Back-to-School Shopping Tips for Older Children

Just last year, your child was eagerly racing into your local office supply store to make sure they were the first kid in their year to get the folder with pictures of puppies all over it. Now, as you head into back-to-school season, they’re talking about binders for multiple subjects and their school lists demand the latest in graphing calculator technology. It can be overwhelming to go back-to-school shopping when you have an older kid. With years of school under their belt, they’re more particular about the brands of paper they use than they once were, making it hard to go bargain bin shopping than it once was. Here are some tips to mitigate the stress while allowing your older kid to feel like they’re growing up with the rest of their class.

Understand Their Schedule

Elementary school was one thing, but if you have a child in middle school or high school, it can be hard to get a grip on their schedule. They may make multiple class transitions throughout the day or even alternate, having some classes on some days and other classes on other days. Understanding your child’s class schedule can help you plan the quantities of things, like binders or notebooks, they’re going to need.

This is especially important if your child struggles with organization, as giving them the right notebooks or binders at the right time can set them up for success. For example, you could have one binder that they use before their lunch break and a second binder that they use after their lunch break. Or, if your child has different classes on different days, you could even opt for two backpacks so that they never have to worry about swapping out all their school supplies in the evenings.

Make a List

Once you understand your child’s class schedule and have an idea of what their typical day will look like, sit down with your child and create a list of everything they’re going to need. Make sure you have with you the list of everything their school says they’ll need so that you don’t forget the essentials—like that graphic calculator—that they’ll be expected to have.

Including your child in the list-making process is important because it can help them feel involved in the process and give them a sense of agency over their educational needs. It also allows you to discuss in a quiet home-setting their wants versus their needs and their needs versus their preferences. For example, you may know that your child needs to take notes in each of their 5 classes and may suggest a 5-subject notebook for your child. Your child may, in return, say that they prefer to get loose paper and have it divided out in a binder. This is a preference that fits into their needs and is a good place to compromise with them. Paperclips shaped like dolphins, on the other hand, are more of a want than a need. This is a good time to address this, as well. You can even use this time to let your child know that you’ll buy them what the two of you agree to put on the list, but any extra impulse-buys they may want when you get to the store will have to be funded out of their own money. Since school supplies for older kids can cost a lot more money, this will help you stay on budget while teaching your child responsibility.

Plan for Their Added Responsibilities

Often, we give children additional responsibilities as they get older. If you’re planning to give your child more responsibilities than they’ve had in the past, you’ll want to make sure you’re setting them up for success. For example, maybe you’re foregoing daycare for the first time this year and your child will be letting themselves into the house at the end of the day. In that case, you’ll want to provide them with a keychain that they can attach to their backpack so that they’re not forever losing their house key. Or maybe this year you’re asking them to plan their tests and projects out ahead of time with less input from you. In that case, you might want to provide them with a planner so that they can keep good track of their time and progress.

Back-to-school shopping with your older kid can be just as fun and exciting as it was when they were younger. Now that they’re older, you can plan the shopping trip together and head into the store with similar expectations of one another, cutting down on in-store whining and ensuring a pleasant experience overall.