Best back-to-school supplies for 2024 as recommended by parents

Shopping for back-to-school supplies? We asked parents for their best buys

A collage of items featured in our guide to buying the best back to school supplies
(Image credit: Future)
Recent updates

This article has been updated to include some extra product recommendations including the best back-to-school books and gadgets. We have also removed any out-of-date product or price information and added some expert advice on shopping for the best back-to-school supplies. 

The best back-to-school supplies can be hard to find but our edit has all the coolest essentials for the start of term.

Back-to-school season is well and truly here and by now you've probably shopped for the best school shoes and typed 'when do the kids go back to school' into Google - but how sorted are you for back-to-school supplies? We've curated the best items to buy including pencil cases, lunch boxes, pens, labels, water bottles - the lot. 

If you're looking to grab a back-to-school bargain, Money Mum Gemma Bird recommends choosing items that can double up not just for school but for the whole year long. "Invest in good quality items, which will last longer and can also be used on weekends and days out for children, particularly water bottles, snack boxes, and other school accessories," she tells us. "Also, make sure items are clearly marked with your child’s name so they can be returned easily if they get lost."

The best back-to-school supplies 2024

Our pick of the best back-to-school supplies aims to add fun and a dash of style to learning. And, of course, we've chosen quality durable items that stand a good chance of lasting from the beginning of back-to-school season and throughout the school year.

Best back-to-school stationery

There is a certain stationery shop near my son's school which we have to walk past daily. This means I get asked to go in to buy new supplies on a frequent basis (the struggle is real). Still, in an era dominated by digital communication and technological advancements, it's nice to see the charm of stationery and accessories continues to captivate children. Here's our pick of the best back-to-school stationery supplies.

The Zipit pencil case

(Image credit: Zipit)

1. Zipit pencil case, £11.99, Amazon

Got a kid who loves to take everything to school? We hear you. For those that need all the pens and pencils plus a bit more then the Doodles design is a great choice of pencil case. It comes in an array of colours and can be machine washed on a gentle cycle plus it fits a whopping 55 pencils.

One fan says: 'Opens like a box so you can see everything inside without rummaging through everything. Good enough to use as a makeup bag when travelling too!' 

The That's My Pencil pencil case

(Image credit: That's My Pencil)

2. That's my pencil, £16.99, Amazon

We all know a personalised case is fun but what about the contents? This personalised set of engraved coloured pencils can be personalised with your child's full name, meaning fewer lost pencils in the classroom. 

We love the unique roll-up design of the case means that it can easily fit into a bag or backpack for travelling around, too.

The Pop Stationery Set from the Original Stationery Set

(Image credit: Original Stationery Store)

3. Pop Stationery Set, £16.35 |Amazon

Pop-its are perfect for active minds that tend to fidget and this set includes a pencil case, notebook, pens and keyring.

The Pop-it craze is extremely popular and these eye-catching items seem to have a therapeutic effect on children, which they can find soothing, reducing tension and even help them focus. Plus we think they look pretty stylish too!

A Harry Potter pencil case from Amazon

(Image credit: Harry Potter)

4. Harry Potter Pencil Case, £13.99 | Amazon

If the phrase 'back to school' immediately makes you wonder where your Hogwarts letter has got to, chances are you're a Harry Potter obsessive - and your little one is too. Fans of the magical wizarding world will be spellbound by this cute themed pencil case, which is sturdy enough to withstand multiple school years, and even comes with stationery included in the form of eight colouring pencils, an HB pencil, a pen, a ruler, and an eraser.

The Stabilo Easyoriginal Start Left Handed Pen

(Image credit: Stabilo)

5. Stabilo Easyoriginal Start Left Handed Pen, £6.99 | Ryman

Stabilo is the leader in handwriting pens - they come in left and right-handed designs and are ergonomically created by scientists to actively promote confidence in writing and help to improve handwriting. 

Mum-of-two, Amy tells us: "Since using these I've seen a real difference - my girls now actually ask to write things themselves, whereas before they'd actively avoid it."

The UnMistakeAbles Erasable Coloured Pencils from Ooly

(Image credit: ooly)

6. UnMistakeAbles Erasable Coloured Pencils, £11 | Kidly

The pesky thing about coloured pencils is that you can't rub them out... right? Wrong! These fabulous erasable coloured pencils are perfect for kids (and adults!) who make mistakes as they learn and express their creativity. The set includes 12 coloured pencils in all colours of the rainbow with eraser tips and a handy bag to keep them all together too. 

Best lunch boxes and water bottles

Straw or screw top? Soft top or hard case lunchbox? To bento or not to bento? That is the question! 

I have to admit I've made many a lunch box faux pas. I've bought the water bottle that can't cope with being tipped upside down and the box that looks pretty fancy but completely leaks (smelly guacamole spillage, anyone?)

Thankfully these days I'm locked and loaded when it comes to lunch prep and the best items tend to be quality materials that can withstand any kind of outdoor escapade.

We've gathered a selection of top-notch additions that offer leak protection, impressive durability, and a touch of stylish charm.

Air Up Starter Set

(Image credit: AirUp)

7. Air Up Starter Set, £34.99 |

Struggle to get your little one to drink water? Then enter the Air Up. A nifty slim bottle that has scented pods, they bring a bit of zing to your regular water.

With flavours such as strawberry, watermelon and raspberry and lemon, each clip-in pod brings five litres of flavour to the water. Refreshing.

If drinking two litres of water a day is a chore for you, let alone your child, the Air Up phenomenon will be a game-changer. The bottles come with flavoured pods such as watermelon, peach or cherry, that you smell, and because 80% of what you perceive as flavour comes from what you're smelling, you'll feel you are drinking a yummy flavoured drink when in fact you're just drinking plain water. Genius - and kids love it!

Dad-of-three Andrew told us: "I was completely sceptical about buying this for my nine-year-old daughter but it's become a playground craze and all the kids are obsessed with trying different flavours. I hope that lasts because my water-resistant child can't seem to get enough of the stuff now, and improved hydration makes it worth every penny."

The Bottle Besteez from Argos

(Image credit: Argos)

8. Bottle Besteez  £10 | Argos

We've all been there. You've got the lunches, bags, kit, toys, and gear galore, yet it's often the parents that are left holding it all. 

The Bottle Besteez will help bring a little more space to the equation with its handy fold-down design, which collapses from a full 360 ml bottle to stow away. The bottles come in a pack of three and are BPA Free and dishwasher-safe. 

As well as the Alpacool set, you can also collect kittens and t-rex versions.

The Wild Side Drink Up Bottle from Smiggle

(Image credit: Smiggle)

9. Wild Side Drink Up Bottle, £12 | Smiggle

Kids love a straw bottle yet they can be difficult to clean particularly after a build-up of juice. This bottle aims to alleviate some of that with a detachable straw that you can take off from the lid.

The flip-top spout also ensures that it can be used with no straw and the set comes in an array of flamboyant designs that are great for long days out and trips away as well as for school.

The Melii Spin Snack Container

(Image credit: Melii)

 10. Melii Spinning Snack Pot, £8.99 |Amazon

The Melii spinning snack pots are perfect for the palate that enjoys more than one dish. They neatly sit together and are perfect for on-the-go snacks and mini dishes to eat while out and about. Pre-warning. Just like our little 5-year-old tester, they may double up as trinket boxes that they like to hide away!

The Mirage Hardtop Lunch Box from Smiggle

Credit: Amazon

(Image credit: Smiggle)

11. Mirage Hardtop Lunchbox, £15 | Smiggle

This two-tiered insulated lunchbox is brilliantly designed with an embossed front that actually helps to prevent the contents from getting squished, no matter what the kids put the lunch box through. It has two compartments so you can keep lunch separate from snacks and there's a name label and a carry handle. But the best bit? The shoulder strap makes it super easy for kids of all ages to carry - why don't more lunch boxes have straps?

Mum-of-three Ashley told us: "I've tried so many different lunch boxes but these are the best. Nothing gets squished, no matter how much of a battering the lunch box gets, plus the two compartments mean there's more space than a standard lunch box - and make it super easy for my daughter to remember which items are for lunch and which are for break time. It's easy to wipe clean and really does keep food fresher for longer plus the strap makes the school run juggling act that little bit easier."

Best back-to-school books

New term, new books! Make learning that little bit extra fun with a selection of new titles that are bound to stimulate their minds and keep the conversation tuned to all things educational.

It is always good to have an array of books that will help feed their imagination, take them on a journey and even increase their brain power. Plus we think children's books are great for any age (even us adults too).

The Help with Homework book by Autumn Publishing

(Image credit: Autumn Publishing)

12. Help with homework, £4.99 | Amazon

If you haven't heard of Help with Homework then you can check out their whole range which starts from Reception age to secondary and helps with Maths, English, and Science.

Each book is packed with activities that you can do at home and will make homework feel like fun work.

The Everything Under The Sun book from WH Smith

(Image credit: WH Smith)

13. Everything Under The Sun, £15.63 | WH Smith

How much bamboo can a giant panda eat? Do aliens exist? What we would do if we didn't have a prime minister?  A new release in September, this book is designed to ignite questions about the world and encourage learning from around the planet.

Sophie Dahl has named the book, 'Heaven on a stick,' while The Guardian says, 'Trivia fans will relish Everything Under the Sun'. We're sold.

The Five Minute Mum: Starting School by Daisy Upton

(Image credit: Daisy Upton)

14. Five-minute mum: Starting school, £9.19 | WH Smith

Another newcomer by writer Daisy Upton aka Five-minute mum, this book helps little ones with the big milestone of starting school.

It's a big step for you too and it aims to squash some of the fears and start enjoying this new chapter in life.

This witty guide discusses meeting the teacher, packing the bag and learning about lessons to get your reception child into the groove in no time, with lots of fun ideas included along the way.

Best back-to-school gadgets

Children are naturally drawn to technology due to its engaging and interactive nature. At school, they may know of others using it and want to find out more.

To ensure their safety while using tech. Childnet recommends parents implement strategies such as setting up parental controls, educating youngsters about safe usage, and promoting a balanced screen time routine that includes outdoor activities and face-to-face interactions.

But we also think learning gadgets can help enhance cognitive development and foster a love for learning. Here are our favourites...

The Earth & My Own Solar System from Brainstorm Toys

(Image credit: Brainstorm Toys)

 15. 2-in-1 Earth & My Own Solar System, £63.02 | Amazon

The planet and night sky have always been a source of wonder and fascination for kids. Now they can bring learning, fun and dive deeper into the celestial realm.

This globe doubles as a planet in the day and lights up at night, meaning you're budding astronomer can engage in the wonders of earth and space, with plenty of interactive games along the way. We also think it would make a really fun nightlight while they're dropping off to sleep.

The Echo Dot from Amazon

(Image credit: Amazon)

16. Amazon Echo Dot (5th Generation), £64.99 | John Lewis

The Amazon Echo Dot is designed to stimulate children's minds and can help with homework, stories, facts and information.

This tiny titan packs a punch and has handy parental controls too for. 

Ask it for stories and it has everything from learning to bedtime books to listen on Audible, to finding facts.

Not only that but it doubles up to play music and have a dance-off when needed. 

One reviewer shares, 'Great for any questions he is not sure about, his new best friend gives him all the answers. He also uses it for putting his bedtime lights off at night without having to get out of bed. Just wonderful!'

The VTech Kidizoom PrintCam Camera

(Image credit: Vtech)

 17. VTech Kidizoom PrintCam Camera, £79.99 | John Lewis

Get your kids in the creative zone and unleash their inner artists with this handy camera.

You can create images, personalise them and print with any photo they snap. 

In an era where touchscreen tablets are normally the go-to, the Kidizoom PrintCam Camera is a breath of fresh air – a gadget that encourages kids to embrace the world outside their screens and capture it in all its glory. 

Better still they can colour the images or add text for the ultimate masterpiece.

The So Chill Mini Fridge from Canal Toys

(Image credit: Canal Toys)

18. So Chill Mini Fridge, £44.99 | Amazon

This super-cool mini fridge is powered by USB and is the perfect addition to a uni student's room. Stickers are included to add a personalised touch to the mini fridge, and there's enough room to cram in all the mini-essentials you need. 

The Harry Potter Smartwatch from Marks & Spencer

(Image credit: Marks & Spencer)

19. Harry Potter™ Fitness Tracker Smartwatch, £39.99 | M&S

My daughter - who is Hogwarts crazy - chose to spend her birthday money on this Harry Potter™ smartwatch and it hasn't disappointed her. As well as being a fitness tracker, it's pre-loaded with a variety of games and even has a built-in voice recorder and camera with video plus an alarm function, and a calculator.

Preferred partner (what does this mean?)

Back-to-school kit for parents... and uni students

The Micro Scooters 3D Helmet

(Image credit: Micro Scooters)

20. Micro Scooters 3D Helmet, £40 | Kidly

Ok, it's for the kids, really. But if you walk to school and your child scoots along, get them excited about wearing their helmet with this super cute and colourful 3D helmet from Micro Scooters. It's got all the tech specs you need for a perfect fit, including a spin dial, an integrated light, a magnetic pinch-free buckle, extra padding and air ventilation. We love the adorable dinosaur design, but if you're not keen on dinos, there's a unicorn helmet complete with a 3D horn to choose from too. 

The Puma Unisex Drawstring Bag

(Image credit: Puma)

21. Puma Unisex Drawstring Bag, £7.85 | Amazon

It's another one that's *technically* not for parents except we all know how much youngsters love branded goods and these are, more often than not, way out of most of our budgets. However, this branded Puma drawstring bag ticks lots of boxes: it's the perfect place to cart around a smelly PE kit, it's unisex and hardwearing, and best of all, it's affordable too. 

Mum-of-three Dionne tells us: "Having my son's stinky P.E. kit in one place makes life so much easier. And I was so sick of him losing it and leaving it places that last year we attached it to his bag with clips (Gimars Carabiner clips, AMAZON, £10.99) so he never lost it again."

The Academic Planner from Bright Days

(Image credit: Bright Day Calendars)

22. Academic Planner, £16.99 | Amazon

Staying on top of all the different school subjects, remembering homework and coursework, and adding extracurricular activities into the mix can be tough for older kids who already have a lot on their plate, so try encouraging them to get organised with this stylish daily planner. Or, use it yourself to keep track of the endless school admin!

The Bamboo Portable Computer Table

(Image credit: BigTree Store)

23. Bamboo Portable Computer Table, £23.99  Amazon

It might be a stereotype, but there's definitely some truth in the trope of students staying in bed all day. With this laptop stand they can carry on learning from the comfort of their duvet so if you have a youngster heading off to Uni, we recommend adding this to your list of first-term essentials. 

"I bought this for my daughter when she went to uni, and I think it's the most used gift I've ever given her," says dad-of-two Russell. Noted!

Back to school buys white Philips handheld steamer

(Image credit: Amazon)

24. Philips Handheld Steamer 3000, £49.99 | Amazon

Light, compact and so easy to use, a steamer is a real time-saver for busy parents.

Mum of one Louisa tells us; "I love this: best buy ever. I simply hang all of our shirts up on hangers, straight from the washing machine then crack this out once they're dry. No ironing piles, no trapped fingers in the ironing board. Best. Buy. Ever."

The Weekly Family Planner Whiteboard, available from Etsy

(Image credit: DaisyMaisonGB)

25. Weekly Family Planner Whiteboard, £26.95 | Etsy

A wall planner is a great way to help stay organised and keep track of each family member's plans. This one is wipeable so that when plans change you can wipe it off and start again. 

Mum-of-three Chelsea tells us: "This was a game changer for our family. Not only do we have everyone's names on it, but I colour code it so I can see it at a glance. If it's in red, that means we are picking up or dropping off. And it's right in our hallway at a height that most family members can see it." 

The Petit Fernand Stick-On Clothing Labels

(Image credit: Petit Ferdinand)

26. Petit Fernand Stick-On Clothing Labels, 3 for £10 | Petit Ferdinand

Available in 38 background colours and fully customisable, these Petit Fernand labels have 11 fonts to choose from. Including images your child recognises is a great way for them to identify their own clothes if they still aren't familiar with their name written down. These easy-to personalise stickers are a must-have for any school child - we all know how school uniform is forever getting lost or mixed up with others after P.E. 

Mum-of-one Jasmine tells us: "I started putting my phone number on the labels, you get it back much faster. My son dropped his water bottle out of the pram the other week and someone messaged and I got it back!"

A set of personalised wooden jungle wall hooks, available from Etsy

(Image credit: LoveUniquePersonal)

27. Personalised Wooden Jungle Wall Hooks, £12 | Etsy

Start your child off with good habits and dedicate space, if you can, to hooks that are specifically for them and their bags. These fun jungle animal motifs are a great first hook. 

Mum-of-three Emma tells us: "When my first child started school it would drive me mad that he dumped his bag in the kitchen every day until I realised he didn't know where to put it. So I got him some of his own hooks, and he loves hanging it up himself on his own hook."

The LED light-up backpack from Futliit

(Image credit: Futliit)

28. Futliit LED backpack, £79.99 | Futliit

Such a clever idea, this - Futliit is a light-up backpack with two bright white LED light strips so that your youngster can be easily seen on even the darkest wintry mornings and nights on the way to or from school or college. There are several different flashing modes and the lights are easy to control, plus there are reflective panels for extra visibility.'s Deputy Editor Heidi Scrimgeour put this to the test and says: "If, like me, you worry about your youngster getting off the bus or walking to school in the dark during the winter months, you'll love the peace of mind that comes with this brilliantly designed light-up backpack. The fabric quality and attention to detail are impressive too, plus it has plenty of padding and can hold an alarming quantity of lever arch files, so it's very much not just a gimmick. I can see this lasting for many years and, in fact, the squabbles have already begun in my house over who's going to get to claim it!'

Once you've finished shopping for the best back-school supplies, check out our guide to the best school shoes and read our guide to great first day of school traditions to do with your kids for some inspiration ahead of September. You might also want to check which schools are closed following fears around potentially dangerous concrete.

Annette Kellow

Annette Kellow is a London-based journalist specialising in parenting and lifestyle.

With contributions from