Top Ten Backpack Essentials

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based on 15 ratings
Updated on May 31, 2011

The school year's coming fast. We’ve done the comparison-shopping, so you don’t have to! From pencils that never need sharpening to cell phones that shut themselves off during school hours, here’s some loot to make your kids smile on their way to the bus stop.

A Little History

If that old picture of you in rainbow legwarmers makes you cringe, take heart. Everything old is new again. Retro is hot, and it’s made its way into this year’s school supplies. Even the Trapper Keeper is back. That’s right, 80’s geekdom just became millennial cool. It also happens to be a great way to keep notes neat and tidy with colored dividers, lots of pockets, and a vinyl embossed spine that even the family Saint Bernard can’t chew through. The Trapper has a clear plastic pocket on the front, so kids can create their own covers with photos, magazine clippings, and drawings. Rad. (Mead Trapper Keeper, $6.99)

A Great Gadget

Get your kid one of these pens and they’ll be begging you to let them take notes in class. In a nutshell, the Fly Fusion is a pen and scanner in one. The pen can write like a regular old ballpoint, but it can also read 70 images per second off the specialized paper in the included notebook. So kids can scribble to their heart’s content, then upload their handwritten notes and instantly convert them into digital files or emails. Plus, the pen can download MP3s, translate words into French or Spanish, and spell check an essay on the fly, as you write it. The inside flap of the notebook has a calculator and scheduling tool built in--with just a few taps, kids can score quick calculations, or jot down a reminder about that looming essay assignment. (Leapfrog Fly Fusion, $79.99)

The Write Stuff

The adult world rarely calls for pencils, but in school, they’re still a part of everyday reality. Say goodbye to broken tips during that dreaded bubble test. Manufacturers are getting the point. The Pentech Ultasharp pencil looks and feels like a standard issue, but works more like a ballpoint pen. It never, ever needs sharpening. Liquid graphite makes for smooth scribbling, and your standard eraser can rub out the results in a snap. (Pentech Ultrasharp Pencil, $3.49 for a pack of three)

A Simple Plan

For a middle schooler, getting organized is anything but kids’ stuff. Just when they were getting nice and cozy as the kings of elementary, it’s time to make the leap to middle school. There’s a great way to prepare them for the juggling act ahead and it doesn’t take fancy laptops or glitzy gear, just a good old-fashioned planner. The BusyBodyBook, an organizer with a clear, kid-friendly layout and plenty of space, allows lots of personalization. Your child can plan her day class-by-class and extracurricular-by-extracurricular and still have tons of space for random jottings. All this inside a whimsically dotty cover that will leave adults craving some organization of their own. (Academic BusyBodyBook Organizer, $16.95)

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