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Back-to-school list: 29 best back-to-school supplies for 2021

From backpacks to sanitizer, 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.

As most parents know, students will need more than just the standard pencils and pens. On July 27, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that all students in K-12 schools wear face coverings in the classroom, regardless of their vaccination status. With the delta variant now accounting for a majority of Covid-19 cases in the U.S., it's important to send your student — whether they're heading into kindergarten or high school — off to school with everything they need to have a safe and productive year.

The Shop TODAY team rounded up some of the best products to add to your back-to-school shopping list. From the back-to-school basics and home learning essentials to face masks and sanitizers, read more about our picks below.

The Basics

1. 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!

2. Yoobi Standing Silicone Panda Face Pencil Case

Equally as adorable as it is functional, this pencil case can keep all of their stationery items in one place. It can fit neatly on a desk or inside a backpack, and won't take up too much room.

3. 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.

4. Classroom Writing Bundle

Skip the individual packs of pens, pencils and erasers and opt for this bundle. You'll save time when it comes to browsing for your supplies, and also save some cash when your purchase all three of them together.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. Global Datebooks 2021-2022 Elementary Student Planner

Even little ones can keep track of assignments, projects, playdates and more with this elementary student planner. It runs through June 2022, so they can plan out the entire school year!

8. 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!

9. Rifle Paper Co. Set of 3 Lively Floral Stitched Notebooks

Skip the boring composition books and opt for something a little more colorful this school year. These floral notebooks come in sets of three and will make a bright addition to any school day.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. Cat & Jack Bento Box

Target's exclusive kids' apparel and accessory line has a bunch of bento boxes and lunch boxes that you can mix and match for under $10. The bento box has a hard outer shell, dividers on the inside and a snap-on lid that stays secure to avoid unnecessary spills.

13. Cat & Jack Lunch Box

This affordable lunch box comes in multiple patterns from camo to unicorns for just $9.99. It features a carrying handle, an insulated interior and a buckle so you can easily attach it to a backpack.

14. Stojo Sandwich Box

Whether you want to toss a sandwich or a salad in this lunch box, it will keep everything inside fresh and secure, so you don't have to worry about spills. This sustainable swap is made with foodgrade silicone and is dishwasher safe for easy care. And when it's empty, it easily folds into itself to save space.

15. 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.

16. 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.

17. 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

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Tech Candy Triple Header Maxi Cable

This genius three-tipped cable allows you to power three devices using the same cord. It's great for small spaces and allows for charging and data connection.

4. Sonix UV Lightbox

Keep your phone, keys and classroom essentials clean with this UV sanitizer. It uses medical-grade sanitizing technology to zap away germs in a matter of seconds. Just place your contents inside, shut the lid and push a button to start the sanitizing.

5. 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.

6. 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!

7. 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

1. Old Navy Variety 5-Pack of Masks

If your kid is going to the classroom, a face mask may be required. readers are fans of these reusable masks from Old Navy. You can get a five-pack for just $12.50, and each set comes with multiple colors that you can assign to each day of the week!

2. BaubleBar Adjustable Face Masks 2-Pack

Speaking of reader-favorites, this celebrity-loved jewelry company makes stylish masks. This two-pack is crafted with breathable, cotton fabric and perfect for any style-conscious student. The brand tells us that they sold out of their first batch in just two days, and by the look of the designs, we can understand why.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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!

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