Crayons, glue sticks, scissors — is there anything worse than back-to-school shopping? I can never find the exact thing that’s listed. (Why does Crayola make so many different kinds of markers?) But then there’s the stuff I do enjoy buying for the upcoming school year — the cool gadgets and accessories that keep our lives running smoothly. There’s some pretty neat stuff out there. Here are some favorites.
Bento Lunch Boxes
My friend Maria brought a Bentgo Kids Lunchbox ($28) to a preschool lunch bunch one afternoon, and all the moms couldn’t stop oohing and ahhing over it. There were five sections to fit a variety of foods, including a small space for ketchup or sauces. Each space is completely sealed by the lid, so no leaks, even between the spaces. After getting my own Bentgo, I realized that the largest section, which fits a half sandwich, was great for my 5-year-old, but my 7-year-old, who eats a whole sandwich, would need larger spaces. So I got her the Yumbox ($28), another box that has four bigger sections instead of five smaller ones. Worked out perfectly.
Strange to think that when we were kids, we drank from the school water fountains and everything was just fine. Nowadays the water bottle is the most essential school item. I read through hundreds of water bottle reviews online, and it seemed like Contigo Kids ($10) was the winner. The thing parents liked most? The straw is tethered to the underside of the lid, so it doesn’t end up swimming in the bottle. I was sold, since that’s the biggest problem with the other bottles we’ve been using. Also neat is the “autospout,” which keeps the bottle leak-proof even when it’s in the open position.
This keeps happening to me: I’m sneaker shopping for my son and I spot the perfect pair — they’re cute, in his favorite color, and even on sale … but they’re lace-ups! He can’t handle laces yet and I can’t handle tying them every five minutes for him. I was bemoaning this problem to my friend Jenny recently, and she had the perfect solution, as she usually does: elastic laces! SlackLace sells them in a dozen different colors ($8) and they look just like regular laces, except you just have to tie them once. The elasticity lets the kids pull on their sneakers without having to untie them. Genius!
Family Planner Wall Calendar
Even though I use the calendar on my iPhone, I’m a wall calendar person at heart. I like seeing the month laid out in front of me. But typical wall calendars can get really messy when you’re scribbling in plans for four people every day, so when I spotted a family planner calendar on my friend Deidra’s fridge a couple of years ago, I knew I had to buy one. Every day is sectioned off with a grid so that each family member has their own space. Everyone’s plans are kept neat and legible. This will be the third year that I use The Busy Family Planner ($15).
Whenever I think about buying name labels for my kids’ stuff, I remember that Seinfeld episode where Jerry gets a label maker that only makes defective stickers, which end up falling off. But I guess label making has come a long way, because several moms I know swear by Mabel’s Labels ($42 for either the Ultimate Back-to-School Combo or Little Kid School Combo; smaller, less expensive packages are also offered on the site). The stickers are super sticky and super durable — they’re even waterproof, dishwasher safe and microwave safe. You can attach them to everything from thermoses to clothes, even shoes. Plus, I like that the company was founded by four moms.
What products do you love for back to school? And can you believe that the first day is just around the corner?!