Dos and don’ts for backpacks

Backpacks come in all shapes, colors and sizes, with and without wheels, in double-strap and cross-body styles. Kids can express their individuality with the backpack’s exterior, but what’s inside remains rather consistent for all kids. Here are 10 things every kid should carry in his backpack, and five no-nos to avoid.

Girl with backpack

10 things children should carry in their backpacks


Something to write with

Elementary school children can get by with a pencil or two, while middle and high school kids should have at least one pencil for each class.


Something to write on

Paper is usually provided for younger children, but older kids should never be without a notebook for notes and assignments. Some schools require one notebook for each subject, in which case a three-ring binder can help keep them organized.

Pencils, paper and other school supplies under $1 >>



Papers can get awfully wrinkled in a backpack, so your child should carry a folder for papers traveling between home and school. For younger students, write “LEFT at home” on the left pocket for papers that your child can keep and “Bring RIGHT back” on the right pocket for papers that must be returned.



Every kid should carry an independent reading book to keep busy during downtimes.

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For kids who aren’t wired 24/7, there are good-old fashioned reference books. A pocket dictionary/thesaurus comes in handy during study halls.


Cell phone

Parents and students feel safer with cell phones, which are ideal for afterschool arrangements and urgent messages. Review your school’s cell phone use policy and abide by it at all times.

Should kids have cell phones? >>


Emergency info

Program your child’s cell phone with emergency numbers. Younger children can carry those numbers on laminated cards.



Kids may want to keep a dollar and some change on hand for bake sales, vending machines or other little unexpected expenses.

How much allowance should your kids get? >>


Seasonal items

During cold-weather months, encourage your child to carry a hat and gloves to keep warm should the bus break down or she becomes stranded.



Pack sample-size toiletries such as sunscreen, lip balm, tissues and Band-aids — just in case. And unless they carry a separate purse, girls should keep a ready stash of pads/tampons and feminine wipes in their backpacks.

School supplies for teens >>

Up next: 5 Things kids shouldn’t carry in their backpacks >>


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