School Supplies Buying Guide

Whether they're in kindergarten or college, kids need quality school supplies to be productive and do their best work. This school supplies buying guide will help you shop smart.

School Supplies 101

The shopping list for a new academic year can seem endless, but it’s important to find school supplies that strike the right balance between value, durability and functionality. A good rule of thumb is to get the bigger ticket items out of the way first. A laptop is a first day essential for college, but it should be purchased several weeks in advance. This allows the new user to get familiar with the device and any necessary software. Pencils, pens, notebooks are also must-haves. In fact, the more supplies a student has prior to the start of school the better. It makes for less fuss and fretting during the all-important first week, and more focus on study and orientation.

Types of School Supplies


Laptops & Tablets

A laptop or tablet can make college or even high school a lot easier. Writing notes and essays, doing research and printing off assignments are all important functions that a laptop, netbook or tablet will support. A basic model should accomplish this, but there are advantages to bigger devices too. Subjects like music, art and sciences can benefit from more advanced programs and graphics. 


The right backpack makes travel between classes or to and from school a lot easier. From a functionality standpoint, it should be big enough to hold all books and supplies, including binders, pens, pencils and perhaps also a lunchbox. College-level students may also want room for a laptop. If lengthy treks are involved then comfort becomes a bigger consideration. Padded waist and chest straps will distribute weight more evenly. Style is also important for kids fitting in with a new peer group. Backpacks come in a wide range of shapes, sizes and colours, but tote bags and messenger bags can be good options too.  


For students without a laptop or smartphone, a planner offers a way to stay up to date and organized. Finding the right planner depends on the student’s requirements. Is it just for scheduling major tests and exams through the year? Or will it be used to scratch in daily appointments, classes, work shifts and more? There are lots of different layouts to choose from, with most offering the ability to plot by the hour, day, week and month. Formats run from pocket-sized books to large sheets that that can be pinned on a wall. 


Keeping class notes organized is easy with lightweight, affordable notebooks. Notebooks consist of a stack of ruled paper sheets that have been bound and covered. There are plenty of notebooks to choose from. They vary based on page size, cover material, paper colour, line colour and the number of pages. A basic 100-page, 8.5-by-11-inch notebook is a great choice for taking notes for a single class. Bigger notebooks with subject or project dividers are also available.  


A binder is ideal for keeping written notes on multiple classes. Dividers can be used to keep everything ordered by class and subject, and sticky notes work well as bookmarks or placeholders. Managing notes this way can avoid the hassle of carrying around several notebooks separately. Most binders have three metal rings that hold loose-leaf paper, notebooks, pencil pouches and even three-hole punches. Some even come with a built-in folio or zippered closure to contain loose items. Although they can be a little more expensive than basic notebooks, binders can help a student become more efficient and productive.  

Pens & Pencils

Writing utensils are used every day for tests, homework or just taking notes in class. Pencils are ideal for subjects that require a lot of erasing, such as math, while pens produce a more professional look that’s suitable for written reports and exams. Mechanical pencils are a good option because you can achieve a sharp, precise point without constantly sharpening them. An assortment of coloured pens is useful for underlining and clarifying class notes. 


Highlighters are an effective way for students of all ages to keep thoughts and work coherent. Highlighting sections in class notes, textbooks or even graded tests is also a beneficial study aid. There are many different types of highlighters available. Fat fluorescent markers are great for calling out larger passages (lighter shades allow the text to show through better). Fine-pointed gel pens are ideal for underlining or writing comments.


A calculator is an important tool for math and science classes, especially for exams where laptops or smartphones are not allowed. For younger kids, a small, simple calculator with clear number pads should do fine. Students in high school and above will probably require a scientific calculator, though consulting the teacher or school syllabus for buying tips is a good idea. For instance, graphing and financial calculators might be required for college and university students. 

Arts & Crafts

A good selection of arts & craft supplies will help your child create amazing things in class, and also encourage them to make sweet cards and gifts for mom and dad! When starting out, your budding artists will need the basics, including construction paper, scissors, glue and crayons. As skills progress, you'll want to provide additional items like pipe cleaners, glitter, stickers and stamps. It’s a good idea to buy a storage box to keep everything organized and to help prevent leaks and spills.

School Supplies Buying Tips:

  • Make a shopping list; it cuts down on impulse purchases and reduces the chance of overlooking an essential item
  • Many kids like taking part in the school supply shopping process: spend some time at the computer going over options and picking out favourite items
  • Save money by buying a school supplies value pack first, then adding any needed odds and ends after

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School Supplies Safety Tips:

  • If you have small children, store craft supplies like scissors, pipe cleaners and hot glue out of their reach
  • Items like pens and markers that can leak should be stored separately from other school supplies
  • Buy a letter punch or white tape to put student names on more expensive items like laptops and calculators
  • Follow the recommended ages for school supplies, especially for arts and crafts supplies
This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.



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