How are we shopping for fun school supplies already? Though it feels like back-to-school season surprises us every year, in the time warp that is 2020, we are particularly thrown for a loop. As if we needed something else to overwhelm us this year, it’s now time to choose new sets of lunch bags, backpacks, binders, folders, pencils, clothes, calculators, and crayons — not to mention face masks and hand sanitizer.
But whether you (and your kids) love it or loathe it, back-to-school shopping is still a necessity, so why not make it enjoyable by also selecting some really fun school supplies? This is a very special Jedi mind trick: You hone in on some extra special novelty items, like a dragon-head stapler or pencil cases that look like food, and then turn off your brain to load up your cart with the required list of felt-tip pens and wide-ruled spiral notebooks. Then when you bring home your bags from the store or you and your kids open the Amazon box at your doorstep, there will be something they’ll be excited to see. It’s also a great way to banish anxiety about all the strange new changes they’ll be facing in a new classroom.
As going back to school looks so different for us this year, what with delayed school starts, virtual schools at home, and hybrid learning models, our list of fun school supplies to shop for is evolving too. Going to a classroom will mean more kids face masks and lanyards to keep those masks in place. You’ll probably want to buy several of both, so that they’ll stay clean and you won’t have to worry about one getting inevitably lost at home or at school.
Staying at home full-time or for a hybrid school model also opens up the potential for more fun school supplies. You can get sillier pens and pencils that teachers might frown upon in the classroom as distractions. You can keep your kids schedule intact with dry-erase boards. And you can keep everyone in the household happier with each other with a good pair of headphones with microphones that can make those Zoom calls a million times less annoying. Hybrid-school models might also require buying two sets of everything — so you really may as well get supplies that make your kids happy for their home set.
If you’ve been a back-to-school shopping hater in the past, now is your chance to rethink that mindset. When all the rest of your shopping list is nonexistent Lysol and Clorox Wipes, you may really enjoy buying something different. In fact, we challenge you not to get psyched about the school supplies we’ve rounded up ahead.
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A version of this article was originally published in July 2017.