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Expert Shopper Education

Everything you need to know about back-to-school shopping

Tips and products for sending your kid back to school

August is back-to-school season, and whether this is your kid’s first or last year, they’ll need a few essentials to make the most of it. School shopping has evolved over the years, emphasizing new tech that makes it easier for kids to learn and keep up with their belongings. Still, products like backpacks and clothes are just as important as ever. 

If you’re wondering what to add to your cart during Back to School season, we’re sharing products we test and recommend, including kid-friendly water bottles, tablets, and Apple devices.

In this video

BestReviews’ Jacob Palmer joins Scott Moak to discuss back-to-school tech, fashion and a few other things you may not have considered.

How has back-to-school shopping evolved?

Kids need to stay hydrated throughout the day. In the past, parents and schools relied on kids using water fountains to hydrate, but this usually isn’t enough. According to the National Institutes of Health, most children only get about 14% of their total fluid intake during school. This is concerning since there is a direct link between water intake and cognitive performance. 

To ensure your kid is drinking enough water, you may consider sending them to school with a water bottle. Trendy bottles like the Hydro Flask can get your child excited about staying hydrated. These bottles come in numerous fun colors, from blue to magenta, that make them as much of a fashion statement as they are a health product.

Many kids tend to misplace their backpacks from time to time. Luckily, there are numerous ways to help your child keep up with their belongings. For example, placing an Apple AirTag in their backpack is an affordable way to ensure it doesn’t get lost. AirTags let your kid use their phone to find misplaced items. These handy devices even have a small speaker that plays sounds to pinpoint the backpack’s location.

What essentials should parents consider?

A durable backpack is a must-have for any kid returning to school, particularly if you intend to invest in one that lasts through more than one school year. Our middle school and high school testers love North Face backpacks, which are known for their high-quality construction and numerous pockets that help kids stay organized.

Nowadays, tablets are essential for many school-age kids. When buying a tablet for school, it’s important to consider the child’s age and how they’ll use it in the classroom. Younger kids are usually best served by a durable device with a headphone jack for online assignments. High schoolers will likely need a machine built for multitasking. 

The 5th-Generation iPad Air is a long-standing favorite with a powerful M1 Bionic Chip that is powerful enough for multitasking. Additionally, your child may benefit from using the Apple Smart Keyboard Folio to take notes. According to Palmer, smart keyboards like these deliver the laptop experience without making you “pay the laptop price.”

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S8, a budget alternative to the iPad, charges quickly and lasts for hours on a single charge.

Tips for parents sending their kids to school for the first time

Consider shoes with Velcro closures, as they’re easy for children to take off and put on. Besides being a practical footwear option, says Palmer, many styles now have the cool aesthetic that even younger children can appreciate. Nike has numerous unisex Velcro shoes designed for comfort, making them ideal for recess, gym class and playtime. 

Unlike older kids who may already have favorite brands, younger kids are less likely to prefer branded products. On the other hand, they may appreciate trendy backpacks with cute designs, such as the Skip Hop Toddler Narwhal Backpack, a popular choice for preschoolers.

It’s best to build a morning routine as you get your kids ready for school. We’ve tested the Toniebox with preschoolers and found it helps them start the day on a high note. The box keeps your kids entertained and engaged with fun music and stories that don’t require a screen.

Shop this segment

Hydro Flask 12-Ounce Kids Wide Mouth Straw Lid

This dishwasher-safe bottle, available in eight fun colors, is tough enough to stand up to being dropped. The straw lid makes it easy for younger kids to use.

Sold by Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods

Apple AirTag

This compact device is lightweight and easy to set up. It’s ideal for those with iPhones, as it lets you keep track of your belongings with an intuitive app. Unlike other trackers, the AirTag helps you find the precise location of your belongings with on-screen arrows and audio notifications.

Sold by Amazon

North Face Recon Backpack

The popular backpack has plenty of storage space and pockets that keep school supplies organized. It has padded shoulder straps for comfortable carrying and is available in 13 colors.

Sold by Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods

2022 Apple iPad Air 5th Generation

This tablet has up to 256 GB of storage and a vibrant screen. It has 12-megapixel front-and-back cameras, making it ideal for video calls. It’s compatible with the Apple Pencil, which can be used for taking notes.

Sold by Amazon

Apple Smart Keyboard Folio

This is the perfect back-to-school accessory for iPad users, making it easy to take notes. It’s thin, durable and easy to set up.

Sold by Amazon

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Android Tablet

This is available in three colors with up to 256 GB of storage. It features a large screen and charges quickly. The speakers are top-notch, and the tablet is compatible with a range of accessories that make it ideal for school.

Sold by Amazon

Nike Unisex-Child Star Runner Running Shoes

These are comfortable and durable, not to mention they are available in numerous sizes and colors. The Velcro strap makes them easy to put on and take off, which is handy for kids in the early stages of learning to tie their shoes.

Sold by Amazon

Skip Hop Toddler Narwhal Backpack

It’s easy to clean and has several pockets for your child’s school supplies, including 8.5 x 11-inch file folders. Kids are sure to love the fun design with iridescent accents. 

Sold by Amazon

Toniebox Audio Player Starter Set

This fun device is available in six colors and compatible with numerous characters, enabling unique content. You can record custom messages, songs and other content for your child.

Sold by Amazon

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Cody Stewart writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.

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