Back-to-School: Cool Alternatives to Standard School Supplies

I can clearly remember the first days back to school. It was a time of reviving friendships distanced by summer months. Of wondering if Mrs.-what’s-her-name really was as mean as the older kids said she was. And it was a time of look-what-I-got-that-you-don’t. As grades get progressively higher, so do the fashion stakes. The whole “I’ve GOTTA Have It” comes into full play.

One thing that never changes is the school supply list. Granted, the contents might differ grade-to-grade but you’ve always gotta have the pencils, paper, and the ever-present book bag or backpack.

The great thing is that we don’t have to travel all over town to find the coolest stuff anymore. We’ve got digital shopping right at our fingertips. Not only can we save tons of money on school supplies, but we can find the best stuff around. I’m constantly looking at the things I find for my daughter and think, “I so wish I could have had that!”

Want the run-down on where you can snag the school supplies that will even have your kids impressed? Here’s a few places that you’ve just got to look at before you head to the standard department store. In most cases, it won’t cost you a penny more than your kids would have you spend at the mall – and it’s stuff that isn’t going to be found on every child’s body in town.

Standard School Supplies: The Backpack

We all hear about how much kids are carrying on their backs – and if you’ve ever tried to heft your child’s backpack for a few minutes, you’ll know it’s true. A recent study performed by the University of California in San Diego found that the way loads are distributed could be more of a problem than the weight itself. That mislaid distribution can cause shoulder pain and lower back pain.

So, while you’re looking for something that looks cool, keep these backpack safety tips in mind:

1. Look for Wide Straps. Wider straps will help spread the load inside the backpack, distributing it more evenly on the shoulders.
2. Keep it High. Not only do kids think wearing both shoulders is uncool, but they tend to want it riding low, too. The lower the backpack sits, though, the more pressure is placed on the lower back.
3. Lighten it Up. This isn’t always possible … but wherever it is, lighten the load. It’s best to prevent problems from ever starting in the first place.

Now that you know what to look out for, it’s time to find just what you’re looking to get your student … and where.

For the best backpacks around arranged in easy-to-understand categories like “Standard Book Bags”, “Messenger Bags”, and “Wheeled Backpacks”, you only need one website: Rockymountain Trail.

What are some of your best bets?

For girls, check out the Heli Pro Girls by Dakine. It comes with a lifetime manufacturer’s warranty, and will evenly distribute over 2 pounds in polyester ripstop. An insulated hydro sleeve ensures your girl has plenty of cool water through a hectic day, and specialty carries will take her beyond the classroom – right to the slopes, with a vertical snowboard carry and diagonal ski carry built into the backpack.

For boys, you’ll want to look at the Hellcat by JanSport. This versatile backpack will take your boys from school to the hiking trail and everything in-between. It features easy-grab bungee cord zipper pulls, side compartments, S-curve shoulder straps to distribute backpack weight safely, and it’s fully padded for comfort. Just over 2 pounds can be carried in the Hellcat, made from Denier Poly.

Standard School Supplies: Pens and Pencils

After the backpack, the next most universal item that every kid going back to school needs are plenty of pens and pencils. Throughout the course of a year, they’ll go through dozens … at least. Since they don’t cost much to begin with, why not make keeping a pencil around a little bit easier by making sure they’re truly neat?

Take a look at these Recycled Jean Pencils from Green Earth Office Supply. Created from a minimum of reclaimed denim, these blue jean pencils come in a pack of twelve – and will make everyone feel good because they’re recycled. Like the recycled idea but want something different than denim? Green Earth Office Supply also offers these nifty pencils – made from 20-25% post-consumer recycled currency. A beautiful green color, and they’re made of money.

If you’d like to find a pen that won’t get lost – ever – and can be refilled easily, you definitely need to see the Zip Pen. In fact, I can almost guarantee you’ll want to get one for yourself as well as to fill part of the school supply list. What the Zip Pen does is actually slip over your finger so that the pen is more comfortable to use and always within reach. No more rolling under the desk and having to scramble across dirty floors to grab it (and didn’t you hate when the big guy in the back put his foot on your pen while leering? maybe just a personal experience…).

Standard School Supplies: Organize and Accessorize

Beyond the basics, there’s always something a little extra that you want to do and get for your children. Back-to-school can feel like the perfect time to do it, cheering their academics on and encouraging them in the whole education process.

Want to find something a little beyond the basics? Here are the top three websites with the kind of stuff kids drool for (listed in no particular order):

PBteen – An extension off of Pottery Barn, you know that the things here are good quality … and the people behind them definitely know what they’re doing. The stuff here is geared toward girls with lots of pinks and plenty of great “stuff”.

Back-to-School Cool – From Better Homes and Gardens, their best-of-the best links to the things kids will love.

eBay Pulse
– Nothing but school supplies, at the kind of deals you expect from eBay.

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