The dulcet tones of the school bell will be here faster than you can say “back to school,” and that means it’s time to get all your — or your child’s — scholastic needs squared away. While functionality is important when shopping for school staples, we think it’s important not to neglect beauty and fun, too. Sure, a pencil case may seem like it’s just a pencil case, but good design trains the eye and sparks joy (our regards to Marie Kondo) and turns even the humblest of school basics into an occasion for delight at every use. Can it be done without breaking the bank? We humbly submit the following as evidence in the affirmative.
U Brands Weekly Planning Notepad ($8.97; walmart.com)
Staying on top of your time and responsibilities is one of the biggest beneficial lessons a child can learn — but admittedly, very few people find that to-do lists raise their heart rates. That’s why a little style goes a long way in a daily planner. This one has clean, modern lines and gold-foil edges that make planning a pleasure.
Wonder Nation School Uniform Stretch Twill Flat Front Pants ($6.50; walmart.com)
The debate about uniforms is endless, but we can all agree that if you have to wear some variation on the classic khaki-pants-and-polo combo, the least you can do is make sure you’re comfortable. These pants fit the bill in that regard, with stretch fabric and an adjustable waistband to meet every growth spurt as it comes — and all at an attractive price.
Yoobi, Composition Book College Ruled ($2.97; walmart.com)
The marbled-front notebook is a classic, but that doesn’t mean classics shouldn’t get a refresh every once in a while. These fun, fabulous Yoobi composition books are just the thing for injecting a splash of color and verve into the learning process. And they come in a variety of designs, too, to match all tastes. Even better? For every Yoobi item you purchase, a Yoobi item will be donated to a child in need, right here in the U.S.
Elmer’s Liquid Glitter Glue, Washable ($3.97; walmart.com)
This is one of those cases where the Sparkle Rule is in force: Why buy the regular version of something when you can have the sparkle version? There’s no good answer to that question, which is why it’s only logical that you pick up these glue pens to meet all your adhesive needs. You get the same washable, safe, nontoxic formula you expected, but with an added side of glee. Plus, according to the manufacturer, you just need to add a few common household ingredients (such as contact lens solution and baking soda) to create custom slime. Again, Sparkle Rule: Regular slime is fun, glitter slime is FUNNER.
Set of 4 Russbe Reusable Snack & Sandwich Bags ($9.95; walmart.com)
It’s never too early to build thoughtful, sustainable habits. That’s one reason we love these reusable snack and sandwich bags — they keep hundreds of disposable plastic bags out of landfills and oceans. Another reason is the fun, colorful design. Chowing down with these bright and smiling faces makes snacktime or lunchtime that much more enjoyable after a hard morning of learning.
ZIPIT Wildlings Jumbo Pencil Pouch ($9.99; walmart.com)
A playful zipper mouth and big googly eyes? Lots of space to swallow all the pens, pencils, erasers, and everything else you throw at it? Excellent quality and durability? Designs girls and boys will both love? Excellent reviews? Yes, please.
Five Star Locker Light + Mirror ($7.99; walmart.com)
Graduating up to a locker is a big deal for a kid. It opens up all sorts of possibilities, not the least of which is having a safe space to call your own in a place that can sometimes feel a little institutional. This combo mirror and light not only illuminates those dark recesses at the back of the locker but can save a bad hair day, too. Let’s be honest: For your average middle schooler, that’s a lifesaver.
Pilot FriXion Clicker Erasable Gel Ink Retractable Pen, 7/Pack ($9.06; walmart.com)
Erasable pen tech has come a long way. Case in point: These little magic wands write the way a good gel pen should, erase like a dream, and rest naturally in the hand. It’s a miracle made possible by heat: Rubbing the eraser produces friction — and therefore heat — that cancels out the temperature-sensitive dye. The upshot is that you get the best of both worlds, marrying the glide and staying power of ink with graphite’s ability to disappear when erased. Little us would have loved it.