New School Supplies

I LOVE new school supplies.  I can vividly remember begging my mom to shop for them as soon as they started appearing in stores in July.  She refused for a very good reason.  I could not be trusted to leave them alone until late August.  I would have them all used up by late August.  The lure of the super pointy crayons and the empty tablets full of crisp paper were just too much for me.  I would peek in the bag just to smell them, but I could never stop there.  I would have to try them out.  Then, before I knew it, I would have filled a 70-page wide ruled notebook with balloon letters and my super pointy crayons would be rounded nubs.  This meant that the supplies in the bag were no longer new school supplies.  Therefore, I would need to go shopping AGAIN for the same supplies that I had accidentally used up.  My mom did not have the same love of school supplies that I did, so she did not find this game as novel as I did.  It made her somewhat grouchy.  I ended up getting my supplies the day before school started.  There was nothing good left by then.  No kitty cat folders.  No notebooks with my initials on them.  No bedazzled pencil pouches.  It was pure torture.  

My children have never had to worry about lackluster school supplies.  They may think that I am a real dork in the mom department in many arenas, but I have the school supplies covered.  I am a school supply aficionado.  I remember Emily’s first backpack.  It was pink with a big brown bow on it.  I had her first name embroidered on it.  It was absolutely precious when she wore it.  A few years ago, I was reading an article that said you should absolutely never put a child’s name on a backpack.  Kidnappers will lure children to them by using the name on the backpack to indicate that they somehow know the child.  That was great.  I had never thought of that.  Emily’s name was in letters three inches tall on her backpack.  I was apparently luring criminals to her in the largest font possible.  

As a teacher and a mom, I do have some advice on choosing school supplies.  (Obviously, I will not offer any on backpacks. I seem to have gone astray there.)  I have very strong opinions on which products work best.  When you are in a room full of six year-olds, it quickly becomes apparent which products are durable and work best in less than ideal situations.  

First, for parents of kindergarteners, start practicing now with lunchboxes.  The cafeteria is very scary to some littles on the first few days.  If they cannot open something, they may be too timid to ask for help.  They also may be willing to ask for help but be among twelve other kinders also asking for help.  That means they will have little time to actually eat.  Buy some milk cartons at a convenience store and have your child practice opening them.  They are HARD to open!  Children have no idea how to do it.  Yes, teachers show them, but it is still hard.  It is easier if they practice at home.  Have them practice until they can do it.  If they will bring a lunchbox, do this with whatever drink they will be bringing.  I imagine that most parents put the straw in the juice box/pouch for their child.  At school, the child will have to do it.  Please let him/her start doing it at home.  It is so much less scary on the first day of school if they have done it before.  Let’s talk about Lunchables.  They were designed to go into space while remaining perfectly sealed.  Your child definitely needs to practice these at home!!  Yogurt- practice opening at home.  Thermos- practice at home.  You also might want to talk to them about what to do with the food when they are finished.  We see a lot of kinders who will put their half-filled milk carton (open) into their lunch box, close the lunchbox, and head back to class.  The same goes for juice.  Teachers do talk to them about this, but a little talk at home couldn’t hurt.  I suggest eating lunch out of a lunchbox for a while before school starts to get into the swing of things.

Glue.  Glue is one of the least expensive school supplies, and the one that children go through the fastest.  Please do not buy the 32 ounce bottle of glue thinking that your child will be able to use it all six years of elementary school.  It will not last the first quarter of kindergarten.  Why?  Children cannot, will not close the lid to any form of glue.  It doesn’t matter if it’s liquid glue or glues sticks.  A glue bottle or a glue stick is good for about one use.  After that, a glue stick will be totally dried out and look like shriveled glue jerky because the cap will not have been put back on.  A glue bottle will have liquid glue in it, but the cap will have hardened glue in it and will require the teacher to spend fifteen minutes with a paperclip to make glue flow again.  If you have the means to send more glue than the supply list requires, please do so.  

Pencils.  There is only one pencil that qualifies as an actual writing utensil- Dixon Ticonderoga.  Do not be fooled by any other pencils.  They are all useless.  Teachers only want Dixon Ticonderoga.  Ticonderogas are real wood.  The graphite is in the dead center of the pencil.  When you sharpen it, it sharpens evenly every time.  Spongebob pencils are made of who-knows-what covered in a plastic sticker. The graphite-like substance in the middle is all curvy.  When you sharpen the Spongebob pencil, you might have to sharpen it until it is two inches long before you get it to an actual point.  Children love to sharpen pencils.  It is going to the coffee pot for adults.  It is a break from work.  If they can stand there and sharpen for fifteen minutes, they are delighted to do so.  They will sharpen Spongebob pencils all day long.  Ticonderogas sharpen in seconds.  

Scissors.  This really all depends on whether you want to cut paper or bend paper.  If you just want to bend paper, buy any kind of scissors.  Most school scissors bend paper, especially construction paper or card stock.  Children have to hold the paper and the scissors just so to get them to actually make a cut.  It is ridiculously frustrating.  Buy Fiskars scissors.  They actually cut things.  Do they cost more?  Yes.  My kids used the same pairs for many years though.  Scissors don’t do you any good if they don’t cut.

Crayons.  This may depend on what the school allows, but I am a huge fan of Twistable Crayola crayons.  I had so many students who would break their crayons into teeny tiny pieces for no apparent reason.  Or peel their crayons for no apparent reason.  The twistables eliminate breaking and peeling.  Plus, they stay somewhat sharp!  They are not without issues, students can twist them all the way out and break them.  But, overall, I like them.

Markers.  Crayola brand, please.  I am not sure why, but they do last longer.  The other brands do not have as much ink.  They dry out much faster.  And we do have the lid problem going on here, too.  The Crayola markers make a nice clicking sound when the lid goes on tight.  Teachers can have students listen for the click.  

Dry erase markers.  If the teacher asks for black, please send black.  Don’t send red, green, and blue.  Those red, green, and blue markers will cause absolute chaos in the classroom.  It is imperative that every child have the exact same color of marker.  If one or two children have a different color, no learning will be possible.  All attention will be focused on who has the non-black markers and why they have them and who will have them next.  You might as well have given those children crowns of gold.  No teacher will dare to give out markers that are not all the same color.  We had a whole class on it in college.  It was called Teacher Survival 101.

I will be heading out soon to buy school supplies.  My kids really only need paper and binders now, but I still look at and smell everything.  I usually buy myself a few things.  I love scented markers.  I love fine tipped markers.  I love twistable crayons.  I love seeing the little kindergartners looking for their supplies with such enthusiasm.  I hope they take their bags of supplies home and marvel over them like I did. 

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