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What to pack for school

A young girl wearing a spotty backpack and holding her dad’s hand on the way to school.

Your child is off to school! Whether you’re nervous and excited for their first day or you’re a seasoned parent who has done this multiple times before, it certainly is a big step. They’ll be starting a new school year with plenty of fun and learning ahead of them.

To encourage such learning and make sure they have everything for their busy day ahead, you’ll want to pack their school backpack the night before. There are some essentials and some not-so important items to consider. To help you, we’ve come up with a simple checklist so you don't forget anything.

What to pack in your child’s school bag

Before you start to think about your child’s school bag, you should start by checking they have the uniform they need.

If they’re starting school for the first time, it’s likely they’ll need new sets of just about everything, including a PE kit. If they’re going into a new school year, check if their uniform still fits (kids grow quick!) and that they have a pair of comfortable school shoes in the correct size. They’ll be doing lots of running around and playing, so comfy footwear is a must.

Their backpack should be big enough to hold everything they need for the day, including the following:


School wouldn’t be school without books. Your children might need notebooks, reading books, exercise books, and more.

When it comes to exercise/notebooks, the school will usually provide these. They may even be kept at the school in your child’s tray, so you don’t need to stress too much about packing them every night.

The school might have a library programme that allows the children to take out certain books each week, returning them the following week in exchange for new ones. This means on some days you’ll need to pack their book bag ready for the swap over.

If they’re older and have been given homework, this should be packed in time for the deadline.

Food and drink

It’s most children’s favourite part of the day ‒ lunchtime! There’s a good chance they’ll eat their lunch and then spend the remaining time playing games, running around and having a good time with their friends. All this energy needs to come from somewhere, so be sure to pack a healthy lunch that will give them the boost they need for the afternoon. Add something from each of the food groups, including carbs, healthy fats and protein.

Even if your child has school dinners, you’ll still want to include a bottle of water and perhaps some nutritious snacks for their breaks throughout the day.


The school should provide specialist stationery items, including glue sticks and scissors, but you may want to consider adding the essentials, like writing pens, coloured pens and pencils. All these should be kept in a small pencil case. Consider other items that may be useful too, like rubbers and pencil sharpeners.

Mobile phone

Not all children have their own mobile phone, particularly those in primary school, but it can be a good way of contacting them when they’re older. Schedules change, after-school activities get cancelled, so it means they can phone you to arrange an earlier or later pick up.

PE kit

PE can be a messy activity, so if you don’t want a grass-stained school uniform, definitely remember to pack a PE kit! The kit might include a t-shirt, trousers/shorts and a jumper, as well as suitable PE trainers. A waterproof jacket is a good idea for autumn/winter weather too.


If your child takes any medication, remember to pack this each day. Whether it’s inhalers, tablets, injections or something else, you don’t want to make another journey back to the school if it’s forgotten.

Spare uniform

Not all schools require a spare uniform, but some ask for one in case of toilet accidents (for young children) or general spills. If you’re unsure, find out on the first day what they might expect you to bring.

Overview checklist

  • School books
  • Library books
  • Homework
  • Pencil case
  • Pens/pencils/rubbers
  • Water bottle
  • Snacks
  • Lunch
  • Mobile phone
  • Coat
  • PE Kit
  • Extra-curricular equipment (instruments, sports kit, rackets, etc.)
  • Medication
  • Spare uniform

Try not to stress about packing your child’s school bag. The more you do it, the more you’ll get into a groove until you can do it with your eyes closed.