Getting the gear right when your kid starts high school


When the back-to-school stationery list comes in, it’s a guilty pleasure for me. Nothing makes me happier than a solo trip to Officeworks where I can waft around and choose all sorts of funky stationery equipment for my kids.

In past years, they have just left me to my own devices. But last year when I came back with pencil cases covered in green ghosts  for my 12-year-old twin boys (which I thought were really cute), I got the sense they no longer trusted me. This ‘sense’ came from the way they said, “Oh … thanks Mum.” Like there was suddenly a bad smell in the room.

Suffice it to say, I now have two ghostie pencil cases up for grabs if anyone wants one.

The transition to high school is a big one and spoiler alert: no 12-year-old wants to be turning up with ghosties on their pencil case. What was fun in primary school is now just plain baby stuff.

So high school calls for a different approach to the equipment thing.

Here are some tips …

 1. Take your kid with you

I know it’s more fun to go on your own and colour match everything, but for high school, trust me, you need to let them choose their own stuff.

2. Expand your horizons a little

That cute and colourful stationery store might not be suitable for your tweenager. You may need to graduate to the more grown-up stores. There are plenty around, just do a bit of a reccie with your kid to see what style suits them.

3. Practical works best for high school

Teenagers lose stuff, they leave it lying around unattended and quirky fun stuff is more likely to be ‘lifted’ if it’s found by the Year 9 history class who came in after Year 7. Just get heaps of standard pens, pencils, erasers and rulers.

4. Have a back-up stash at home

My kids are always asking for pens, especially on the morning of an exam at precisely the time they should be running out the door to catch the bus. I have learned to just have a large drawer full of standard issue back-up pens.

 5. Invest in a label maker

My label maker is hands down one of my favourite gadgets, second only to my hair straightener. If you haven’t got one already, just get one. It’s so much more effective than that big black marker pen. Kids are left to their own organisational devices when they get to high school, which means they are far more likely to misplace their stuff. Label it. Label it. Label it.  And it just might come back.

 6. Lose the Transformers-themed lunch tin

I know, it’s cute and all, but kids find that stuff embarrassing in high school. Plus (as above), it’s likely to be lost in the melee of changing rooms all day, going to lockers and making new friends under the fig tree. So just get some bog standard old lunch containers and label them.

7. Invest in some plain and practical water bottles that will last

Yep, time to get rid of the colourful plastic ones with ‘Blast Off’ written all over them. Aluminium water bottles will last the distance. Or failing that, just a good old-fashioned sports water bottle will be the best choice for high school.

Officeworks has a wide range of BPA-free drink bottles.

Lunchbox tip: half fill the bottle with water the night before, put it in the freezer overnight, then top it up in the morning = cold water all day.

And don’t forget: label it. Label it. Label it.

 8. Outsource it

Sometimes when you are time-poor getting someone else to pre-pack your back-to-school stationery pack solves a multitude of problems with one swipe of your credit card.

Try using Officeworks free School List Service service – drop it off online or at your local store, the team will pick and pack it for you, then message you when it’s ready.

All you have to do is collect it and pay.

 9. Cover those exercise books, they’ll last longer

But again, hold off on the dinosaur-themed contact roll. Choose a plain coloured or standard clear contact. If you have a few kids,  colour-coding each child’s books will help identify the culprit at a glance when books are left lying on the dining room table.

 10. Initials over names

Older kids find it embarrassing to have their full name plastered all over everything. If this is the case, labelling your child’s stuff with their initials is just as effective.

For advice on getting your kids ready for Year 7, visit Tips to Help You Prepare Your Child for Secondary School.