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12 Back-to-School Essentials Every Kid Will Need During a Pandemic

Learn which products, tools and gear will help protect your child against coronavirus if they are heading back to school in-person this fall.

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

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Blue backpack with different stationery and study supplies and medical face masks. Back to school concept. The concept of the teachers day. Protection against coronavirus of schoolchildren and students. Studying in the new reality pandemic.

Sending Children Back to School Safely

It’s safe to say that this back-to-school season will be like no other we’ve seen in our lifetimes. With the coronavirus pandemic still raging throughout the country and the globe, school systems across the United States are working hard to create and consistently follow effective health and safety measures to control the risk of infection. Parents are understandably worried.

“While the risk to students seems to be relatively low, exposing teachers and parents (especially those who are immunocompromised) can be and should be concerning,” notes Niket Sonpal, M.D., assistant professor of clinical medicine at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York City.

The good news: We’ve learned a great deal about the novel coronavirus since it first reared its ugly head in early 2020 and have a better understanding of how to protect ourselves and those around us.

Note: Prices were accurate at press time; pricing fluctuations may occur.

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man desinfecting his hands with hand sanitizernito100/Getty Images

Hand Sanitizer


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In case there’s no soap or water available, your kids should have an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 65 percent alcohol, like this Eco Finest Hand Sanitizer. “When using it, tell them they should cover all surfaces of their hands, including their fingertips, and rub them together until they feel dry,” Sonpal says. Find out how to make a quick and simple hand sanitizer.

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Travel Soapvia

Travel Soap


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When it comes to cleaning hands, soap is king. While sanitizer is a good No. 2, you may want to consider sending your child off to school with some soap in a travel dispenser in the event the school’s bathroom runs out. This KISEER Mini Portable Travel soap comes in sheet form — all your child has to do is add a little water. Check out these back-to-school tips and tools for organized kids.

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Cloth Masks


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We now know that wearing a mask is the most effective way to prevent the spread of COVID19. And they don’t have to be hospital-grade to work. Even cloth masks have been shown to be effective, according to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Make sure your child has at least two cloth masks to keep in rotation, as many school districts are requiring children to wear them, says Sonpal. Younger children will be more excited to wear a mask if you let them pick their own, like these from Cubcoats. Make sure your child knows to avoid these 11 common mask mistakes.

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Face Shield


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If you want to take the concept of a face mask up a few notches, consider sending your child off to school with a face shield.  Current evidence suggests shields are superior to a standard surgical mask or cloth mask, especially for children and teachers.

“Face shields allow more visibility, are more comfortable than face masks and provide protection for the eyes, which is important,” notes William Haseltine, Ph.D., an infectious disease expert, former Harvard Medical School professor and author of the new book A Family Guide to Covid. “At the same time, they give equal or better protection from infection by droplets.” These V by Vye ten-pack of face shields are sized right for kids.

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Disposable Masks

$19.98 for 50

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If your child forgets their cloth mask at home, Sonpal says it’s worthwhile to send them off with a plastic bag full of disposable masks to keep in their backpack.

“Since there is also the chance they could lose their cover, misplace it, get it dirty, or damage it, you want to make sure they are always prepared with a bag of extras,” he says. These don’t have to be surgical. There are plenty of disposable masks meant for other types of workers available to purchase online, like these from ProHeaal.

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Sanitizing Wipes


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Your child will come in contact with least a dozen surfaces over the course of their school day, from tabletops to computers. So it’s smart to stash sanitizing wipes, like these Care Touch Alcohol-Free Sanitizing Wipes, in their backpack so that they are always prepared.

“These are also important when it comes to commonly touched surfaces like doorknobs, handles, chairs, and buttons,” adds Sonpal. “Remind your child that it’s a good idea to wipe down the bus seats before they sit down.”

It’s also a nice idea to send some in for the teacher to keep in the classroom. Check out these CDC approved cleaning products that actually disinfect.

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Personalized labels

Personalized Labels

$19.99 for 70

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If you haven’t already ordered stick-on labels with your child’s name to place in and on your child’s belongings, now is a great time to do so.

“Germs and bacteria can quickly spread by sharing personal items, like water bottles, lunches and pens,” says Sonpal. “Putting labels on your children’s belongings will ensure that they don’t get their belongings mixed up with someone else’s and possibly share germs.” These from Oliver’s Labels stick on clothes and stay there, even in the laundry.

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Utility hook tool

Utility Hook Tool


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To take extra precaution that your child does not touch germy surfaces like doorknobs, drawer handles and buttons, consider purchasing a utility hook tool like this one from Kooty Key. Using one, explains Sonpal, will reduce the number of touchpoints your child comes across throughout the day. “This lesser contact reduces the risk of exposure to germs, lowering your child’s risk of catching the novel coronavirus,” he says.

It might be tricky for younger kids to get the hang of, but high schoolers will appreciate it. Plus, here’s how long germs last on these surfaces.

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$4.99 for 8 packs

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Tissues come in handy for far more than blowing your nose, especially in the middle of a global pandemic.

“Tissues are a good idea for any situation — they can be used to avoid touching your eyes, mouth, nose, or any other surface where you won’t be able to wash your hands after,” says Sonpal. He recommends packing a few packs of pocket tissues, like these from Kleenex, in your child’s backpack. Plus, put a plan in place (before the chaos of back to school begins) with these smart ideas and products for your home.

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$4.99 for 30

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To reduce the chance that your child has to use a pencil that’s been handled by several other students and teachers in the classroom, it’s wise to have a pre-sharpened set on hand at all times. This will help reduce the transmission of the virus in a small but important way, notes Jonas Nilsen, M.D., travel vaccination specialist and co-founder of Practio.

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Hand Lotion


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“Especially for the young children, washing hands several times a day can be very harsh on their hands, and in worst cases, can lead to permanent hand eczema,” warns Nilsen. “Dry and flaky skin also means less barrier against bacteria and virus and the good intention of washing hands has now led to an increased susceptibility to disease.”

He recommends your child carries and uses hand lotion to avoid eczema and increased exposure to viruses and bacteria. This hand cream from Justice is adorable and pops right on their backpack.

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Touch-free thermometervia

Touch-Free Thermometer


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It’s possible that your child, as well as the rest of the students and faculty, will need their temperature taken upon entry to school. Though the school will have its own temperature-taking devices, it’s not a bad idea to stock a touchless forehead thermometer at home, like this one from Tru Med, so you can quickly take their temperature before they race out the door. Next, read about these 11 old-school school items everyone forgets about.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest

Jenn Sinrich
Jenn Sinrich is an experienced digital and social editor in New York City. She's written for several publications including SELF, Women's Health, Fitness, Parents, American Baby, Ladies' Home Journal and more.She covers various topics from health, fitness and food to pregnancy and parenting. In addition to writing, Jenn also volunteers with Ed2010, serving as the deputy director to Ed's Buddy System, a program that pairs recent graduates with young editors to give them a guide to the publishing industry and to navigating New York.When she's not busy writing, editing or reading, she's enjoying and discovering the city she's always dreamed of living in with her loving fiancé, Dan, and two feline friends, Janis and Jimi.