By now, parents of K-12 students have likely seen school lists of required supplies. In addition to the usual composition books and boxes of tissues, here are some suggestions for items that will make everyone's life easier:
• Gourmac.com has lots of creative, inexpensive items to make bringing lunch from home more fun and nutritious. The Carrots & Dip to-go ($5.99) holds baby carrots in its carrot-shaped base, with a removable top for hummus or dip. Egg-to-go ($4.99) holds a hard-boiled egg along with a mini salt shaker.
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• Speaking of lunches: A tote with a removable, washable liner will make it easier to keep food sanitary. The HardBody lunchbox from California Innovations ($9.99 at major retailers and online) has a hard plastic liner that is easy to wipe clean. The divider is also adjustable, which will help keep your child's PB&J from being crushed by an apple or canned drink.
• For middle- and high-school students with lockers, you can either craft a sign reading “Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here” or invest in shelves to keep the gym clothes separate from the books and binders. LockerShelf offers units that fit all school locker sizes and use the sides of the locker itself for support. Because they fit snugly against the sides of the locker, like a built-in unit, there are no gaps or cracks for items to fall through. $21.99 - $26.99 at lockershelfco.com.
• If your supply list includes a flash drive, have your student pick out a bracelet-style model. You may pay a bit extra, but it's far less likely to get left behind in a school computer, confused with someone else's device or lost in the bowels of a backpack. Your fashionista might like the silicone snap-band styles at plugable.com; $12.95 gets you 8GB of storage in tribal black, tattoo blue, Celtic green, love red or glow-in-the-dark green.
• Finally, if your student goes to school with a smartphone worth several hundred dollars, it seems foolish not to invest in a case that's going to protect it – at least until cracked screens become a new teen status symbol. Case-Mate's Naked Tough ($35) series offers barely-there plastic protection for iPhone and Android devices. Or customize your case with photos, monograms or college logos, beginning at $40 at case-mate.com