Going back to school may be a little different this year, but there are still ways to keep learning fun.

By Lisa Milbrand
Updated September 01, 2020
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This year, your back to school shopping list may have a few changes. You might need fewer three-ring notebooks and composition books and extra hand sanitizer, or you might consider replacing your kid’s lunchbox to allow it to be cleaned thoroughly every night. But just because this year’s back to school lists are focused more on personal safety than pens and pencils doesn’t mean they can’t be silly, stylish, or sweet, depending on your child’s personal preferences.

If you’re one of those people who likes to check off that list of back to school supplies early, here’s what you might want to splurge on to help start the school year out right—and safely.

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cactus pens
Credit: Amazon

Quirky school supplies

Why stick with the standard yellow #2 pencils and boring black pens when you can give your kids school supplies with a lot of personality? (Bonus: They can easily tell their pens from their neighbors’ when they’re back to school, so there will be less sharing of germs and supplies going on.)

Etsy is a treasure trove of pencils with unique messages on them, whether you want personalized ones with your child’s name emblazoned on them or just want to give them a pep talk during their tests with pencils featuring positive messaging. To buy: From $5 for 1; etsy.com.

Look for pens with personality, too—whether your kid’s into cactus-shaped pens or pens with adorable little animals atop each one. To buy: From $11 for 12; amazon.com; from $15 for 8; amazon.com.

Skip the plain-hued scissors for one decked in a fun print, like polka dots or cheetah prints. To buy: $10; amazon.com.

Star Wars face masks
Credit: Disney


Whether they’re going to school every day or studying virtually, masks are still essential when you’re out and about. If you have devoted Disney (or Star Wars or Marvel) fans in your family, Disney Store has 4-packs of masks so they can wear their fandom on their face. For teens, Hot Topic has some cool options, including a Billie Eilish bandana and some cosplay style masks. And if your kid just wants a more basic mask, Old Navy stocks packs of 5 and 10 in simple colors or just shades of black. To buy: $20 for 4; disneystore.com; from $9; hottopic.com; from $13 for 5; oldnavy.com.

mask extender
Credit: Amazon

Mask accessories

To make wearing a mask more comfortable long-term (or through an entire school day), consider getting some mask extenders, which allow you to adjust the fit of standard masks and help keep the pressure of the mask straps off of their ears. A mask lanyard can keep the mask from getting dropped or lost when your child takes it off for lunch. To buy: $13 for 10; amazon.com; $9 for 2; amazon.com.

Bath & Body Works Hand Sanitizer
Credit: Bath & Body Works

Hand sanitizer

The tiny PocketBac sanitizers from Bath & Body Works are perfect for back to school. They come in fun, fresh scents and teeny, tiny containers that are easy to slip in the backpack, the lunchbox, the locker, and their pockets, so they always have it handy. (And since they’re $8 for a pack of five, you don’t have to get too freaked out if they lose them.) To buy: $8 for 5; bathandbodyworks.com.

BlueFire 3.5mm PS4 Gaming Headset Bass Stereo Over-Ear Gaming Headphone with Microphone and Volume Control
Credit: Amazon


Make virtual classes easier to hear (and quieter for the rest of the family) with a nice set of headphones. For older kids, Beats headphones are worth the splurge (and make a nice back to school gift). To buy: $159; amazon.com.

For younger kids, consider gaming-friendly headphones like the BlueFire gaming headset, which can take them through rounds of Fortnite or Animal Crossing with their friends after class, too. To buy: $26; amazon.com.

For truly young children, you might also consider wireless headphones like the LilGadgets Untangled set to avoid accidental laptop or tablet drops if your child decides to get up and wander during class. To buy: $50; amazon.com.

Credit: Rover


When they do go back to school, it might be safer to stick with lunchboxes that are super-easy to clean daily, like bento-style boxes that just get tossed in the dishwasher. Planet Box has stainless steel bento-style kits that you can jazz up with fun magnets (which you can switch up with new sets as your child gets bored with the old set)—and toss into the dishwasher daily to keep clean. To buy: From $30; planetbox.com.

LLBean’s Yumbox Bento Boxes also easily clean up in the dishwasher and come in a trio of colorful hues. To buy: $28; llbean.com.

If school lunch is still home lunch right now, you can add a little fun to the proceedings with some adorable bento accessories (like these Donburi animal containers from Bento & Co.) To buy: $4; bentoandco.com.

HARRY POTTER™ Superstorage Lapdesk
Credit: PBTeen


If your kids don’t like sitting at a standard desk, a nice lapdesk can turn any comfy spot into a workspace. PBTeen lets kids represent their favorite Hogwarts House from Harry Potter and stash all their essentials in the clever slideout tray. To buy: $99; pbteen.com.