What is the best way to shop for school supplies?

Shopping for a new session at school can be a fun-filled exercise, at the same it could teach your wards some life skills.

Deepti G (who lives off Bannerghata Road), mother of a ten-year-old daughter with fixed opinions of her own, prefers not to go for shopping for school supplies with her child anymore. With the incredible amount of school products available, shopping can get out of hand. "Every year we end up with pencil boxes, tons of sketch pens and markers, calculators, pouches and snack boxes that we never end up using," she reasons.

shopping for school

File pic: Meera K

So what is the best way to shop for school supplies? First, make a list. I asked some experienced parents and they said a very basic list should contain: School bag, uniform (if your child is attending a big school), shoes, water bottle, lunch box, pencil box, notebooks, book covers, name labels, pens and pencils, sharpener, eraser, ruler, crayons/markers/watercolors, glue, scissors, calculators (if needed), et cetera.

Of these, schools expect you to buy some of the essential items from them (often through a coupon system) or from specified shops, like uniforms and stationery like books and notebooks and sometimes even brown paper covers. When it comes to the shoes, the schools don’t always expect you to buy these from them but when you are unable to, you aren’t left with much option but to fall back upon the school.

Given the weight of the books, parents usually prefer the backpack style school bags in polyester or nylon with side compartments to keep bottles and comfortable shoulder straps. Samyukta Pai, who’s in Std IX, Sree Kumaran’s Children’s Home, says her school doesn’t mind any kind of bags as long as the students avoid extra fancy key chains or danglers.

If your child is younger, say between 3-6 years, it’s easier to forget practicality and veer towards the peppy stuff with the variety available in the market. When you are going school supply hunting, please make sure to avoid buying the extra fancy stuff, says Swati Jain, a long-time nursery teacher who works at a prep school in JP Nagar. The teacher’s assistants in schools who are responsible for opening or packing children’s bags, complicated accessories make their job difficult.


  • Make a list
  • Avoid extra fancy stuff; bags, sippers, lunch boxes must be easy to open and clean for your child, teacher or the school helper
  • Scan the papers for deals and discounts
  • Use school shopping to teach children life’s lessons

If you are a budget savvy parent, start scanning the papers for good deals, a month or 15 days before school starts. Most malls and stationery stores these days offer great discounts and varieties on school supplies to suit every budget. Make a list with the quantities you need to purchase clearly marked or like your child, it could be tempting enough for even you to go overboard.

Life’s Lessons

For older children, school shopping time is a good way to teach them life’s lessons, say experienced mothers. Some ideas:

Money: Set a shopping budget. Explain to your child, for instance, why five different pencil sets are not needed if several of last term’s are still in good condition.

Recycling: Strike a deal with your child. Make at least a couple of notebooks out of the unused pages of the previous years. Reuse the backs of old calendars to make labels.

Creative covers: If you are covering school books with brown paper decorate the books with little stars and flowers to make them stand out. Cover notebooks with the newspaper’s children’s section or magazine pages (with suitable pictures) as these look attractive and make for strong covers. Check first is if the school allows this. Or if your teenager does.

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