Back to School! Shopping for Supplies Safely

Backpacks are one back-to-school item often best purchased online where variety is greater

Somehow it is that time of year again – back to school! This week we’re re-posting a popular, two-part series we did during back to school time last year. Today we’ll talk about back to school shopping. Thursday we’ll talk about backpack drives.

Here in little State College the start of the school year is signaled first by the onslaught of U-Hauls. Back to school for the little ones comes with a lengthy and specific list, hence the annual tradition of back to school shopping. As any caregiver (/older sibling) knows, this can be fun and also immensely stressful. Today we’re going to talk about some shopping safety tips so you end up with gender-fair supplies and accoutrements at the end.

First, let’s remember our mantra from the Halloween costume post because that applies here as well (with some flexibility): Determine the End Goal. Shop around online. Shop alone. Big Reveal.

  1. The End Goal. This is what you need to buy + what you are willing to buy — the folders, pencils, and whatnot on your child’s list, plus the new clothes they need because they grew two sizes, and then whatever you are willing to consider buying because you know they will ask. For example, even more new clothes, new sneakers, a new backpack. Whatever. You know your kid. Take a gander at your list, your child’s closet, the lunchbox or backpack situation, and set some parameters for yourself.
  2. Shop around on online. This one is as important here as for Halloween costumes because so much of what is in stores is crappy and gender-unfair. It is also generally branded with the character du jour, which has a lot of gender stuff wrapped up in it. Online you have more time and options to figure out what works for you. Backpacks for example are one item I highly recommend getting online. For your very little one, these animal theme packs are cute and gender-fair
    Even if you’re just looking for the standard Jansport standby, you can find all the colors online, whereas in-store, you’re likelier to encounter a limited, gender stereotyped selection. Of course, things like pencils or folders are sometimes better bought in-store if you don’t want to supply the entire class…
  3. Shop Alone. Big Reveal. These go hand in hand. If you have it in you to shop alone (or fully online), you can compensate for not taking your child along by making an event out of sharing what you bought them. But, I understand that shopping for back to school supplies is often a family affair and if you feel strongly about it, by all means, take them along.

So if you’re taking your child along…

  • Stick to your End Goal. Review this beforehand with your child so they knew what to get excited about. Now you can righteously steer them away from all the things you aren’t shopping for.
  • Give your child two or three choices you are comfortable and then let them pick — don’t let the entire store be fair game.
  • No clothes with words. Seriously. Ever. Children’s clothing companies seem only to mess this up with things like this:
    ChildrensPlaceShirt
  • Stay with the color palette you’re comfortable with — for example avoid only pink for girls and only very masculine colors for boys, or mix those up with lots of other colors. Variety is, after all, the spice of life. Alternatively, pick a theme (that isn’t a color) and match to that — for example animals (and you can start with that great hippo backpack) — and then colors sort of come from those without being the focus.
  • Also just a word about particular stores and clothing — it’s been our experience that the boys’ and girls’ sections at Target and Walmart are deeply problematic. Old Navy and Gap, on the other hand, are generally (but not always) less polarized. Kids grow quickly, so thrift stores are also a good option, but you’ll need to be more mindful of the gender signals in the selection (which may in fact, depending on where you live, be wonderful and varied).

There are a few things we’ve recently purchased for grown-up (graduate) school that are worth sharing because you too might want them for your environmentally-cognizant child… We bring our lunch to the office every day and perhaps like you, wanted something durable, medium stylish, and safe (in our on-going personal war on plastics). We have:

This neoprene lunch box which comes in fun, gender-fair patterns

Both glass tupperware and these stainless containers in a couple of shapes and sizes

This delightful, stainless thermos, which also comes in a variety of fun colors and patterns

And our favorite new addition…a spork. Go ahead and laugh, but our lunchtime is enjoyable.

Stick to these tips and back to school shopping can be an exciting way to usher in the new school year! You can find all of these recommendations, as usual, in our Amazon store. Remember that when you use our store or click from our links, a teeny tiny percentage comes back to help keep this site online.

(Originally posted 8/11/13)

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  1. Pingback: Back To School! Part 2, Backpack Drives | Fair Play

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