Ultimate School Supply List for Every Grade

Updated August 5, 2021
Girl With Backpack Standing In Store

Heading back to school is an exciting time for kids (and probably for some parents), but this transition also brings forth plenty of stress and anxiety and so much planning. A successful school year requires so much more than a good attitude and a smile. Supplies are definitely necessary, and every phase of learning comes with different tangible needs. While school supply lists vary, this ultimate list will get families off to a solid start.

Managing the Family's School Supply List

If you have one child heading back to school, you can probably manage the items that the teacher has asked you to bring on the first day. If you have several kids varying in age and grade, the lists get longer and more complicated. It's a challenge to keep everything straight. You need a one-stop-shop list for all back-to-school needs, and a means to keep everything organized and orderly.

Ultimate Back-to-School Supply List

General Back-to-School List for Elementary-Aged Children

If your child is in elementary school, then you will probably notice an extra-long supply list. Depending on your kid's school and teacher, lists will vary, but generally you can expect to find the following items on an elementary-aged student's back-to-school supply list:

Supplies for Lower-Elementary School Children

If your child is in pre-kindergarten to second grade, the following school supplies are common requests:

  • Sharpened pencils
  • Large pink erasers
  • A box of crayons
  • Markers
  • Glue sticks
  • Colored pencils
  • Backpack
  • Lunch box
  • Art shirt (labeled)
  • A folder for transporting work and notes (although many teachers and schools provide a laminated transportation folder)
  • A notebook
  • Tennis shoes - ideal for plenty of playground play
Backpack With School Supplies And Sneakers

Supplies for Upper-Elementary School Children

Students in third to fifth grade will likely continue to need the supplies that are requested in the lower elementary grades, but they will often have additional supplies added to their list to meet their growing learning needs.

  • Folders for various subjects
  • Multiple notebooks (for math and journaling) and/or loose leaf paper
  • Ruler
  • Possible Trapper Keeper and subject dividers
  • Highlighters- students this age begin to learn how to identify critical information in text
  • Pencil case or box - students begin to house their own materials at their desks as they get older and communal supplies are less common
  • Pencils - preferably sharpened
  • Pens - time to learn those editing skills, kids!
  • Highlighters
  • Markers
  • Erasers
  • Colored pencils
  • Crayons
  • Backpack
  • Lunch box
  • Gym shoes

Back-to-School List for Middle School Students

Middle school students enter a whole new world of switching classes and spending their school day rotating through various subjects. This new schedule often requires a new supply list that differs from what parents were used to in earlier elementary years. Standard supplies are now combined with a new set of school needs.

  • Pencils
  • Erasers
  • Pens
  • Highlighters
  • Trapper Keepers (or three-ring binder) and subject dividers or folders for each subject
  • Several notebooks and loose leaf paper
  • Graphing calculator (possibly)
  • Graphing paper (possibly)
  • Index cards - bringing note-taking and studying to a whole other level
  • Colored pencils
  • Markers
  • Crayons (possibly)
  • A pencil sharpener - middle school kids sure do love to chat at the classroom sharpener, which cuts down on learning time
  • Large backpack for far more items
  • Lunch box
  • Gym shoes and clothes, along with deodorant for gym class
  • Stapler and staples (keep at home)
  • Art supplies - if your child is taking an art class
School supplies and lunch box

Back-to-School List for High School Students

Your kid is officially in the big times now! The supply lists coming home during the first days of high school are likely to be fragmented, meaning each subject teacher has their own supply requests. Gather the lists coming home and make a master list of needed supplies. You will notice that many teachers have overlapping requests, and you do not need to buy five boxes of pencils for the start of a new year. Consolidate where you can, and make sure to pay careful attention to each teacher's list.

  • Common supplies like pencils, erasers, folders, 3-ring binders, notebooks, loose leaf paper, highlighters, pens of various colors, and colored pencils
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Graphing calculator
  • Graphing paper
  • Gym supplies (If your child is taking a physical education class)
  • Art supplies (If your child is doing an art elective)
  • Purse or wallet for identification and money
  • Heavy-duty backpack

The Good Old "Extras"

No matter your child's age, their supply wish list is going to include a few "extras." These are not required items, but rather items that the teacher feels will help make the school year run more smoothly. Suggested items are merely that: if you can swing them, excellent; if you can't, that is perfectly okay too. Focus on the absolute necessities and then see if your budget allows for the extra supplies like:

  • Tissues (colds are coming, people)!
  • Clorox wipes
  • Ziploc bags
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Scissors
  • Locker accessories (for older students)
  • Book covers

Most of the extras that are put on supply lists are community items. Plenty of parents or the school PTA will be donating them. If you cannot afford the supplementary items, they will still show up on the first day of school, so don't sweat it.

Organizing All Those Supplies

Once you have all of the school supplies (and you should earn a gold medal for getting this far), you need to keep them organized. This is incredibly important if your family includes several children. Shopping for supplies is one hurdle, but once you reach the check-out line and everything gets tossed in shopping bags, another hurdle arises.

Getting Everything Into the Right Spot

When you get home with those supply loads, leave everything in the car until you can deal with sorting them. Once you carve out time to organize the supplies, have a paper bag and a supply list for each child in your family. Label the bags with each kid's name, grade, and homeroom teacher. Take an item out of your shopping bag, find whose bag the item goes in, and put it directly in the bag. Cross the item off of the supply list it is located on.

Do this massive task when you know you will have limited interruptions. Organizing supplies is a process, and mistakes will undoubtedly be made. Being able to finish sorting supplies in one swoop will feel like a giant parenting win.

Close Up Shop and Hide Those Supplies

Once all supplies are purchased and tucked away in their respective bags, seal those bags up! Do not leave them lying around. As excited as you are for the kids to be headed back to school, they are also pretty pumped. They will be itching to get into their pens, markers, locker decor, and pretty pencil boxes. If you leave the bags of supplies hanging around the kitchen, the kids will get into them, and things will go missing. Staple them shut and tuck them away until the first day of school or a designated supply drop-off day.

Neat drawer with assorted stationery for school

Get Everything to School in One Trip

The day has come, and the kids are heading back into the classroom! There is a ton to remember on this major milestone morning, and you won't want to forget your bag of supplies. Pack them into the car the evening before the first day if you are driving the kids to school. If the kids are riding the bus, consider bringing supplies in yourself before school or after school if you think there is a chance they will never make it out of the school bus seat. If supply bags do get left on the bus, remember, everything is labeled with your child's name, grade, and teacher!

You Are Off to a Great Start!

Back-to-school season is a busy time for families. There is so much to tackle and so much to remember. Make sure to buy the pertinent supplies for your children's upcoming school year, and organize and store them properly. Get them to school, kiss the kiddos goodbye and pat yourself on the back. One hurdle down for the year, several million to go, parents!

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Ultimate School Supply List for Every Grade