It’s that time again! The end of summer is drawing near, and our thoughts start to turn to falling leaves and back to school shopping. With a kid going into middle school, suddenly back to school shopping includes less markers and stickers and becomes more about getting some more grown-up accessories to help them navigate this exciting time.
If your kid is suddenly 13 going on 30, we hope this list will help you check off some of the most important items on your shopping list. We’ve done the research and tracked down some of this year’s back to school essentials and found great options that fit any budget. Are you ready to shop?
Your little one might be getting bigger, but a solid backpack is still a back to school necessity. Whether your kiddo likes to dress theirs up with patches and pins or prefers a more minimal style, these backpacks will get the job done and look cool doing it.
Kanken backpacks are the epitome of cool, and this sleek backpack is sturdy, well-made, and stylish.
Editor’s pick: Vans Galaxy Backpack $34.95
We love this colorful galaxy print backpack from Vans for kids who aren’t afraid to make a statement.
Budget pick: Amazonbasics Classic School Backpack $17.82
This super-affordable backpack comes in seven colors, so you’re sure to find one that suits your tween.
NEXT: Be sure to pack a sweet treat for your kiddo in this school day essential.
2. Lunch box
If lunch was your favorite class when you were in school, odds are you’re way ahead of us on this one. However, if you’re still on the prowl for the perfect lunch box, we’ve got you covered. These options will help keep things fresh all through the day. Let’s eat!
Premium pick: Yeti Daytrip Lunch Bag $79.99
This super-insulated Yeti lunch bag will keep cold drinks cool and prevent pudding cups from getting all warm and gross.
Editor’s pick: Bentgo Kids Bento-Style Lunchbox $27.99
We love this cool bento-style design from Bentgo. This multi-compartment lunch box will keep sandwiches from getting smashed in the bottom of that cool backpack you just bought.
Budget pick: Amersun Kids Insulated Lunchbox $13.99
This sturdy insulated lunch bag will keep food cool and un-smushed at a great price.
NEXT: You probably didn’t have one of these in your school days, but now it’s an essential.
3. Electronic tablet
Everything is more high tech these days, even middle school. Help your tween start the new school year in style with an electronic tablet that gets the job done at any budget.
Premium pick: Apple iPad Pro $849.99
It doesn’t get more premium than the Apple iPad Pro. With wi-fi and cellular data, this iPad can connect to the Internet pretty much anywhere. Plus, the stylus makes it easy to jot down a few notes or create art in Procreate.
Editor’s pick: Apple iPad Air $249.00
Apple’s iPad Air comes with wi-fi and 32GB of storage. This is one high quality and lightweight tablet that delivers a great user experience at a reasonable price.
Budget pick: Amazon Fire Tablet 7 $49.99
Amazon’s Fire Tablet measures just seven inches in length, but it still packs plenty of power and includes Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa.
NEXT: Thirsty for more? You’ll be drinking up with this next item.
4. Water bottle
Staying hydrated throughout a long day at school is super important. There’s nothing worse than being trapped in fourth period when you’re dying of thirst. Help your tween carry some all-important water in style with one of these cool bottles.
Premium pick: Brita 20 Ounce Premium Filtering Water Bottle $34.99
This stainless steel water bottle doesn’t just keep cold drinks cold and hot ones hot. It also has a built-in filter so grabbing a refill from the drinking fountain can feel a little cleaner.
Editor’s pick: Takeya Vacuum-Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle $16.28
This 32-ounce water bottle is leak-proof and its stainless steel construction ensures drinks will stay at just the right temperature for hours.
Budget pick: Pogo Tritan Water Bottle $8.99
This BPA-free plastic water bottle holds plenty of water and looks pretty cool doing it.
NEXT: Hopefully you only need to shell out for this item once during middle school.
A good laptop computer should last your child from middle school through at least most of high school too. Which a computer can be one of the bigger purchases on your back to school shopping list, any of these machines is a great bet.
Premium pick: Apple MacBook Air $899.99
MacBooks remain the top choice for creatives thanks to their beautiful display and built in programs like Garageband and iMovie. If your kid is a budding artist, consider investing in one of these.
Editor’s pick: Dell Inspiron Laptop $353.99
A Dell laptop is great for doing homework, using the Internet for research, email, and all the basics. This computer is a solid choice for any tween.
Budget pick: Acer Chromebook $196.00
Chromebooks are great for browsing the web, streaming music or video, and email. Plus, with online apps like Google Docs, your kids can still get their homework done using one of these more reasonable machines.
NEXT: Listen up, you won’t want to miss the great stuff we found for this audio accessory.
Whether they need to block out some noise to study or want to listen to a playlist from a friend, your tween’s headphones are sure to be their best friend. We found a great pair in every price range to keep the music playing.
Premium pick: Bose QuietComfort Noise Canceling Headphones $154.00
Bose’s noise-canceling headphones are absolutely top of the line. No sounds can distract them from studying with these puppies on.
Editor’s pick: JBL Wireless Headphones $49.95
We love these Bluetooth enabled monochromatic headphones. They come in four colors and look super sharp.
Budget pick: Heavy Bass Ear Buds 4 Pack $9.99
These handy earbuds are super discreet, functional, and they come in four stylish colors. Plus they’re cheap enough that you won’t be too bummed if you lose a pair along the way.
NEXT: This stuff can help them handle some of puberty’s little surprises.
7. Face wash
Middle school is full of firsts, but you probably won’t be throwing your tween a party when they sprout their first pimple. For many kids, preventative skincare can make a huge difference. Get them started with a nice face wash, whether they’ve had their first breakout yet or not, so they’ll be ahead of the game.
Premium pick: Clinique Acne Solutions Cleansing Foam $34
Clinique makes taking care of your face feel so fancy. This is one face wash you wouldn’t mind using, too!
Editor’s pick: Cerave Foaming Facial Cleanser $13.59
Cerave offers one of the milder acne washes that you can pick up at the drugstore. We highly recommend this one if your tween has dry or sensitive skin.
Budget pick: Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash $6.67
Kick it old school with some Neutrogena face wash. This stuff has been around forever because it really does work.
NEXT: Speaking of our changing bodies, these products can help cut down on some of those new smells.
Remember when your precious baby always smelled like fresh powder and angel kisses? Well, now that they’ve hit middle school those days are gone. Help them get their pits under control with a natural deodorant that won’t irritate sensitive skin or smell like a Bath & Body Works store.
Premium pick: Native Deodorant $11.97
This natural deodorant is made without aluminum and comes in scents like Cranberry & Plum or Coconut & Lime.
Editor’s pick: Crystal Mineral Deodorant Stick $5.51
This unscented natural deodorant is suitable for boys or girls, and it won’t leave white marks on their black t-shirts.
Budget pick: Degree Original Protection Antiperspirant Deodorant $2.47
Degree’s Antiperspirant Deodorants are tough enough to take on your tween’s sweatiest days. Plus at this price, you can buy them an extra stick for their gym locker.
NEXT: A middle schooler’s room is their sanctuary. Consider picking up some decor to help them make it their own.
9. Room decor
As a tween, suddenly getting sent to your room isn’t a punishment anymore. Your middle schooler probably loves hanging out in their room and wants to use this space to express their budding sense of identity. Pick out some decor with them to help them make their room feel like exactly who they are this week.
Premium pick: Cactus Print 3 Piece Duvet Cover $58.99
Give your tween’s room a total makeover with a new duvet cover and pillow shams. We love this chic illustrated cactus print, but it also comes in floral, geometric, and even dinosaur-themed styles.
Editor’s pick: Northpoint Lightbox with 109 Letters $15.95
This marquee-style light-up sign is fully customizable and totally fun. We’re considering grabbing one of these bad boys for the office.
Budget pick: Brizled Fairy Lights $7.99
Fairy lights are a fun and inexpensive way to add a little magic to any space.
NEXT: Speaking of desks, your middle schooler might be outgrowing that little kid number.
Middle school is full of growing pains, and sometimes huge growth spurts. If your little one is suddenly taller than you, they might be ready for a bigger desk. Check out these choices to find the perfect one for them.
Premium pick: Harper&Bright designs Computer Desk with Cabinet $178.75
This spacious desk comes with tons of storage space in its drawers, plus it turns the wall behind it into a very handy bookshelf.
Editor’s pick: Sauder Beginnings Desk with Hutch $111.99
We love this spacious hutch because it has tons of storage space and a minimalist design that your kiddo can really personalize.
Budget pick: Ikea Micke Desk $90.71
This Ikea desk should last through your kid’s teen years. Plus, you can have a fun bonding experience when you assemble it together.