The 50 Best back to school buys

Whether they are off to nursery, big school or even college. Kate Watson-Smyth gets them ready for the academic year ahead

Editor's picks:

Roomate Backpack, £20

If you want something stylish better go Scandi, and these cute backpacks are no exception. The shoulder straps are fully adjustable and there's a chest belt too, while inside they are fully lined.

Bubble Nibbler lunchbox, £25

This is a particularly cool lunchbox and not only will the colour mean that it's easily spotted amongst a sea of Ben 10 and Hello Kitty but it also comes with a shoulder strap. Which, for some reason, is hard to find on lunchboxes, and yet, so much more practical.

18 Months Soft Pocket Planner, £11.99

Moleskine make the best diaries and this 18 month one, which starts in July 2012 and runs to December 2013, is no exception. A week to a page on the left and a lined page for notes on the right make it the perfect combination of diary and notepad.

CGP revision guides, from £2.50

Straightforward, chatty revision books for all key stages and all subjects. Good for those making the move from primary to secondary when the brain can be a little slow after the long summer holiday.Popular with all ages and loved by parents.

Maths Brainbox, £9.99

The best way to learn primary school maths is practice and repetition. The Brainbox sets are excellent for games on subjects like history and science but new to the series is the maths version. Study the card for 10 seconds and answer a question from the back. Ages seven and up.

Crosskase Solar 15 backpack, £139.99

Built-in solar panels for charging on the move. Perfect for kids who couldn't ring you as they'd "run out of charge". Well-padded and roomy.

Olympic Drawstring Bag, £8

Ideal if they are caught up in the post-Olympics buzz Sturdy nylon bag which holds plenty of kit is a good souvenir with just a hint of subtle logo.

Converse Where To Airliner bag, £19.95

You and the kids won't always agree on what's practical, but this can be carried messenger-style, has an internal zip pocket and a tablet sleeve.

Alphabet bags, £12

Perfect for the teenage girl who basically just wants to take a handbag to school but can't quite fit everything in it and needs to something to supplement it.

Hurley One and Only backpack, £34.99

Children should never carry more than 15 per cent of their bodyweight on their back. This has multiple pockets and even has room for some books.

Clare Vivier La Tropezienne tote tag, £215

This bag from Atelier will last forever, take any amount of battering and improve with age. Ideal for a teenager who won't be seen dead with a rucksack on.

Padded Pack'r Tuckup, £43

Apparently immensely fashionable at the moment so buy them one of these and you should be all right. The straps are padded, it has pockets and it's not too large. Available in 27 different colours.

Large pink leather satchel, £78

Satchels are quite en vogue so why not buy this for a teenager daughter to use as it was intended and when she's bored with it mother can reclaim it. Perfect eco sense.

Concentrate anti-smell sports bag, £8

Has a charcoal sticker inside which, much like the kitchen compost bin, absorbs the bad smells and excess moisture. The bag also has road safety reflective strips.

Whatever shopper and purse, £12

Large enough for the books, doesn't look like a school bag, comes with a purse for keys and lunch money. Gives it all the attitude without needing to actually say anything.


Lunchboxes and flasks:

Benny Munchler lunchbag backpack, £8.50

For some reason most lunch boxes just have a short handle when what they really need is a shoulder strap or, like this, a rucksack to leave hands free.

Aardvark water bottle, £9.95

This metal bottle has a good strong fastening which means they won't leak and the clip means they can fasten it onto the outside of a bag for easy access.

Waterbobble insulating lunch bag, £19.99

Created by industrial designer Karim Rashid this lunchbox comes with a bottle that fits perfectly inside as well as a stay-cool pocket.

Surestop drinks bottle, £3.99

The wide lid of this bottle makes it easy to fill and the square shape means it will fit easily into a matching square lunchbox. It's easy to hold and has a rubber seal so won't leak.

Bon Appetit, £15

This funky design is perfect for those who will eat pasta with the clip-on fork or for food-conscious teenage girls who only eat salad. Comes with a sauce pot for dips.

Robot personalised lunchbox, £12.99

Children love having their stuff personalised. Choose from a number of designs and colours and simply add their name, and class, to the box.

Thermos Thermax food flask with spoon, £17.95

This has a wide mouth and its own spoon so there's nothing to stop you filling it with pasta or rice. Perfect on a cold day when a hot meal is needed.

Multi-compartment lunch box, £8.95

Separate compartments mean you can keep everything apart so no need for packaging. You can set the dividers according to the size of the sandwich.

Nigel The Shark lunchbox, £30

Wipe-clean lunchbox with a fabulous design which makes a change from all the branding. The advantage of this one is that it's dishwasher-safe.

Kleen Kanteen, £15.99

A large opening, so it's easy to fill and the sports cap means you can drink without taking the lid off. It's 100 per cent BPA free too and easy clean. Not suitable hot drinks.

Lamy Beginner's fountain pen, £12.99

Pen and ink is slightly out of fashion but why not encourage little hands to try with this lovely wooden pen for beginners. It comes with name stickers to slide into the cap.

Budons Pencil Case, from 99p

Small children love to collect stuff and this range of pencil cases and lunchboxes come with spaces to clip a range of figures onto so they can trade and collect. See also their scratch '*' sniff notebooks.

Gel Ink 12 pack, £12.95

Girls do love a pen. Muji does great sets of pens which your daughters will love. Buy your son a biro. Once they've reached beyond the stage of colouring in they don't care any more.

Helix Ultimate school set, £6.99

Moving from Primary to Secondary school very often means investing in their very first stationery set. This pack includes everything they will need – and some they won't.

Scrabble pencils in a tin, £6.40

Pencils are always useful. These ones come in a tin, which is also the best sort of pencil case as it's the quickest to pack up at the end of the lesson.

The Big Family school year diary, £16.95

Mum has to keep track of everything that everyone is doing, so she needs some help. This will do just that. Runs from August 2012.

To Do Sticky Notes, £5.75

Everybody ends up making lists. Here are some sticky notes to help remind them of the things they need to do. Or to remind you of the things you need to tell them to do.

A4 10 Subject notebook, £8

This nifty notebooks divides into 10 sections so that, if they stick to the system, they will be able to find the notes they wrote without much difficulty. Lets hope it works.

Zebra Marathon black ink rollerball pens, £4.49 for three

Fountain pens are are messy, biros are borring, here's the solution. These rollerball pens write nicely, have a rubber grip and are well priced.

Rude pencil case, £7.50

Designed exclusively for The Tate, this makes a fun and practical edition to any school bag and just proves that if you look in unexpected places you often find interesting kit.

Oxford Illustrated Children's Dictionary, £9.99

Perfect for ages eight to 10 and with lots of pictures, younger siblings will also look at it too. There are over 50,000 words, definitions and examples.

First Encyclopaedia of Our World, £8.99

"Why is night dark"? "What's under the sea?" "How do earthquakes happen?" This will help you out. Detailed images and simple text.

8000 Things You Should Know, £8

If you're faced with a reluctant reader boy, sometimes a good fact book can be the solution. This has 500 pages covering just about everything.

Larousse Children's Spanish Dictionary, £7.92

If your little darlings are taking languages, a dictionary like this will help. Includes cultural information and word games too.

Collins English Dictionary, £40

Sooner or later they will need a dictionary. This is a British staple. It's comprehensive and up to date and even includes regional and dialect words.

Read Write Inc Phonics, £8.70

These are brilliant for young readers and those who are a little more reluctant. Having stubbornly refused to read, my (now) eight-year-old learned to read despite himself with these and enjoyed them too.

Best Websites For Homework KS3, £4.99

Once they get to secondary school, they're as likely to want to research online and this book will help them find the best, and most reliable, websites for that.

I Am Absolutely Too Small For School, £4.59

This Charlie and Lola book about the challenge of starting school is still one of the best around. It's funny and reassuring and perfect pre-school reading.

Times Tables Made Easy, £13

Those tables won't go away. This book has lots of rhymes and tactics to help those numbers stick in the brain and say what you like about Carol, she knows her numbers.

Shakespeare: The Basics, £12.99

Part of a series, some of which haa been updated for 2012 covering everything from the Olympics to music, law and politics. A great introduction to each chosen subject.

Samsung 305U1A laptop, £349.95

If they're going to be carrying a computer round all day then it needs to be not too heavy. This is slim, just 1.2kg and has a battery life of 8.5 hours.

Snap Cards Maths Plus, £3.95

Back to the quick learning maths and this time it's a game of snap. Features the four basic functions, with a few square roots for the smarty pants. It's all about practice at this stage.

Dell Inspiron R Switch, £429

They see their parents tapping away on computers, so they start to want their own at an ever-earlier age. This has a choice of 20 lids so they can personalise theirs.

Magnetic Words Reception, £5.99

Includes all 45 words that they should be able to recognise by the end of Reception and then you can buy the follow-on set for years One and Two.

Handwriting Rescue Pack, £19.99

Helps children develop their cursive writing and improves spelling at the same time. The pack includes 300 exercises, a pad with guidelines and a pen.