Right around now is when everyone starts to prepare for the back to school shopping season. Depending on the age of your student your list in the past probably included pens, pencils, binders, backpacks, folders and notebook paper. These essentials got your kid started on the road to success for a year of expanding their knowledge and imagination with their peers. So, what does a school year in an age of social distancing guidelines and a worldwide pandemic entail? We’re not entirely sure yet, but we know that your list may look a little different.
Hopefully you’ve got an idea of what your child’s school situation is going to be for the upcoming year whether it’s entirely remote learning, hybrid learning or in-person learning that’s socially distanced. Any of the options is going to be an adjustment for your child, and the circumstances of their learning may change during the year in correspondence with the guidance of local health officials, the health of the teachers as well as their fellow students. To put it plainly, it’s going to be a bit of a mess — which is why preparation is our best bet at the moment. We talked with two different school teachers who are preparing, alongside millions of others across the country, for this straight up weird upcoming year. Tyler Moore, a.k.a the Tidy Dad, is a 7th grade schoolteacher at a charter school in NYC and a father to three daughters, the oldest of which is entering kindergarten this year and the youngest of which was born on March 16th, or the day that schools closed during last school year.
He had a lot to say about the unprecedented nature of this upcoming year and how he’s preparing for a completely different school year both as a teacher and a parent of a student entering school for the first time.
“13 years into being a teacher I’m being tested in ways that I just never thought imaginable,” Moore noted during our talk.
When asked about his mindset heading into this year, he described that he “never thought it was in the realm of possibility that I could move what I was doing in the classroom to a digital space and that I could do it from my home. I feel like just seeing what we’ve scrambled to do at the end of last school year I’m really interested to start this new school year, feeling like I’m able to build upon what we did last school year in terms of using technology and using all of the different resources, but also I have a better understanding of how to meet the needs of the kids.”
We also spoke with Dr. Justine Green, Ed.D, principal at Tamin Academy and author of children’s book, Completely Me.
When asked about the challenges of this upcoming year, she noted that teachers are “facing many challenges right now, other than their health and safety. Many teachers have decided not to come back to work in a school setting this year because they are not comfortable with virtual learning, they are worried about COVID-19, or they struggle with daycare options… the list goes on.
“Teachers are not coming back and schools are choosing not to have additional people on campus so those who are working in schools opening in person have to wear even more hats. There are less teachers, those who are staying are working harder than ever, they’re trying to adjust while staying safe and trying to teach a curriculum at the same time. We should treat our teachers like gold.”
Preparing for this upcoming year starts with the right mindset — of determination, grit, support and gratitude towards our teachers who are doing their very best to make sure students stay on track in their learning and development. Next, comes the supplies needed.
We’ve put together a back-to-school shopping list for a pandemic era that includes some of the basics, some extra items aimed at protection and some must-haves for at-home learning that will help you and your child get through this together. We want to say that we salute all of you parents, teachers, students and school administrators who are going through this — these are unprecedented times and you’re doing a great job.
In-Person or Hybrid Learning
Some school districts have decided to bring students back into classrooms with safety precautions in place including social distancing and mask wearing. Time will tell whether the in-person learning will last and remain safe for everyone involved, but we should bet on success with our shopping. Here are a few helpful items to add to your list for this school year that will cover your child’s bases when it comes to safety and learning.
1. Cubcoats Kids Face Masks
Face masks have become the norm through being one of the easiest ways to prevent the spread of this virus. Your child may be uncomfortable wearing one at first, but approaching it through the lens of safety and care for others will help. Face masks for kids are widely available and come in a bunch of cute designs, like these kitty and bear ones from Cubcoats. They’re reusable and hand washable so you can switch off between them and sanitize between uses. They have a metal nose piece built in for a protective fit and elastic ear straps that hold snug.
2. KINIA Kids Hand Sanitizer Keychain Carriers 8-Pack
Hand washing and sanitizing has become the name of the game these days, and these brightly colored, fun hand sanitizer carriers are about to become your kid’s new favorite accessory. They come in an 8-pack of fun, jelly-wrapped carriers that almost mask the hand washing in a toy. They do come empty, so make sure you purchase bulk hand sanitizer to fill them with before attaching them to your child’s backpack or lunchbox.
3. SupplyAID Hand Sanitizer
You can use these bulk bottles of hand sanitizer to fill the kid-friendly carriers above, and teach them about the importance of sanitizing their hands before meals and frequently throughout the day. This formula contains 80% alcohol for 99% of germs on contact. It dries quickly and won’t leave behind a sticky residue that’ll turn your kid away from getting in the habit of using it. It’s also enhanced with aloe for soothing and moisturizing skin.
4. Skip Hop Toddler Backpack
What kid doesn’t get excited about a brand new backpack they get to bring to school? If your child is going to school every day, this backpack is one of the cutest options out there and comes in a bunch of different animal shapes including this dinosaur. It’s made for kids preschool age through kindergarten and has an insulated front pouch so packed snacks and lunch stay at the right temperature. The canvas material and lining is easy to clean and sanitize when they get home every day, and the main compartment is roomy enough to fit their favorite toys, water bottle and more.
5. TRENDYMAX Blocks Backpack for School
This backpack is made for older kids who are elementary and middle-school age. It comes in a variety of patterns from galaxy print to this fun LEGO-block pattern. It has a smooth, durable closure and the spacious compartment can hold everything they need for class and beyond with a variety of pockets. It has a 16″ shoulder drop and is made with durable, lightweight fabric that’s easy to sanitize. It also has sturdy YKK zippers, padded shoulders and a back that’ll make even the heaviest books more comfortable to carry.
6. Caresour Advanced Alcohol Sanitizer Wipes
Speaking of sanitizing between uses, these wipes will definitely come in handy this school year (and they’re currently in stock!) Use them to wipe down backpacks, lunch boxes and even binders when your child gets home to protect you and them from potential germs or bacteria they may have picked up while surrounded by other children. You can also throw a pack in the car and make it a habit to sanitize your cellphone, water bottle and other items that are frequently touched.
7. Samsill Fashion Color 3-Ring Storage Binders
Binders is a standard back to school shopping item even during non-COVID times, and these are a great option for now due to the ability to easily sanitize for them. We recommend opting for a non-fabric binder this year so you can give it a quick and effective wipe down post-school day. This 6-pack has a variety of assorted colors included and has rust-resistant 1-inch rings and double boosters that can hold up to 225 sheets.
8. OmieBox Bento Box for Kids
This OmieBox Bento Box is a lunchbox for the next generation with a thermos insert designed to keep warm food warm all day long until lunchtime. Don’t send a million smaller containers that you’ll have to clean separately and opt for this convenient and easy-to-fill bento box that also happens to be easy to sanitize. It’s made with durable 304 grade stainless steel and is built to last weighing in at only 1.7 lbs. It’s also BPA-free so you can rest assured knowing you’re keeping your little one safe. The rubber seals that keep this Bento Box sealed shut until your child wants to open it are also easy to remove so you can wash it thoroughly every day after school, and it’s large enough to fit in snacks and keep all food separate.
9. The Coolest Shields Face Shields for Kids
If your kid refuses to wear a mask or you want to give them options to switch it up, they make face shields for kids as well. These are designed to stop droplets from dispersing from coughs or sneezes and come in both adult and children’s sizes. They make them in a variety of animal themes and are made of comfortable, durable material with a removable plastic liner that’s easy to clean. Grab a pair and wear them together to your child’s first day of school to celebrate the new normal as safely as possible.
Remote Learning / Home Schooling
Remote learning and/or home schooling is also about to become the norm for many families living in districts where schools have opted for that option entirely or are heading that direction due to spikes in cases. Regardless of how you get there, home schooling is a whole other beast than keeping your kid safe at school each day, and we’re gathered some items that will be helpful in maintaining an orderly and productive environment at home.
We also asked both Mr. Moore and Dr. Green about their recommendations for students when it comes to remote learning successfully. Moore noted that access to good technology is key — as well as reliable internet.
“I would say the biggest issue is access to good technology — we have laptops for all of the students, but what they’re being asked to use those laptops for during remote learning is completely different than what they were being asked to do in the classroom. Access to reliable internet and high-speed internet that allows them to complete forms and have multiple tabs open at the same time.”
Preparing your children through having access to the technology is important, and it may also be a good idea to make sure your internet connection is up to speed and can support the bandwidth that’s going to be needed for these tech-heavy lessons.
Dr. Green remarked that it largely varied based on grade level, and provided insight into what the supplies recommendations are based on age and developmental stage.
“For the younger ages we suggest an iPad with bluetooth keyboard and for the older students they need some sort of a computer or laptop. They need access to wifi and electricity. If you have access to a device with a video camera for virtual meetings and lessons,” said Dr. Green.
“But don’t forget that the younger students need adult supervision with them. This has been the biggest issue for many families. Some parents work out of the house and now they need to figure out what to do about their first grader at home with virtual school.”
10. Amcrest 1080p Webcam with Microphone
In order for your child to communicate with their teacher and the rest of their class you’ll need a solid web cam with a microphone built in. This one from Amcrest can stream in 1080p and comes with a wide 70″ viewing angle so the teacher should be able to see your child even if they move around in their seat a little bit. The microphone has built-in noise reduction in case things get loud in the background, and it attaches via USB so the setup is easy and compatible with Windows and Mac computers.
11. Logitech M325C Kids Wireless Mouse
Your child is probably already a bit experienced in the world of computers, but this mouse is made to fit in smaller hands and will make their days of learning remotely easier. It comes in a variety of fun colors and patterns, and has micro-precise scrolling that makes all navigation on the computer more efficient. The contoured shape is designed to keep your hand comfortable for hours and the textured rubber grips are designed with a child’s grip in mind.
12. Non-Slip Desk Pad
If you’ve got the space, setting up a designated space for your child to work and learn might be worthwhile. They’ll know that study station is theirs and will be more excited to learn there if they’ve made it their own. This non-slip desk pad is great for defining that space and creating a non-slip surface for the mouse to function on and will protect your desk from spills if they decide to bring their breakfast to class with them. It’s made of durable PVC leather on top and suede material underneath that won’t move around. It’s waterproof, oil-proof and easy to clean with a simple wipe down.
13. OCOOPA LED Kids Desk Lamp
Another way to curate your child’s desk space? A fun lamp. This kids desk lamp comes in both a yellow and pink design and has a 360-degree adjustable gooseneck that can easily bend to the exact position your child wants it in. It has 12 LED beads that power the light with no frequent flash, no dizzy light and an eye-friendly glow. It has a built-in rechargeable battery, and a pencil holder at the base of the stem.
14. Livho Kids Blue Light Blocking Glasses
Since your child doesn’t have to wear a mask at home, getting them to wear these blue light blocking glasses might be a bit easier. Sitting in front of a computer all day isn’t good for anyone, especially little ones with developing eyesight. These glasses will reduce visual fatigue with UV400 protection as well as glare reduction. These frames are ultra-lightweight and flexible, they’re made of eco-friendly TR90 silicone frames that can be twisted and bent without breaking so they’re protective and kid-friendly.
15. Zicac Chair Increasing Cushion
If you’re setting your child up at the dining room table or your desk chances are they might need a bit of a boost to reach a comfortable height, especially for using the computer. This booster seat is made of high-density soft sponge so it acts as a comfortable seat cushion and a booster seat at the same time. It’s made of durable, anti-wrinkle fabric that’s also abrasion-resistant. It has an adjustable belt for attaching to a variety of chairs and has a removable cover that can be easily disassembled and machine-washed. It’s also lightweight and portable making it ideal to take to a restaurant or movie theater once the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
16. Learning Resources Time Tracker
Something that will definitely help everyone during these days of remote learning is a timer. Keep your day and each lesson on track with this handy simple timer with three different lights and an optional alarm to alert your child that it’s time for class or that class is over. It’s very easy to use and even features a warning time option. Use it for bribed countdowns to keep your child in their seat is necessary!
Moore noted that in addition to the technological equipment that connects students to teachers and vice versa, the usual supplies that students would have access to in a classroom is also crucial to have for remote learning, especially for younger children.
“Being completely set up and having all of those different things is important, but then also having the actual physical pencil, paper, workbooks, extension activities, having access to a computer that can connect to the printer is important,” Moore said. “All of those tech things that I mentioned are on [my list] but also the traditional school supplies like for my daughter — the scissors, crayons, all of those things that we would want in the classroom at school we need to have at her disposal at home too.”
17. 45 Piece School Supply Kit Grades K-12
Home schooling or not, your child will need supplies. Rather than piecing everything together separately this 45-piece set has everything they’ll need to get started with the year at home or in the classroom with notebooks, folders, pencils, highlighters, crayons and more. The products are all compliant with safety standards and made for kids to use. Save yourself time and an extra step in preparing for the year and order this bulk set in one go.
In conclusion, Dr. Green noted that the most important thing to keep in mind going into this school year is that “Everyone is doing the best they can at this time. We have to respect each other and the decisions others make for themselves and their families.”
“Teachers are working very hard. Administration is working very hard. The janitorial staff is working very hard. Remember to be kind to the people who are putting their lives, potentially, on the line before a vaccine is available.”