Back-to-School Guide 2021: Elementary and Middle School

Back-to-School Guide 2021: Elementary and Middle School 1

Welcome to the 2021-22 school year! We hope the year ahead is full of wonder, awe, and discovery for each of your children.

To help you get prepared for the 2021-22 school year, we've pulled together a list of the best clothing, shoes, accessories, bags, and other gear for elementary and middle school students. Two of our four kids fit in this category. We have an entering 4th grader and 7th grader!

Happy shopping!


Boot Barn

Start your school year with a big "howdy" and a strong dose of warm country hospitality by shopping at Boot Barn! All of the above items are from their proprietary Shyanne Girls clothing line.

If you and/or your kids enjoy western wear as everyday wear, Boot Barn will have you covered with western button-downs, jean jackets, and embellished belts. You'll find us wearing these duds to a local barn dance this fall!


For quality back-to-school basics, Carter's/OshKosh is one of our go-to brands! They offer trendy pieces for each new season for newborn babies all the way up through size 14.

We were first introduced to Carter's fifteen years ago when we had our first baby (FYI - Carter's has the BEST and SOFTEST onesies!), but we still enjoy the brand's collection for our 9-year-old and 12-year-old.

Janie & Jack

If I could only pick one clothing brand for my kids for the rest of their childhood, it would probably be Janie & Jack. Preppy is my jam. Give me all of the collared shirts, cardigans, riding pants, sailor shorts, and pencil skirts. If that sounds like your style too, then take a look at Janie & Jack for bitty babies all the way up through age 16.

Koolaburra by Ugg

If you live in a city that tends to get cold or snowy in the fall and winter months, you and your kids will love the snug and comfy boots from Koolaburra by Ugg. They're soft and warm, while also featuring adorable bows and decorative elements.


American Girl

American Girl is a much-loved brand among women my age (30s and 40s) because we love to reminisce about how we first "met" Samantha, Felicity, Abby, and Kirsten. I distinctly remember poring over the pages of the American Girl Magazine and reading through stacks of AG historical novels, imagining what it would be like to grow up in a different era. Although the brand has veered some from their original roots, American Girl still produces excellent resources for young girls (particularly in the 7 to 12 age range).

For the Back-to-School season, I especially recommend "The Care and Keeping of You," "Manners" and "What to Say." Read them alongside your tween and see where the conversation takes you.

Barnes & Noble

Our kids attend a classical school and, as such, we are avid readers of all the classics. From Anne of Green Gables and Charlotte's Web to Pride & Prejudice and The Odyssey, our kids read a gigantic stack of books each year. Although the school provides the books, we enjoy searching out and buying pretty hardcover versions for our home library. Barnes & Noble's exclusive classics are just right for this purpose. The covers are gorgeous and the designs are eye-catching. Plus, B&N offers excellent bookish accessories that make our nerdy hearts sing.

If I Built A School

Chris Van Dusen's newest picture book will enchant any child as they prepare to go back to school this fall.

Open the pages and meet Jack, a young boy who imagines what school would be like if he were in charge...and the results are enough to make any student ooh and aah. A Puppy welcoming committee? Classrooms with open roofs? Hover desks and hologram guests? A trampoline basketball court? Jack's school has all of this and more!

If you love this book as much as we do, you will also enjoy If I Built A Car and If I Built A House - both by Van Dusen, a talented author, illustrator, and master of rhymes.

  • FOLLOW Chris Van Dusen on Facebook.
  • BUY "If I Built A School."

NIV Adventure Bible by Zondervan

Recommended for ages 9-12, the NIV Adventure Bible by Zondervan is a fun pick for mid-elementary students. The Bible is available for purchase with a variety of different cover options. The inner pages include the full NIV text (Genesis through Revelation) along with age-appropriate commentary, full-color maps, and spotlights about important people.


Arctic Zone

Arctic Zone specializes in adorable lunch box designs with excellent insulation.

We first discovered this brand when we purchased lunch boxes at our local Costco last year and we were super impressed by the quality all year long. Their double ice pack boxes kept our salads and sandwiches chilled - even in warm weather (we're in Arizona!).

This year, we had the opportunity to try out some of their more mature lunch bags and boxes {pictured above}. They are super stylish, while also being efficient and spacious! Check 'em out!


We know everyone is crazy about a certain water bottle brand with the initials HF, but our family prefers the Takeya Actives water bottle collection. These water bottles are super sturdy, keep liquids icy cold, and have the best tops (the Spout Lids are easy to clean, easy to carry, easy to fill, and easy to drink out of - including for sports!). We also love that the Actives bottles have protective bumpers, which helps to mitigate the loudness of the bottles in gyms and other athletic settings.


Comfy Sacks

Never underestimate how a cozy, beautiful space can impact learning...for the better! All four of our kids (ranging in age from 4 to almost 15) love curling up in our Comfy Sack to read a book, to do homework, or to relax after a long day.

The 5 Foot Pebble Grey Sack is pictured, but note that Comfy Sacks has options in over a dozen colors in microsuede, cord, faux leather, and faux fur. These snug & stylish sacks easily match any room's decor - bedroom, dorm room, home office, home library, rec room, or living room!


Our 9-year-old loves having a desk in her room and this simple piece of furniture has inspired her to greater independence with her homework. In fact, on the very first afternoon that we placed the desk in her room, she immediately set to work in completing her math, Latin, cursive, and grammar assignments - with classical music playing in the background!

Although it does depend on your child's height and weight, P'kolino's Kids Corner Desk and Chair appears to be just the right size for ages 7-10. Little ones in the 5-6 range will be able to use it also.


Umbra's mission is "to create modern designs that are accessible in both price and attitude." In other words, they sell all kinds of lovely and useful things for your home - mirrors, vases, curtain rods, soap dispensers, coat racks, coffee tables, even games!

The Bulletboard Memo Board (pictured left) is sleek, sturdy, and sophisticated. Beautifully designed in metallic neutrals, it will easily blend with any bedroom. We love that it accommodates both pushpins and magnets!

As for the IMelda Shoe Rack, it truly helps shoes to stay organized and will allow you (or your child/teen!) to maximize closet space.


California Baby

I've been a fan of California Baby since my babies were babies. My youngest is now four years old, but our family still uses the California Kids line. Although we love many of their products, our two older girls (ages 12 and almost 15) particularly like the Konjac Facial Sponge and #Superclear Face Wash. Gentle ingredients that we all can feel good about! Perfect for tweens + teens!


Ideal Bookshelf

Your kids will love collecting these charming literary book pins by Ideal Bookshelf. Each miniature pin is a tiny book cover, reimagined by illustrator Jane Mount. They can be pinned on backpacks, purses, shirts, or jackets.


Our family has been using TableTopics' conversation cubes for YEARS. We love pulling them out and using them around our dinner table - especially when we have company! Each beautifully-designed cube features 135 square cards. Each card has one question pertaining the to cube theme.

For example, the TEEN cube has questions like "What's your best vacation memory?," "Which of your friends has the coolest parents and what do you like about them?," and "What would you like to be doing in 10 years?"

The INSPIRING WOMEN FOR GIRLS cube has questions like "Where would you volunteer if you had a free day tomorrow?," "If you were the mayor of your city, what would you change?," and "Which school subject will benefit you most in the future?"

Other TableTopics editions include: Girls Night Out, Kids, Road Trip, Dinner Party, and more.

What are your favorite products for back-to-school 2021?

Where will you be purchasing clothes, shoes, and gear for your elementary and middle school students?


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