ages. According to the brand, the chili pepper red is its most popular color!

EASTHILL Big Capacity Pencil Case

Don't underestimate this bestselling pencil case — it can hold so much more than what meets the eye. Three separate interior compartments means it can house up to 90 pencils, plus loose items like erasers and sharpeners. Even better? It comes in several different designs to suit the style of every kind of learner.

Ooly Yummy Yummy Scented Glitter Gel Pens

Ooly has lots of creative school supplies that are perfect for the classroom or for use at home. This pack of shimmery gel pens is scented to make color time more fun.

Erin Condren Personalized Planning Notepad

Erin Condren makes unique planners that help keep you organized. This planning notepad is affordable and will help your student keep track of tests, assignments and after-school activities.

Erin Condren Schedule Pad

Another way to schedule those important deadlines and goals is with this larger pad, made for a desk. You can personalize both with names and make one for everyone in the family!

Learning Resources Create-a-Space Storage Center

Upgrade your homework space with the Create-A-Space Storage Center. This Amazon find can sort pens, pencils, art supplies and more. We filled it with supplies from Ooly, which added a colorful pop to the collection.

Germ Guardian Pluggable Air Purifier and Sanitizer

The Germ Guardian Pluggable Air Purifier and Sanitizer is a great option for college students. This portable pick helps reduce odors while killing airborne mold and germs with a UV sanitizing light. It also has a compact design which is ideal for small spaces.

Pottery Barn Kids Utensils & Carrying Case Set

Lunch time doesn't have to be full of finger foods. This cute utensil set includes a stainless steel fork and spoon inside a sleek carrying case that kids can use to enjoy a mess-free meal.

Hydro Flask Kids Wide Mouth Bottle

The trendy Hydro Flask bottle is a great way to keep drinks cold all day long. It comes in a kid-friendly size, but it's made with the same double-wall vacuum insulation and stainless steel exterior as the bigger bottle.

Birkenstock Arizona Essentials EVA Sandals

While it's important to stock up on the essentials, you don't want to forget back to school style! These practical sandals from Birkenstock are made with a lightweight and comfortable material. They're a TODAY reader favorite and come in fun, colorful options. Plus, they're under $50, which is quite the deal for a versatile pair of shoes.

Tech Gear

Texas Instruments 30XIIS Scientific Calculator

Every student needs a trusty calculator to get them through their school years. This scientific calculator will especially come in handy for college and high school students and is even on sale right now for $10.

Tech Candy ID Me Customizable USB Power Adapter Set

Adding a few tech gadgets to your day can make life much easier. This dorm room essential is a charger with two USB ports to power your devices. It comes with a sleeve that acts as a clip to hold all your cords in a neat bundle.

Logitech Keys-To-Go Keyboard

Connect this ultra-lightweight keyboard to your tablet or mobile device to turn it into a laptop when you're on the go. At under 10 inches long, students can throw it in a backpack or keep it handy at home. It's wrapped in a durable material that's spill-proof and crumb-proof too.

Onanoff BuddyPhones Explore Foldable Headphones

These fun headphones from Amazon are foldable, durable and comfortable — even for the smallest of ears. They also come with pre-printed stickers so the kids can decorate them from front to back!

Apple AirPods with Charging Case

Whether they'll be taking some classes remotely or just need to concentrate while they study, wireless headphones are an essential. AirPods are a popular pick, since they don't require any fussy wires and can connect via Bluetooth to computers, phones and tablets.

Covid safety in school: Kids' Masks and Sanitizers

Zazzle Kids Custom Face Mask

Not finding a mask that fits your style preference? You can create your own by adding your favorite photo, text or design to this one. It has a double-layer construction and over-the-ear elastic straps for a snug fit.

Touchland Hand Sanitizer

This popular hand sanitizer was hard to come by once racked up a waitlist of over 34,000 orders. But it is in stock and perfect for the whole family. The formula is dermatologist tested, comes in eight fragrances and won't dry out your hands.

Hand Sanitizer Carriers

Keep their hand sanitizer close by with these cute little carriers. This pack comes with eight colorful options and empty hand sanitizer bottles you can fill at home. They attach to a backpack, lunchbox or belt loop for easy access!