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13 Random-but-Useful Finds That Make Back-to-School Shopping Borderline Delightful

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There’s the standard school supplies list—backpack, lunchbox, Gen Alpha-approved sneakers that cost way more than they should—and then there are the little, overlooked things that can take the back-to-school routine from frantic to (dare we say it?) fantastic. And not just because those eight hours in class means fewer “mom, I’m borrrrred” wails throughout your day. We polled PureWow readers and editors to uncover the unexpected things that have streamlined their weekdays. Here are our top picks.

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1. Misting Water Bottle

When is a water bottle not just a water bottle? When it doubles as a mister. On hot days—especially during gym class or after-school sports practice—this two-in-one bottle is a gamechanger. The double-walled insulation keeps drinks cool, and when they’re feeling overheated, they can use it to mist themselves off. It’s no wonder it was a 2021 Happy Kid Awards winner.

AMAZON

2. Scrunchmiez Transforming Hair Ties

Toys aren’t allowed at school, but your kid breaks into body-racking sobs at drop-off. These scrunchies can be a middle ground: They’re a friendly face as they head off on their own, and they double as scrunchies or backpack clips (making them fun for older kids, too).

Name Bubbles

3. Name Bubbles Custom School Supply Labels

Writing—and rewriting—your kids’ names on every jacket, lunchbox and sippy cup gets old, fast. These custom labels are waterproof, not to mention microwave-, dishwasher- and freezer-safe, making them a fuss-free way to ensure your kids’ stuff doesn’t wind up in a lost and found bin three weeks into the school year.

AMAZON

4. Littlehippo Mella Ready To Rise Children’s Sleep Trainer & Alarm Clock

This friendly little alarm clock doubles as a sleep trainer: Mella gets “sleepy” and glows red when it’s time to go to bed. Parents can then program it to glow from yellow to green in the morning—as well as set three different alarm sounds—to gradually wake up your kid. It also plays white noise to help ensure a better night’s sleep.

AMAZON

5. Sensory Chew Necklace

If your son or daughter’s having trouble focusing at school, a chew necklace can help kids filter out excess sensory information, allowing them to dial in to what the teacher’s saying. (It’s worth noting, however, that a child should be supervised while using “chewelry,” as the FDA warns they could present a choking hazard.)

6. Reusable Bag Drying Rack

You went all in on Stashers and other eco-friendly reusable bags, but…drying them is a pain. That’s where this narrow, stainless steel rack comes in. It keeps bags open so they can dry easily, but you can also use it to dry tumblers and utensils.

Stojo

7. Stojo Jr. Box

Backpack space is at a premium, which is why we love this collapsible snack box. Kids can easily smush it to a little over an inch thick—roughly the size of a sandwich—when lunchtime’s over, freeing them up to cram in their art class project, their homework and that cool rock they found on the way home.

8. Hp Instant Ink Subscription

It’s a law of the universe that the day your kid’s essay is due, the ink runs out of the printer…and you realize it, oh, 8 minutes before school starts. Not anymore. With an HP Instant Ink subscription, your printer alerts HP when it’s low on ink and toner, and it sends a shipment to your door, so you’re never left in the lurch. (Plus, it comes with a prepaid envelope to make recycling old cartridges a breeze, and you can save up to 50 percent on ink.)

AMAZON

9. Animal Cord Cable Protectors

Anyone who’s constantly plugging in chargers knows how quickly that part where the lightning or USB port and the cord connect can bend and get frayed. These little creatures protect that, prolonging the life of your cables—and make them easier to find when they inevitably tumble behind kids’ desks.

AMAZON

10. Frixion Erasable Pens

Imagine the smoothness of a gel pen—that actually erases without smudging or tearing the paper. That’s what these babies deliver. You might want to hoard them for yourself.

Clorox

11. Clorox Fabric Sanitizer Spray

Accidents happen. And so do stinky, sweaty gym clothes. This spray sanitizes both of them quickly and easily, removing odors while killing 99.9 percent of bacteria (which is truly a relief, especially after learning nearly 58,000 strains of bacteria exist on your clothes even after they’re washed).

Kinsa

12. Kinsa Smartscan Thermometer

When we want a fast, reliable temp check, we turn to this little gadget. It pairs with the Kinsa app to track temperatures too, so you have a full log at your fingertips, should you need to head to the doctor. (Psst: You can also use your FSA/HSA funds to buy it.)

13. Easthill Pencil Case

As kids get older, the range of school supplies they need on the daily seems to expand exponentially. This organizer has an expandable compartment, so you can squeeze in up to 50 pens (or 90 pencils) inside. But its pockets, pouches and holsters make it even more practical for storing everything from stickers, scissors and highlighters to a graphing calculator.