Back-to-school 2022: The best buys as recommended by parents

Back-to-school buys are varied - we've found the best bargains for you

Best back-to-school buys illustrated bySchool sign
(Image credit: Future)

The best back-to-school buys can be hard to find. And, while a new school year officially starts at the beginning of September, we all know that the prep kicks off way before then. 

Once you've agreed on your back-to-school tradition checked when your child starts school and double checked if there are fines for taking children out of school for holidays then it's time for the new school year. It has a nice all-new vibe, it's exciting and full of organisation, with new pencil cases and lunch boxes there's so much potential... as long as you get the right tools in your school tool kit. We're talking pencil cases, backpacks, pens, labels, notepads, water bottles the lot. And that can all tot up, especially if you have more than one child. 

The best back-to-school buys 2022

Infant and primary school

For this age group it's all about easy-to-use, whether that's opening a lunch box or pulling on wellies, it's all about helping your little on succeed at the small things.  Plus they love a water bottle... and anything personalised.

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Fringoo multi-compartment kids lunch bag, Amazon, £15.99 (opens in new tab)

This two compartment thermal lunch bag is a great - and roomy - choice for a lunch box. Mum-of-three Dionne bought it for her twins. She tells us; "I use the top compartment for the girls' morning and afternoon breaks and the bottom one is for their lunch. It's so roomy, while you can fit a juice box in there but I prefer them to have a separate water bottle. Its wipe-able and great at keeping food cool."

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Buzio Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle, Aamzon, £17.99 (opens in new tab)

Insulated and 100% spill-proof are just two of the reasons mum-of-one, Steph bought this water bottle. "It's on the pricey side but I love that it keeps drinks cold for 24 hours and is dishwasher safe. Just take the straw out and op in the top rack. And done, all clean. Plus the straw - unlike past ones - is easy for my son to open himself."

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Personalised plastic pencil case, Etsy, £4.05 (opens in new tab)

Kids love stationery merchandise, especially when it can be personalised (and you can add a pom pom or two). Though this can take up to three weeks so get ahead of the back to school curve, and buy now.  Dad, Lee tells us; "My son didn't love the idea of a pencil case as he went into Junior school but when he saw he could have his name on it - well, he chose Spiderman - he loved it!"

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Henbrandt 5 Piece Space Stationery Set, Amazon, £3.39 (opens in new tab)

This unisex stationery set has a notepad, ruler, pencil, sharpener and rubber. All ready for your little one's first day of school. Dad, Richard tells us; "My daughter Sam is obsessed with all things to do with space so this was the perfect buy to get her excited for school."

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Quadra Classic Book Bag, Amazon, £5.18 (opens in new tab)

Some infant schools will ask for ‘book bags’ which specifically fit into a tray with your child’s name on, if that is the case these are almost half the price of the school uniform affiliated brands, and will still fit. Primary Early Years teacher, Michelle Booth tells us; "While it can differ from school to school, most infants won't need a proper bag until junior school. A book bag that can fit into their tray will be just fine. Children like to add stickers or pom poms to make theirs look a little different."

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Regatta unisex kids puddle IV waterproof puddle suit, Amazon, £11.84 (opens in new tab)

For Reception and infant years you will more than likely need outdoor wear that is easy for  your child to get on and off themselves. Most ‘puddle suits’ aren’t waterproof, so it it's 100% waterproof you want, look out for words like polyamide and polyurethane (PU) coated fabric. 

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AnyDay Children's Wellington Boots, John Lewis, from £10 (opens in new tab)

These are selling out fast, so be quick. The handy pull on loop at the back will make it easy for your little one to put on themselves - as independence is a huge thing at infant school. Mum, Louise tells us; "I love the Anyday brand it's a lot more affordable but with the John Lewis quality."

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Stabilo Easyoriginal Start Left Handed Pen, Ryman Stationers WAS £8.99 NOW £4.29 (SAVE £4.70)  (opens in new tab)

Stabilo are the leaders in handwriting pens - they come in left and right handed designs - they 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 avoid it."

Secondary school

At secondary school your little ones are not so little, they are at the 'tween stage' now, they want to be adults. Whether it's a Bento lunchbox or Kanken rucksack. These buys will carry them through to adulthood.

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Sistema Renew Lunch Box Bento, Amazon, £13.68 (opens in new tab)

We know how secondary school kids are adults in the making, and this grown up Bento box will help with their whole 'adulting vibe' in the school lunch hall. Mum-of-one, Lisa tells us; "I love the compartments with this one. I can give them brand Greek yoghurt in the tub without them complaining it's not a name, like Muller."

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Matte black double wall water bottle, Wilko, £5 (opens in new tab)

Keeps drinks cold or up to 12 hours and for under a tenner. Dad-of-two, Jase tells us; "Water bottles can be pricey, I went with these cheaper ones because my kids are always losing them or leaving them on the bus. It's so frustrating."

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Hype mono speckle fade pencil case, Amazon, £9.99 (opens in new tab)

"This is THE pencil case that all the kids want. At least, that's what my 13-year-old tells me," says mum-of-three, Liza. Unisex designs - and so many to choose from - this pencil case is wipe-clean and from a small British company. 

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Hex ultimate school stationery set, The Works, £5 (opens in new tab)

This is a classic stationery set, which you may recognise from your school days, they're still  very much used in classes today. For just a fiver this set comes with 2 x HB Pencils, 2 x Ball point Pens, Mechanical Pencil, 0.5mm Lead Refill, Self-Centring Compass, Protractor, 15cm Ruler, 2 x Set Square, Large Sleeved Eraser, Sharpener, Yellow Highlighter, Helix Timetable.

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Fjallraven unisex Kanken rucksack, Amazon, £60 (opens in new tab)

While the initial price is a bit eye watering, if you strip it down to price per use and the fact that this brand will carry your child not only through school but beyond. Dad-of-one, James tell us; "I still have my school backpack from Fjallraven, and use it as my kids flight snack bag. It really is built to last. No replacements needed."

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Speedo mesh drawstring bag, Amazon, £9.29 (opens in new tab)

P.E. is normally once a week, at most twice, and the main bag is usually taken up with books, pencil cases and lunch box so an additional bag is needed for PE kit. Mum-of-three, Dionne tells us; "Having my sons stinky P.E. kit in one place makes is to 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) (opens in new tab) he never lost it again."

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Refillable Bottles with Hook, Amazon, £6.99 (opens in new tab)

"These leak proof little bottles are a Godsend," mum-of-four Kiran tells us. "Before Covid I would occasionally remind my kids to wash their hands but now I am constant anti-bac'ing them! So these are a perfect addition to their new school bag."

College and university

The best buys for this age group are ones that make their life outside of studying that little bit easier. 

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Ambiano mini fridge, Aldi, £79.99 (opens in new tab)

A great mini fridge, with LED display and removable shelves. The perfect addition to a bedroom. "My daughter took this to uni with her, she keeps her next to her milk." Mum-of-two, Janie tells us. 

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Oxford Campus A4 Project books, Amazon, £17.63 (opens in new tab)

While technology has come on in leaps and bounds there is still always room for mega notebooks, especially with really helpful dividers.

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Bamboo Portable Computer Table Laptop Stand, Amazon, £23.99 (opens in new tab)

Students sometimes don't like to leave their bed... and with this laptop stand they can carry on learning from there.

"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. 

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mDesign plastic and metal bathroom caddy, Amazon, £14.39 (opens in new tab)

This is so handy for students to keep all their shower stuff together, especially those who will be in halls and sharing bathrooms. Dad-of-two, Pat, tells us; "My daughter said this was the best thing he ever bought! No more juggling and dropping in the hallway."

For parents

While 'back to school' is usually all about kids and pencil cases, uniform and new shoes there are a few buys to make parents lives so much easier during this busy time, buys to help you organise or save time. 

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Philips Handheld Steamer 3000, Amazon, £69.95 (opens in new tab)

Light compact and so-easy-to-use. 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."

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Weekly family planner Etsy, £24.95 (opens in new tab)

A wall planner is a great way to help stay organised. Mum-of-three, Chelsea tells us; "This was a game changer for our family. Not only do we have everyone' names on it, but I colour code it so I can see at a glance - if its 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."  And it's dry wipe so when plans change you can wipe it off and start again. 

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Stick-on clothing label, Petot Fernand, from £3 (opens in new tab)

Available in 38 background colours, and fully customisable - there's even 11 fonts to choose from. Including images your child recognises is a great way if they still aren't familiar with their name written down.

These easy-to personalise stickers are a must-have for any school child. School uniform is forever getting lost or mixed up with others after P.E. Mum-of-one Jasmine tells us; "I started putting my number on the labels, you get it back much faster. My son dropped his water bottle out the pram the other week and a someone messaged and I got it back!"

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Personalised Wooden Jungle Wall Hooks, Etsy, £12 (opens in new tab)

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 started school it would drive me mad that he dumped his bag in the kitchen every time, until I realised he didn't know where to put it. So I got him some of his own hooks, he loved hanging it up himself on his own hooks."

What back to school supplies does my child need?

The back to school stationery supplies depends on the school, and can widely vary. Some schools are very strict on book bags instead of backpacks, because of space. Others provide water bottles while some ask you to bring your own. It's always best to check directly with your school. And, hopefully at the transition days or information evenings you'll get a chance to ask any questions and clarify what is needed when. 

After talking to parents here are some of the stationery essentials to think about;

  • Pencils
  • Pencil case
  • Biro pens
  • Book bag/backpack
  • P.E. bag
  • Notepad
  • Water bottle
  • Lunch box

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Fines for taking children out of school: what are they for and how much will you pay? (opens in new tab)
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Stephanie Lowe
Stephanie Lowe

Stephanie Lowe is Family Editor at GoodTo covering all things parenting, pregnancy and more. She has over 13 years' experience as a digital journalist with a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to all things family and lifestyle. Stephanie lives in Kent with her husband and son, Ted. With his love of choo-choos, Hey Duggee and finger painting he keeps her on her toes.