The Ultimate Back to School Shopping List for Kindergarten and Preschool

Check out our back-to-school shopping list, aimed at empowering young children in their first school experiences

Jenna Wawrzyniec

Content Specialist

For our youngest learners, back to school shopping entails more than colored pencils and a cute pair of shoes; it’s a holistic preparation aimed at supporting their developing interests and capabilities, ensuring we proactively minimize hurdles towards their leaps in independence, self-motivation, and confidence.

Check out our curated back-to-school shopping list, aimed at empowering young children in their first school experiences. We’ve designed this list to authentically mirror the reality that school preparation pours into our homes, too, not just the classroom. 

Build Your Morning Routine with These Must-Haves

Versatile step stool – if you don’t already have a step stool, now is the time to invest! We recommend one with two different height options, like this popular IKEA step stool. Busy mornings will feel less daunting when children can navigate self-care and food prep more independently.

Wall hooksWall hooks are helpful for storing entryway essentials at the child’s level, including backpacks, hats, and jackets. 

Faucet extender – This is helpful for toddlers and preschoolers who still can’t reach the faucet. Using an extender can help maximize their involvement in self-care tasks. 

Light switch extender – Simply installing light switch extenders in bedrooms and main living areas helps children feel capable of initiating their days, especially for early risers.

Child-size pitcher – This is great for serving water, milk or juice, so that your child can help themselves with their breakfast. If pouring is a new skill for your child, we suggest starting with a small pitcher.

Intermediate8 oz pitcher 

Advanced16oz glass pitcher

Accessible food storage: Finding food storage options that your children can open and close independently is key. You can prepare breakfast and after-school snack options in a way that they can access for themselves from a low shelf or drawer. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Pop-up cereal container– This makes it easier for a young child to pour their own cereal 
  • Reusable Snack Bags – These are great for both at-home and on-the-go. (Looking for a smaller set for tiny hands? Try these ones by ZipTop.)
  • Glass Lid Set – This simple, clear set is ideal for children — the glass is great because it lets kids know what’s inside before choosing. While some children can manage snap-lock lids, this Pyrex set is great for all levels with lids that lift up easily.

Age-appropriate calendar – Calendars marketed for young children are often over-stimulating or too advanced. Time is an abstract concept for children younger than three, but we can support our toddlers’ understanding of time by offering a simpler calendar that meets them on their level. 

  • A linear calendar – This calendar is an ideal introduction to time because it shows how a day fits into a week; how a week fits into a month; and how a month fits into a year. We particularly love this linear calendar on Etsy here by HarperandWren. To display, find an open wall where each month can be hung sequentially. Add a clothespin to mark the current day with your child. You can also color code school days and weekends to distinguish the two. 
  • A magnetic, dry erase calendar – As your child grasps the concept of time, you can move into a more zoomed-in weekly or monthly outlook. A plain dry erase calendar is great for helping your child track the day without distracting bells and whistles. 

A low mirror – Adding a low mirror allows your child to see themselves as they work on coordination skills with getting dressed. This simple mirror available on Amazon is a versatile choice. 

A child-sized dressing chair – If your child has nowhere to sit, getting dressed and putting shoes on independently will be more difficult. Keep in mind that an 18-month toddler requires a different height than a 5-year-old. We suggest getting a flip chair. They can be turned and adjusted to offer three different heights. Here’s one we love from Sprout Kids Furniture. 

Visual timer – This is helpful for managing transitions on a deadline. It’s harder for a preschooler to grasp a verbal warning, like, “We’re leaving in 10 minutes,” but if they can see what 10 minutes looks like, and how close they’re getting to time running out, they will feel more prepared.

A Thoughtful Wardrobe

Back-to-school sales make it tempting to splurge on kids clothing, but it’s helpful to apply the following filters before overwhelming your child’s closet –– and your laundry load: 

  1. Does it honor your child’s individuality? It’s okay to pick something out that you love for your child, but be careful not to exclude them from expressing themselves. Honor your child’s preferences and include them in choosing what they want to wear. 
  2. Is it practical? Children under the age of six learn through movement, which is why they are naturally so much more active than adults. The bulk of their wardrobe should be comparable to this stage and may consist of what we consider athletic or lounge wear. We suggest choosing articles of clothing that would be comfortable to run, jump and climb in!
  3. Does it hinder their current stage of development? A romper for a potty-training toddler may be cute, but it’s a sure way to frustrate them when it comes time to undress. Strappy sandals may seem acceptable to us, but a preschooler refining their fine motor skills may find them discouraging to put on.

Here are some of our favorite clothing options thoughtfully designed for kids:

  • Hanna Andersson has quality, practical two-piece outfits ideal for toddlers working on independent dressing and undressing. 
  • Primary is a well-loved label for offering versatile staples that can be mixed and matched – an appealing feature for those who implement capsule wardrobes.
  • Target offers adaptive clothing and shoes that make dressing and undressing more accessible for more children. 
  • Ten Little offers thoughtfully designed shoes that invite children to customize their look with sneaker stickers. They also have character insoles that guide children to differentiate left from right. 
  • Mini Cycle supports sustainable fashion and makes it easy to shop secondhand, as well as repurpose what you want to upcycle when your child outgrows them.
  • Natives washable shoes are another well-designed, practical option for young children.

School Necessities

Backpacks for young children

Here are 3 things to keep in mind when selecting backpacks for young children:

  1. Check the straps: You’ll want a two-strap design to evenly distribute weight, as opposed to a cross-body, one-strap design. In addition, straps that are wide and padded will offer more comfort.
  2. Keep it safe: Before you splurge on a personalized backpack with your child’s name embroidered on it, we recommend avoiding a public display of your child’s name for their own safety and privacy.
  3. Stain resistant: Spills will happen, so it’s helpful to opt for a machine-washable or waterproof backpack for longevity. 

Here are a few options we recommend:

  • Zoli MiniStash comes with raving reviews on its bucket-style bags designed for littles. 
  • These backpacks by SkipHop are popular. They offer a mini, little, and big size to fit your child’s current stage.
  • WildKin offers a 12-inch backpack with various designs your preschooler can choose from.

Lunchboxes for young children

When choosing a lunchbox for your child, there are really two main things to ask yourself: Does it accommodate age-appropriate portioning, and is it easy to open and close? Here are a few top contenders that we see children use independently in our early childhood classrooms:


Send your child to school with this roll-on sunscreen designed for easy, independent application. 

For labeling your child’s items, try stickers from NameBubbles or Mabel’s Labels. An alternative to stickers, this stamp option is great too. 

Mindful Tools for the “Afterschool Crash” 

Afternoon pick-up can be a challenging transition. Help your child decompress at home with tools that promote calm and self-regulation. Some of these items may be used in the Montessori Classroom as part of the “Peace Corner,” – a defined space that offers social and emotional coping tools. You can define a space like this at home too

Books on Going to School

Last but not least, communicate to your child ahead of the first day of school by sharing in relatable stories! These books are great options for children entering a Toddler program or Children’s House community. 

Meet the Author

Jenna Wawrzyniec

Jenna is a trained journalist and writer whose parenting journey transformed after implementing Montessori at home with her three children. She is a passionate advocate for bridging Montessori to the mainstream as a means to build community, empower parent-child relationships, and honor learning as the lifelong journey that it is.

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