One thing excited me most about the start of the academic year as a child: new school supplies.
Oh, the days of eager anticipation they created. I’d stare at the plastic coating on my pristine Mead Trapper Keeper, occasionally opening that then-cutting-edge Velcro closure with a rrrrrip that stirred visions of organizational and academic excellence to come.
I’m still surprised I didn’t get beat up more as a kid.
If you’re thinking that buying Junior shiny new school supplies psych up him or her for another year of our public education system failing to close the racial and socio-economically achievement gap . . . then you’ve already flunked! Peak school supply shopping season occurred weeks ago. The retail world shifted to Halloween costumes and candy back on August 13.
Well, maybe you can make do with what remains in the clearance bins. Here’s some ideas:
School Supplies in Demand
The most essential of all school supplies is the backpack, known in parenting circles as “the black hole into which nothing of substance escapes.”
Notes from the teacher, book reports, warnings about plague outbreaks — at one time or another, someone will neatly place all of these items into your child’s backpack. Yet when anyone looks inside only the following will be found:
- rotted fruit
- Captain Underpants comic books
- several reams of crumpled loose-leaf sheets bearing drawings of, if you have a boy, flatulent dinosaurs or, for those with girls, incontinent puppies. (OK, that might actually be a rainbow instead of urine but it’s hard to tell. I blame our government’s lack of support for the arts.)
TIP: Avoid trendy styles. Your kid may beg for a One Direction pull-along in August, but come December, she’ll be dying for The Next Big Thing (Have you heard of them? They rock!). You’ll never go wrong buying items in solid colors or bearing geometric patterns. Also good are timeless cartoon characters, such as SpongeBob Squarepants, Scooby-Doo or Sarah Palin.
A panic broke out a few years back when someone found many popular soft vinyl lunchboxes contained lead even though the addition did a nice job of protecting passersby from the mercury found in most tuna fish sandwiches.
Parents met opposition from conservation groups when switching to plastic bags (wastes oil!) or paper ones (kills trees!). They responded by making their kids buy the cafeteria’s offerings. Then when American parents got a good look at the sludge served on most lunch trays, they shrugged and said, “Meh — what’s a little lead?”
TIP: Look for a lunchbox lined with nylon or a non-PVC material, such as reinforced concrete. As with backpacks, seek styles that never go out of fashion. My favorites are, again, classic cartoon characters. Nothing will satisfy a child more than opening an insulated bag plastered with the likeness of Glenn Beck and finding bologna.
HAND SANITIZER/BABY WIPES/PAPER TOWELS
If you don’t have a school-aged child, then right now you are scratching your head. So am I. Why are you reading this far down?
Cleaning supplies have been the rage in recent years, what with outbreaks of swine flu, avian flu and underfunded school supply budgets. You won’t find a shortage of any of these items in the store. However, you will tire of teachers’ weekly reminders (assuming they are not placed in your child’s backpack) of the need for your little one to bring in more of these items to deal with the germ-riddled, mouth-breathers they take of your hands for six hours a day.
TIP: Save money on these items, not to mention clothing, by outfitting your child in a hazmat suit and gas mask. Buy a size up to allow for growth during the school year.
TIP: Better yet, consider home schooling.