The New Back-to-School Supplies: A Guide for Parents During the Pandemic
Heading off to school this year may call for some adjustments to your shopping list. Along with freshly sharpened pencils and a brand-new backpack comes an assortment of gear designed to protect your child in the wake of COVID-19. But before you hit the stores in person or online, experts say it makes sense to first talk to your child about how to adopt safe practices.
"As a parent, I try to explain that things are still uncertain at this time, but there will be some things that will be different when they're at school," says Jacqueline A. Vernarelli, assistant professor of public health at Sacred Heart University. She recommends letting kids pick out their own masks and wearing them around the house to get used to the feeling.
Creating a healthy home plan together is another way to acclimate kids to changes ahead. "Have kids be involved wherever possible, whether it's thinking of a 'backpack spot' (avoid tables or countertops where food is served and prepared) or washing their masks every day," says Sacred Heart University clinical assistant professor of public health Sofia Pendley. In addition to stocking up on enough face coverings to last between washes, she recommends an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60 percent) that can be clipped to a backpack.
Aside from keeping hands clean, remind kids to hydrate safely. "Making sure kids have their own water bottles will be helpful to limit the risk of infection from water fountains shared by other children," says Rachel Prete, DO, pediatrician at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. Washable lunchboxes and backpacks that can be thrown into the laundry are also a smart choice.
With these suggestions in mind, here are of our favorite school supplies for ushering in the new normal:
Honest Company Kids Cotton Face Masks
These machine-washable, 100-percent cotton face coverings are perfectly proportioned for pint-sized features. They are fully adjustable and come in variety of patterns, including Pattern Play (shown here), Rose Blossom and Cactus.
Sneaker LAB Sneaker Wipes
Keep those grimy germs at bay by swiping dirty sneakers and shoes with these biodegradable wipes. This 12-pack of environmentally friendly towelettes works on most fabrics, including canvas, leather and suede.
Hello Bello Hand Sanitizer Gel
In-between bathroom breaks just got a whole lot cleaner. This sweet-smelling, citrusy gel is 70 percent alcohol-based, meeting the CDC recommendations for proper sanitization. The vegan- and cruelty-free formula is gentle on skin, but tough on germs. Available in 8 oz., 2-count bottles.
Lands' End Kids TechPack Large Backpack
Help your kid balance his load with a bag that is gentle on his back, but able to shoulder all his gear this year. Adjustable straps allow for the most comfortable fit, while reinforced handles and interior keep everything secure. For a thorough cleaning, place backpack into a mesh laundry bag or pillowcase and wash on a gentle cycle setting.
Babyganics Foaming Hand Sanitizer
Does your child have a strong aversion to the sticky residue of some hand sanitizers? This light-as-air foam version is the perfect alternative. The convenient pump makes it easy to use (Dr. Prete recommends keeping one deskside), and the moisturizing formula is ideal for repeat use.
MaskClub Superman Action Comics 1 Cover Face Mask
Let kids show the world just how important it is to be a real superhero. These masks feature smaller fabric areas and shorter elastic bands—perfect for little faces. Feel-good bonus: For every mask purchased, MaskClub will donate a medical-grade mask to First Responders Children's Foundation for individuals treating COVID-19 patients.
Mabel's Labels Heart-Shaped Labels
Send them off the school with some extra love. These easy-to-peel labels can be affixed to essential gear like school supply containers, lunchboxes and even electronics. Have kids peel and stick the labels on their belongings—and avoid making frequent trips to the lost-and-found.
Funkins Lunch Bags
Mealtime calls for safe eating, and that means an insulated lunchbox that can stand up to germs. A sturdy, sporty design with built-in handle lets this bag go from backpack to lunch table effortlessly, and you can pop it into the laundry as needed. Available in a variety of prints (Space Rockets, shown here) and solid colors.
Old Navy Triple-Layer Cloth Face Masks
Variety may be the spice of life, but it also applies to mask-wearing. This 5-pack of face coverings has something to suit your most fashion-conscious kid; the three-ply design in breathable cotton provides a secure fit—and lets you breathe easy, too.
Pottery Barn Kids Stainless Steel Food Container Set
If last night’s leftovers have become today’s lunch, be sure you have the right place to stash it. This dishwasher-safe set is generously sized for housing everything from pasta and salad, to apple slices and cookies.
Tartan + Twine Basics Clear Pencil Case
Keep pens and pencils at the ready with this handy, one-zip bag. The see-through design makes finding a pencil a no-brainer, and the PVC style is easy to wipe clean and disinfect.