Back-To-School Guide 2017

* Thanks to Lands' End, French Toast, The Children's Place, ZUCA, Klean Kanteen, See Kai Run, Stride Rite, Foxpaws, Galison, Westcott, & Dixon-Ticonderoga for sending us school products to try.

We just wrapped up Family Education Week at our children's school. It's a jam-packed week of encouragement, training, and information. I always look forward to meeting & reconnecting with other parents, getting prepared for the new school year, and watching as my children grow into their new grade level.

For the 2017-18 school year, we will have a 5th grader, a 3rd grader, and a kindergartener...plus a baby in the house.

Here are a few of our favorite things for the back-to-school season...plus some new + notable items that might interest you.

SCHOOL UNIFORMS

Our school requires uniforms - and I am so grateful/glad because uniforms make our mornings much smoother. There are very few arguments or decisions about what to wear. I also think uniforms help lessen socioeconomic divides and help keep students focused on more important things than fashion.

Lands' End

football and red lands end polo
Short Sleeve Fem Fit Interlock Polo in Red
red interlock polo Lands End
Short Sleeve Fem Fit Interlock Polo in Red
grey interlock polo Lands End
Short Sleeve Fem Fit Interlock Polo in Gray Heather
Lands End polo and headband
Fem Fit Interlock Polo and Navy Large Plaid Headband

Our favorite brand for polos is Lands' End. Hands-down. The interlock polos are supremely soft. They wash/wear well and are high quality so we can pass them among siblings. If you catch the sales, you can get them for $11-$13/piece. Just be sure to place a bulk order or go in with a friend since shipping is only free if you order more than $50 in product.

We've also been pleased with the skirts & shorts from Lands' End - as well as the wide headbands in preppy colors and plaids.

When I hear the brand "Lands' End," I typically think: "well-crafted classic clothing that will last."

French Toast

cardigan blouse twofer and pleated skirt with belt french toast
Cardigan Blouse Twofer and Pleated Skirt w/ Square Buckle Belt
sweater shirt French Toast
Cardigan Blouse Twofer in Black
pleated shirt with square buckle belt French Toast
Pleated Skirt with Square Buckle Belt in Black
french toast navy blazer
Dress Blazer in Navy
back to school uniforms
Canvas Safari Shirtdress and Dress Blazer
Twin Buckle Tab Jumper Navy
Twin Buckle Tab Jumper in Navy

Another of our family's favorite brands for school uniforms is French Toast. French Toast offers affordable prices and adorable designs.

French Toast's sweater shirts (called cardigan twofers) are especially cute and really help pull together outfits for a clean, professional look. Because they offer an additional layer of warmth, they are especially ideal for transitional spring/fall weather.

Cardigan Twofer Black French Toast
Cardigan Twofer in Black
cardigan twofer and kick pleat scooter french toast
Cardigan Twofer and Kick Pleat Scooter

I also love the ease and fit of the canvas safari shirtdress. Look at those keyhole sleeves! And that baby's irresistible smile! This was an unstaged photo and it's my favorite from all of our back-to-school pictures.

navy safari shirtdress french toast
Canvas Safari Shirtdress in Navy

We've noticed that French Toast's materials tend to be stain-resistant, wrinkle-resistant, and machine-washable.

Last time I was at Costco, I was interested to see that French Toast uniforms were being sold in two-packs for very reasonable prices. You can also find French Toast at Burlington Coat Factory, JCPenney, a number of uniform specialty shops, and online.

  • LIKE French Toast on Facebook.
  • FOLLOW French Toast on Twitter.
  • BUY School Uniforms by French Toast.

The Children's Place

Children’s Place Safari Dress khaki
Button-Front Belted Woven Safari Dress in Sesame
Gray Polo and Uniform Pants by The Children’s Place
Short Sleeve Pique Polo in Dark Gray and Uniform Skinny Pants in Tidal

The Children's Place wins for convenience. Easy + free online shipping daily! You can order items and then return/exchange online or in-store.

The Children's Place can be a good place to pick up fun accessories (hats, scarves, etc) and uniform staples for low prices. Children's Place also has a new polo material - which is much softer to the touch than in previous years. Check out the deep charcoal gray above - so pretty!

  • LIKE The Children's Place on Facebook.
  • FOLLOW The Children's Place on Twitter.
  • BUY School Uniforms by The Children's Place.

SHOES

My kids typically each have 2-4 pairs of shoes for the current size that they are in - one pair of tennis shoes, one pair of dress shoes, and one pair of sandals or boots (depending on the season). In general, we prefer having a few pairs of high-quality shoes compared to many pairs of cheaper shoes that will make for sweaty feet and painful blisters.

See Kai Run

For younger kids (birth to age 8 or so), I always enjoy browsing the new styles at See Kai Run. The shoes are well-constructed and I LOVE that the shoe designs change several times per year. New colors, materials, and patterns - while still offering exceptional fit and comfort.

The Kristin sneakers in chambray are perfect for back-to-school. They are playground-ready - and I've discovered that they match with almost everything! They even look good with dresses and skirts. Two thumbs up for a girly design w/ lots of sporty appeal. Look under "French Toast" above to see these sneakers styled with a school uniform.

Kristin Chambray See Kai Run
Kristin Sneakers in Chambray

If you're looking for a slightly dressier shoe that will coordinate well with school uniforms, consider See Kai Run's Savannah. With a delicate scalloped design and a classy matte finish, they're easy to slide on with slacks, dresses, or skirts.

Savannah Mary Jane See Kai Run
Savannah Mary Jane in Black

Foxpaws

Navy Blue Tessa Boot Foxpaws
Navy Blue Tessa Boot

For classic dress styles with wonderful craftsmanship, you can count on Foxpaws.

The navy blue Tessa boot is like something straight out of one of Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic novels. These are definitely the kind of boots that Sara Crewe would wear - stylish, elegant, and fit for a princess. Handcrafted with care in Spain, these boots feature a leather suede upper, plus leather lining and inner sole. Look under "Children's Place" above to see a photo of these boots styled with a school uniform.

  • LIKE Foxpaws on Facebook.
  • BUY the Navy Blue Tessa Boot.

Stride Rite

Stride Rite Sage Boot Black
Sage Boot in Black

As for my third grader, she can't wait to wear these comfortable and fun boots by Stride Rite. They will look great over tights/leggings and/or with dresses and skirts. Super versatile for fall and winter. See more pictures of these boots just below under ZUCA!

BACKPACKS, LUNCHBOXES, AND WATER BOTTLES

We don't buy new backpacks every year. Instead, we opt for higher quality backpacks that will last multiple years or for multiple kids. The only time we buy new is if the backpack is worn out or broken, or if the child is growing older and needs more space.

ZUCA

back to school 2017
Lands' End Polo, Stride Rite Boots, and ZUCA Bag
ZUCA hanami back to school
ZUCA Bag in Hanami
ZUCA Go USA
ZUCA Sport Bag in Go USA
back to school rolling backpack
Lands' End Polo, French Toast Skirt, and ZUCA Sport Bag
ZUCA Go USA
ZUCA Go USA

Our two older daughters (ages 10 & 8) use rolling ZUCA sport/school bags. Although they are on the heavy side, they are also stylish and multi-functional...with plentiful storage space! Our girls can fit their binders, textbooks, sweaters, and pencil pouches inside the main storage area without a problem. Plus, there are two mesh pockets on either side for miscellaneous accessories. We have received so many compliments on these bags from parents + students!

One of the best amenities of ZUCA bags? They double as a seat! You can see a photo of my 8-year-old sitting on the ZUCA under "French Toast" above.

J World New York

J World New York Lollipop Rolling Backpack
Lollipop Rolling Backpack in Blue Rasberry

Blue Raspberry Lollipop Rolling Backpack J World New York

My kindergarten daughter is using a hand-me-down J World New York rolling backpack. It still looks brand new and is an ideal size for K-4. Not too heavy, but enough room for all of her supplies. The backpack also has straps so she has the option to wear it instead of pull it.

Klean Kanteen

Klean Kanteen insulated water bottles
Klean Kanteen in Quiet Storm and Shale Black

For water bottles, my daughters strongly prefer insulated options so that they can have icy, cold water all day long. Klean Kanteen's insulated water bottles offer cold protection for up to 50 hours. We haven't done a scientific test yet, but they do seem to keep ice frozen for hours.

  • LIKE Klean Kanteen on Facebook.
  • FOLLOW Klean Kanteen on Twitter.
  • BUY insulated water bottles.

SCHOOL SUPPLIES

Our school supply lists are pretty standard. We purchase classroom supplies like paper towels, single-serve snacks, and dry erase markers, as well as individual student supplies like binders, folders, crayons, and scissors. The following supplies are ones that we especially recommend or find useful for 2017.

Pencil Pouch

Handmade pencil pouches are a great way to add beauty to your child's school day.

statue of liberty pencil pouch
New York Liberty Handmade Pouch

Simply gorgeous in artistry, the New York Liberty Handmade Pouch is ideal for tweens and teens who enjoy travel and dream of going new places.

Avian Friends Handmade Pouch Galison
Avian Friends Embroidered Handmade Pouch

As for your nature lovers, the Avian Friends Embroidered Handmade Pouch offers cheerful illustrations and a beauteous orange interior.

Dixon Ticonderoga

Dixon Ticonderoga pencils

When it comes to pencils, I consistently choose Dixon Ticonderoga pencils. We've tried several different brands and Dixon Ticonderoga pencils last longer, sharpen to a sharper point, and have better erasers. I'm so glad I can purchase them in bulk at Costco because we go through pencils quickly during the school year.

  • LIKE Dixon Ticonderoga Company on Facebook.
  • FOLLOW Dixon Ticonderoga on Twitter.
  • BUY Dixon Ticonderoga pencils.

Quartet

quartet dry erase markers and ikea easel

Quartet dry erase marker bold color

I have three large dry erase boards in my house and I use them often - for grocery lists, to-dos, homework explanations, and creative brainstorms. At first, I bought EXPO dry erase markers because they are inexpensive and widely available - but I have been disappointed in their vibrancy, writing quality, and life-expectancy. When I stumbled upon Quartet's chisel tip markers, I was pleasantly surprised. They write smoothly with nice, dark lines that are easy to read - and they seem to last for quite a long time.

Quartet also makes whiteboards in a variety of shapes and sizes, which can be found online (sometimes at Costco too!).

  • LIKE Quartet on Facebook.
  • FOLLOW Quartet Brand on Twitter.
  • BUY dry erase markers by Quartet.

Westcott

Our oldest daughter is in 5th grade and will be completing Saxon 76. Her school supply list called for a compass, protractor, and ruler. Westcott has two handy kits that work well - one with a hard case and one with a soft shell. Super easy to stow away in a backpack!

10 Piece Math Set Hard Case Westcott
Westcott 10 Piece Math Set With Hard Case
Westcott 6 Piece Geometry Kit With Pouch
Westcott Six Piece Geometry Tool Kit With Pouch

As for standard-size rulers, you can choose between plastic or stainless steel in a variety of colors. The translucent jewel colors are especially pretty.

Westcott Stainless Steel Rulers
Westcott 12" Stainless Steel Rulers
Westcott 12 Jewel Tone Plastic Rulers
Westcott 12" Jewel Tone Plastic Rulers

If you need a sturdy pair of "teacher scissors" that will cut through boxes and fabric, the Westcott brand receives consistently good reviews on Amazon. We have a pair of titanium bonded blades that offer a great smooth cut AND a lifetime warranty!

Titanium Ultra Smooth Scissors Lifetime Guarantee
Westcott 8" Titanium UltraSmooth Scissors

School teachers will want to check out this super cute, colorful, and spinnable scissor caddy - which comes with 8 scissors in each color!

Westcott Scissor Caddy
Westcott Scissor Caddy w/ 24 Pointed Scissors
  • LIKE Westcott on Facebook.
  • FOLLOW Westcott on Twitter.
  • BUY school supplies by Westcott.

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I'd love to hear from you! Where do you typically shop for uniforms? Are you brand loyal when it comes to backpacks and pencils? Have you found a water bottle that works well for your child? Which dry erase brand do you reach for?

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