by Lara Krupicka
Every summer my children and I go on the great treasure hunt (also known as school supply shopping). And each year it seems that one or two things on our list prove difficult to locate. But now that I’ve been at it a few years, I’ve become a smart shopper. I’ve learned that unearthing the hard-to-find items means knowing where to look. It’s surprising where you’ll locate that odd school supply. Here are four of my favorites:
Artist Supply Store
Occasionally our school supply list features a very specific item that none of the regular stores seems to carry (like say, Itoya O’Glue sticks). Comparing notes with other moms can be helpful, but if everyone bought it online and you don’t have time to wait for an item to be shipped, what to do? Check your local artist supply store. Among the paintbrushes and modeling clay you’ll find a treasure trove of school supplies. Generally these will be high quality, so expect to pay more. But if you’re just picking up that one elusive item, it won’t drain your wallet.
School supplies often found here: wide variety of adhesives like glue sticks and glue pens, school glue, rubber cement; also project display boards, pencils (particularly specialized pencils for beginning or challenged writers), scissors (including left-handed scissors), markers, paints.
Hardware Big-Box Store
Arrive late to the school-supply-shopping scene (What? You were actually away on vacation this summer?) and you may find even the most benign supplies gone from your favorite superstore. Never fear, simply head where many moms don’t think to shop: the hardware store. Places like Menards and Home Depot often carry basic school supplies like filler paper and notebooks during late summer. And prices can be competitive too. You won’t have to worm through the crowds of parents and kids to find what you want. And you can pick up a spare light bulb while you’re there.
School Supplies often found here: Lots of basics – pencils, pens, notebooks, folders, highlighters, markers, scissors, glue sticks, rulers, backpacks, calculators.
Sure, educators shop there. Why not students too? Like artist supply stores, teacher stores carry pricier goods. But part of shopping here is the fun of seeing what kinds of things teachers get to choose from. And most often the quality of goods can make up for the cost. Keep your eyes open for tools to use at home to support your child’s education, such as flash cards. Also be prepared to buy like the teachers do – in bulk.
School supplies found here: pencil cases, pencils and grips, pens, markers, crayons, posterboard, binders, protractors, rulers, compasses, composition books, and notebooks.
One place that we often forget as a resource is museum shops, particularly those inside children’s museums. Many children’s museum stores feature educational toys and science kits. Need a pair of goggles for your budding scientist student? That’s right! You might find a pair to fit at the museum shop.
School supplies often found here: gluten- and latex-free modeling dough, watercolor paints, pencils, and science goggles. Also a great spot for picking up educational and fun birthday gifts for those parties that will come up during the school year.
It’s hard to tell at first glance which item on you child’s school list will be tricky to locate. But rather than stressing out, relax. Enjoy your vacation. You’re already ahead of the game on back to school preparations because you know where to track down that hard-to-find supply.
Test Your School Supply Savvy
Can you identify which of the items on this sample supply list might be hard to find?
- 12 Pencils – #2, pre-sharpened
- 4 spiral notebooks – 70 count, wide-ruled
- Nylon zippered pencil case with grommets – purple
- 6 two-pocket folders: 3 red, 2 blue, 1 green
- 150-ct. lined filler paper, wide-ruled
- Itoya O’Glue sticks – 2
- 1 large pink Pearl eraser
- 7″ scissors
- Yellow plastic 2-pocket folder
- 18-count Crayons
- Transparent plastic ruler – standard and metric measurements
- Green felt tip pen
- 1 pair safety goggles
- Box of tissues
Answers: nylon pencil case with grommets (purple), Itoya O’Glue, yellow plastic 2-pocket folder, green felt tip pen, children’s safety goggles
Lara Krupicka is a parenting journalist who usually spends part of August hunting down odd school supplies for her three daughters, ages 15, 13, and 10.