Mummy Confession: I cried when I went shopping for school supplies for my eldest. Not on the first day of school….shopping!
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post by any of the included brands. This post contains affiliate links. This means I receive commissions from qualifying purchases. This is not a complete list of everything you will need for school, so be sure to attend orientations and request further information specifically from the school your child will be attending!
It’s getting to be about that time. Schools seem to be reminder parents to register for next year’s enrolment and for first time school parents it can be so overwhelming! It’s a new adventure!
I found out that even preparation for all of the lists and physical things you need for school will not be enough to prepare you for the first day tears. For me it was tears as I went and bought the lunchbox and various school supplies to get sorted as the first ever day of school approached. Yep, I cried. In the aisles of Woolworths, Best and Less, and sitting in the car afterwards just thinking about how far my tiny baby had come in just a few years of life.
Those first five or six years are some of the biggest changes as we watch our babies depend on us for every little thing, to slowly doing things more independently (or not wanting help even though they still need some). I’ve always said it’s bittersweet moments.
I love to be needed and depended on, but I love watching them grow up and hit milestones like being able to get into the car by themselves (even though I still have to do the buckling), or picking out their own clothes and getting dressed. Oh my how they grow so fast! Soon enough, they’re learning how to count, spell, write and more than you can wrap your head around!
So enough of my emotional tangent! These are the things that I have found to be the most important things you need for starting school (in Australia)! I’m sure it will vary by state and by school, but I need to make sure to have this sorted out before my middle goes off way too soon! I recommend trying to sort it out before or around the end of the year to prepare for the coming year (and so you’re not scrambling to find last minute items).
Be sure you check out your local catchment areas if you’re unsure of which school your child will attend, and get in contact with your school of choice around August at the latest to be sure you’re kept up to date on the coming year’s enrolment, orientation and other events put on by the school for first year students! A great place to ask if you’re unsure is a local Facebook group (community noticeboards for your local area will often have parents who are familiar with the process happy to help point you in the right direction)!
(I’ve included further resources for starting school below this list as well. )
1. Name Labels
I’m not kidding when I say that this was the # 1 suggestion from the school themselves: LABEL EVERYTHING!
Kids are not able to constantly monitor their things (and come on, they’re kids), and it’s likely you’ll have a time when they forget where they put something and it’s turned into the office or “lost and found” spot. I cannot tell you how many school jumpers were in those by the end of the year (most of them unlabelled). Every dollar counts, and new uniforms can be costly! There are several places where you can purchase name labels for clothing (iron ons for the win), shoes, backpacks, lunch bags, and various other items your child will possibly be searching for (so help make it easier on both of you by putting your name on it)! We labeled shoes, backpack, lunchbag as well as clothing (using iron-ons) and all of the labels are still going strong a couple years in!)
I personally have avoided putting my child’s name on the outer portion of backpacks, jumpers and other items just as my own precaution, but I know many mums who like to embroider or put names on the outside of backpacks, lunchbags or jumpers.
Where to find them:
Bright Star Kids– https://www.brightstarkids.com.au/ (They also do lunchbags, lunchboxes, drink bottles and personalised school supplies)
Stuck On You– https://stuckonyou.com.au/(They also do lunchbags, lunchboxes, drink bottles and personalised school supplies)
That’s Mine– https://www.thatsmine.com.au/
Tiny Me– https://www.tinyme.com.au/
2. Lunch bag/lunchbox & Recipe ideas!
My first child has just a simple zip up lunchbag, as she tends to have very similar things every day. We use Sinchies bags for sandwiches, (sometimes) yoghurt and snacks (see our review here- they have a big range of varying sizes, and they’re reusable so you’re not tossing plastic bags every day) as well as the Subo Food Bottle for yoghurt (and you can use them for smoothies, purees and even tinned spaghetti) in addition to harder reusable containers for fruit and veggies. We also include a small water bottle for “crunch and sip” time and a bigger water bottle for throughout-the-day use.
Bento lunchboxes (see video below) are a very popular option as well, and I’m looking into getting a Yumbox for this coming year as I’ve heard they’re quite durable.
At first, I made it easier for my kindy child and had two separate bags for “crunch and sip” and the other for “big lunch” and snack, just to make it easy on her, but this could easily fit into one lunchbag for us, too.
My eldest tends to be a pickier eater, so no matter my ideas she wouldn’t touch them! But, there are so many great recipes and ideas, especially if your little one eats a variety and loves change!
My top recommended places to find recipes and ideas for lunchboxes are:
Kidgredients – By far the best resource for lunchbox reviews and some great recipes, several built for lunches and even freezer-friendly ideas to save daily preparation! Kidgredients also has helpful eBooks for slow cooking ideas as well as all about lunches!
Healthy Little Foodies – Healthy food ideas for kids
Create Bake Make– Recipe ideas for the whole family
Goodie Goodie Lunchbox– School lunch ideas and recipes for kids
Come Bento With Me (Facebook)- Great, creative bento lunch ideas
Play With Food– Children’s Nutritionist who has great strategies, tips and resources for Picky or fussy eaters
PLUS if you’re on Facebook, the group Healthy Lunchbox Mums is a great resource for ideas, inspiration and support in creating healthy lunches, too.
3. A Sturdy Backpack
Let me stress the STURDY part! I made the mistake of “investing” in a super cheap alternative for my child’s first bag, and it was broken within the first year. Zippers stopped working, frustration ensued. It was annoying and another thing we had to go and purchase AGAIN. Now, you will probably have the option to purchase a bag from the school themselves, but we opted to get one of our own (and we were allowed. All schools may not allow you to purchase any bag). I figured that it would be easier for my child to spot, and make that bit of picking out her own style a bit more exciting! They don’t pack much in it those early years (in my experience), and it’s generally a transportation device for lunches, jumpers and school notes (in addition to treasures they bring home of their own creation). For us, a “normal” sized backpack from Smiggle has done just fine, though this can be a popular choice. We have also put on a few decorative keychain items to help differentiate her bag from others.
(And don’t forget the label! We put ours on the top inside the bag in case it is ever lost.)
Some places to find them include:
School’s Uniform Shop
Skip Hop (Smaller style backpacks and more)
4. A Library Bag (Book Bag)
Like a backpack, often schools have what is called a “library bag” available for students to purchase from the uniform shop or school shop. While we opted for this option with our first, it isn’t necessary, as I found that other places do indeed make library bags. (I will admit, I had no idea what a library bag was, so I will explain it is a bag they need to have in order to take out books from the library. It needs to be separate from their backpack.) They come in a few different styles: drawstring bag style, sling or tote bag style and a velcro or zip more rigid style. I prefer the more rigid, as it seems durable and hopefully will last the years at primary school. (Also, don’t forget to label it!)
Where to find them:
School’s Uniform Shop
Bright Star Kids – personalised drawstring and tote style bags
Catch– personalised drawstring and sling style bags (also carry NRL logo styles)
Hippo Blue– personalised zip-close bags
Stuck On You– personalised drawstring style bags
Tiny Me– personalised polyester sling-style bag with stud close
This is pretty much a well-known need for Aussie school kids, but something different for me as I’m an ex-pat from the US. I had no idea how costly uniforms can be, too! Trying to be frugal and save a bit, I scoured several online mummy forums before deciding on what would be an appropriate number of uniform items to purchase. Firstly, if you can purchase it in general places like Best and Less, Big W, Lowe’s, or other department style stores, do it! Some items we were unable to purchase this way because of school requirements. Many local shops tend to carry the common school colours, which makes it easier and less expensive to figure out! We were able to get some skirts/skorts, pants, tights, socks, and long sleeve undershirts at local shops, however we needed to purchase dresses, shirts and jumpers from the uniform shop. Sometimes you may need to purchase a certain colour shoe for their sports day as well.
This is what we wound up getting by the year’s end for our little kindy child: (from the school) 2 summer style dresses, 1 winter tunic, 1 white dress shirt (to wear with the tunic), 2 jumpers, 1 sport shirt, 1 sport shorts, 1 polo shirt, and one bucket hat with school emblem (and from the shops according to the school colours requested) 2 long sleeve white shirts (for wearing under short sleeve polos), 2 pairs sweatpants (for winter sports days), 1 pair thinner trackpants (for cool sports days), 5 pairs of thicker tights (for winter days), 5 pairs of thinner tights (for cool days), 1 skort, 10 pairs of white socks, 5 white singlets, bucket style hat & 2 pairs of sturdy and good school shoes. For the best way to spread out the cost, it helped to purchase summer outfit first and winter outfit when it got closer to winter.
Where to find them:
School’s Uniform Shop
Best And Less
6. Good School Shoes
Included in their uniform is probably good school shoes. Make sure they are comfortable and durable above all else. It doesn’t quiet matter if you get the cheap or expensive sort in my experience, just so long as your child is comfortable. I wen the more pricey route here and invested in ones to last the whole year- and they did! Williams had a buy one get one 50% off sale and I purchased two pairs of shoes that have lasted through two years. They were scuffed up by the first week of kindy, but still comfortable. I needed to have a chat about doing ballet in school shoes after the fact though. You can even purchase inserts to go inside of the shoes, as well as a spray on protectant for the shoes which don’t cost much more, and may make them a bit more comfortable to wear. I highly recommend taking your child with you when you purchase these, as it can just save multiple trips and you can make sure you’ve gotten the proper size and fit.
Where to find them: (pretty much any store that sells kids clothing, too, for slightly more affordable shoes)
7. A Postive Attitude
Despite all of the money that seems to be bleeding out of your wallet, it is important to keep a positive attitude towards school and the beginning days. Anxiety and frustration is always felt by our kids, even when we try to hide it! We attended orientation meetings before starting, and the children had some special days where they were able to hang out in the classroom and meet some of the teachers and classmates. Kindy can be quite a challenge for children to adjust to, especially if they don’t know anyone. It can take a few weeks or months to make new friends and get familiar with their teacher and classmates and figure out where they belong. My little cried on and off the first few months of school, and while it was sad to watch, we kept encouraging her and asking about who she met and what she had done during the day. She had some beautiful classmates comforting her and befriending her and a lovely teacher to support her. The tears never lasted long, and it did take some time before she didn’t cry at all during the course of the day, but she looks forward to seeing her friends at school and learning new things so much more now that she’s gotten used to the school, the people and knows that I will be there to pick her up at the end of the day.
On her first day, I had bracelets for her, her siblings and myself that we wore the first week. I told her to look at the bracelet when she was sad or missing us, and just remember that we were wearing the same bracelet and thinking of her and praying for her. She said it really helped her to know that, and reminded her that we loved her and would see her again soon.
Where to find matching bracelets (or other jewellery) for this idea (and supporting small business):
Immi & I
8. Probably some “extras” requested by the school
We were asked to bring a paint shirt for our child as well as requested for each child to bring a tissue box, white board markers, baby wipes and a few other bits and pieces to be used by the classroom. You will typically be given this before the start of the school year, or sometimes within the first week of school.
9. Fees for various requests by the school, excursions, and gold coin donation days
This was one thing that took me a little by surprise, as I thought that all public schools were pretty much funded, and no one mentioned beforehand about any additional “fees” required prior to me receiving the note home. I’m sure not all schools have fees for computer lab usage, sport, or voluntary contributions, as my husband never remembered paying anything of the sort when he went to school (back in the day, haha). You can ask the school themselves what is expected before starting the school to avoid any surprises.
Another thing to be aware of that may be a good head’s up for parents budgeting for school: schools will generally have special “gold coin donation” days or “mufti” days where the children are allowed to wear certain specific clothing (special days like book week costumes, certain colours, dress ups or regular clothing for instance) if they bring a gold coin donation. These days will typically be announced a little before so that you can prepare, but it’s good to be aware of them just in case you need to prep for the costume/clothing side of things plus the gold coin donation.
Where to find out more information:
Your local school, talk to administration and ask specifically about any fees or contributions that will be requested along with special days which are planned for the year
10. Allergy Awareness
Now, I know some may already be aware, having children with allergies, so you will obviously need to bring any ASCIA action plans, medications or epi-pens (stored properly) which your child will need and register them with the school before your child starts school. Many schools follow a regulation on nuts or other allergies to prevent children with allergies having a reaction. In our school, we are not permitted to pack foods which include nuts. Check with your school and class to see if there are any restrictions or guides to follow when it comes to allergies and foods.
Even though your child may not have allergies themselves, it is so important to understand the seriousness of allergies. It is possible for people (children included) to have allergies which range from mild to anaphylaxis to a range of foods and other things, and not just nuts. My littlest has moderate reactions to several foods, and the effects can last for days. It’s a pretty anxious thing for me to watch him play with other children who have food in hand while they play, so I can only imagine what parents of children with anaphylactic reactions to foods feel when they are sending their children to school, where they can’t keep an eye on them and remind them and others about the seriousness of allergies.
Some ways you can read up more on allergies are by checking out the Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia Website or Facebook Page.
One tip I can give is to be sure your child is washing their hands well with soap after consuming foods which may be a problem for other children, to speak to your child about avoiding sharing foods in school and talk to to the teachers and parents to understand if there are any foods which may be an issue with students (or teachers) and any plans in place to keep children safe from their allergy foods.
All of these things have been so helpful in our journey preparing for school! What would you add as “must-have”s for a child as they begin their “big school” adventure?
Starting School Ages by state: Kidspot
School readiness checklist: Your Kids OT
Getting ready for kindy: Play Inspired Mum
10 things to practise before starting big school: Your Kids OT
School lunch guide: Goodie Goodie Lunchbox
Homeschooling tips: The Sane Mum
How to make school mornings smooth: The Calm Mommy
Handling Crunch and Sip with a Fussy Child: Play With Food
School recommendations SA Group on Facebook
A helpful list to get you started!