7 Hot Back-to-School Trends

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PERSONALIZATION

Kids want back-to-school gear as unique as they are.

Graffeeti Backpacks ($24) feature a panel on the back where kids can write messages whenever the mood strikes (markers included). The backpack also has more than enough room for books and school gear, and two additional zippered utility pockets on the sides to hold keys and knick-knacks.

Kids can design their own 3-D notebooks ($16.99 large/$9.99 small) at Snapily by uploading photos or choosing from a number of options in the site's gallery.  

Zazzle, the online home of customization, lets kids to design their own binders ($20.80) with images and text of their choosing.

Another option, Target’s Personalized Stationery ($1.50 each), includes notebooks and folders decorated in black and white patterns.

COLORS AND PRINTS

Kids want to stand out, so you be seeing bright colors, patterns and animal prints.

For the Younger Set

Skiphop makes adorable backpacks ($20) sized perfectly for little kids. They come in several animal varieties with matching insulated lunch bags.

Crocodile Creek makes practical lunch bags ($17.99) with underwater scenes, ladybugs, dinosaurs … all the creatures children love. Check out their stainless steel bottles, too.


For the Older Set

Shopjustice.com sells trendy backpacks ($9.90) and supplies that are perfect for girls this season. If I were 15, I’d rock their Leopard 8-Piece Value set, which includes just about everything kids will need, including two folders, a composition book, and a binder pencil pouch.

Girls will also love the Zebra Z-Grip Daisies pens ($3). The ink inside is as colorful as the pen’s unique design.

For boys or unisex styles, here are my favorites:

Seltzergoods’ 7-Year Pen ($7.50) comes in lots of cool colors and patterns, and it contains four times as much ink as a standard pen. If your kids can hang onto them, the pen will write beautifully for seven years or so.

Knock Knock makes notebooks ($11), using recycled paper, with sayings like “This is Not My Notebook."  Surely your smarty-pants will find these entertaining.

For the Eco-Conscious Kid - Terracycle makes a fantastic water-resistant messenger bag ($17.99) crafted from a piece of billboard vinyl and reclaimed seatbelt. These bags are one-of-a-kind, so your kids will feel like they're making a personal statement.

For the Bookworm - The Ivar Aero ($60) has a patented internal shelving system to keeps essentials separateand within reach. With contents organized in shelves, the weight is distributed evenly for a comfortable, ergonomic fit.

For the “Cool” Kids – Burton Snowboards makes the Metalhead, a backpack ($49.95) that allows you to compartmentalize your gear. There is a padded laptop compartment, a fleece-lined iPod pocket and a large main compartment to store books. Underneath the main compartment is a built-in cooler for lunch or drinks.

FAVORITE CHARACTERS

Younger kids want gear that features their favorite characters. That's easy enough to find, but not all manufacturers are treated equal. I think that Disney does a great job of making fun yet practical products.

Some of my favorites are their themed Supply Kits containing folders, pencils, eraser, notebook and a ruler.  They have matching lunchboxes that are cute and well designed. And wouldn’t you know, they also have themed Itty Bitty Bands (their version of Silly Bandz).

Disney Store Supply Kit, Lunch Tote
(on sale for $6)

Disney Itty Bitty Bands
($1.99 for 12-count polybag)

THE PRACTICAL STUFF (FOR PARENTS)

For your sanity, here's a few things that your kids will love, and that will make your life easier.

Stop Losing Stuff

Especially for the younger ones, label their clothes, backpacks, lunch bags, etc. I have iron-on labels, but don’t use them that because it seems like too much work. I found a solution in Mabel’s Labels (check for prices). They make sticky non-iron personalized labels that work just as well as the iron-on versions. They also make fantastic personalized dog tag style luggage tags that are great for lunch bags and backpacks.

If your kids have lots of small essentials (iPod, calculator, phone, ruler, etc.) that they have a hard time hanging onto, check out the Grid-it Organizers (prices vary). They use a weave of rubberized elastic bands to hold items securely in place.

Food & Drink
If they're taking a healthy drink, try my favorite leak-free (and BPA-free) bottle, the Contigo Autoseal Trekker Mug ($9.99 for set of two). You’ll never see a wet backpack again. Boys and girls colors available.

If you want your kids to skip the lunch line and want a lunch kit that’s eco-friendly, try the Kid’s Konserve Waste-Free Lunch Kit ($30). The kit contains a canvas carrying sack, aluminum drinking bottle, fabric sandwich cozy, two aluminum food containers and a napkin.

Gear Overload
Have lots of gear that your kids have outgrown or lost interest in? Check out ThredUp, a new swap site for parents in need of new-ish gear and with new-ish gear to swap.

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