WITH trending BACK-TO-SCHOOL supplies

Bells will be ringing for the 2016 – 2017 school year soon, and you want to make sure your kids are well prepared. Public, private, or home school students need the same basic school supplies, and the pressure is on to purchase the right ones to meet their needs, while scoring “cool parent” points by letting them personally pick out a few extra trendy items.

To find the current trends, I went directly to the sources – the young students of Wake and surrounding counties. I asked about the supplies they’ll be taking to school. I also asked what their parents will place in their lunchboxes. And I’m here to share their insight. Wondering what’s the best way for kids to learn today? I’ve asked them and am ready to pass on some techniques.

First, be sure to take your kids shopping with you for the right items to match their personalities. Fashion starts at an early age, and school supplies are no different. When I asked second grader Madison what she was taking to school, her response was simply a “beautiful pencil pouch and a fancy backpack.” And Madison isn’t alone. Third grader Morgan is also planning on “a pretty book bag,” and fourth grader Ella will be decking out her locker with a fake chandelier and stocking it with gel pens.

Other traditional elementary school items include crayons, markers, scissors, rulers, glue sticks, notebooks, folders, highlighters, and calculators. Fifth grader Jackson said he will not only be packing these items in his “cool backpack,” but also a protractor and a compass. Pencil pouches or pencil boxes are a must for backpack organization I hear.

For middle schoolers, many will be stocking their backpacks with an ample supply of pencils and cases, erasers, folders, books, and book covers. But other than these standard items, I found middle school supplies shifted to the more technical. For example, seventh grader Ashlyn and eighth grader Austin will be using iPads, computers, and phones, as is the case for many others with whom I spoke. Finally, high school students reported needing a large supply of paper, pencils and pouches, backpacks, cell phones, pens, books, rulers, laptops, and binders. As for tenth grader Jacob, his school provides iPads to its students.

And don’t forget those special assignments, like when students will need “stuff for science experiments,” according to Madison. Seventh grader Laura will need more artsy items such as a 24-pack of colored pencils, a coloring book for adults, soft lined paper, and glue sticks for her classes, while eleventh grader Madeline will be bringing duct tape, a sketch book, and earbuds to school with her. According to these students, it’s a good idea to put these items on your school supply shopping lists this year.

Depending on the school and teacher, some very specific items may be required. If possible, get the list early so you can plan for your shopping adventure. Be sure to keep receipts in case you need to return items. It’s best to purchase in bundles when you can, as doing so will definitely save you money. Plan ahead for your needs for the year and buy when prices are low during sales or at discount stores. Only have one student in your household? Consider spliting the price of a bundle with friends. All the kids will get what they need and also want, and their parents will have money to spare. Sales are a great time to think about those in need and provide a working lesson for youngsters, so when buying your child’s supplies, pick up some extras to donate to local organizations.

As for what kind of foods kids want in their lunchboxes these days? Parents are starting their younger kids with healthy choices. It sounds like their lunches primarily consist of fruits, crackers, pretzels, cheese sticks, and sandwiches. For all elementary, middle, and high school students, there are consistent trends in addition to those options. For instance, pizza is a staple for many. And with pizza comes cheese, seen in various forms, from cheese sticks to cheese crackers. Fourth grader Ella eats her cheesy goldfish crackers rolled up in turkey. And the most consistent go to for all school ages, still a staple from my childhood, is the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. However, like several others, prekindergartener Carter enjoys his peanut butter with honey – still one of my favorites today.

A couple of interesting snacks I was told about: fifth grader Jackson mentioned Hanuta, a German candy bar, while sixth grader Ryan noted he enjoys Astronaut ice cream. Not a surprise, many of the kids had cookies on their list. Some named specifics, like third grader Morgan who loves Oreos and second grader Madison who prefers Girl Scout cookies. Regarding quick bites that older kids can make themselves, microwavable macaroni and cheese and Hot Pockets are popular options.

As for homegrown lunch favorites, ninth grader Eddie likes steak, baked potatoes with cheese and bacon, and corn on the cob, while tenth grader Jacob likes grilled chicken.

In case your children forget their lunch boxes, you may want to provide them with cold hard cash for food they can either purchase at school or off campus when they are able.

Now fueled, how do today’s students learn best? It varies from reading books to using technology – specifically laptops, cell phones, and even Google Earth, as well as But the one thing I heard repeatedly being a helpful learning tool, and actually worked for me back when I was a student, is the traditional note card.

Now that you’re armed with the know-how to prepare your child for another successful school year, get out there and get shopping. I hope that this list will help make your shopping trip a smooth one. Good luck to you on your back-to-school shopping expedition, and good luck to your student on a great 2016-2017 school year!