St George & Sutherland Shire Leader

Back to school checklist 2024: Essentials your child needs

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Picture by Shutterstock
Picture by Shutterstock

The first day of school is just around the corner.

It is an exciting and nervous time for all - first days, new environments, coming off the high of summer, and (for parents) the sweet relief of making it to the end of the longest holiday period.

As minds begin to turn to new school gear and prepping uniforms for the first day back we're focused on how to help you get value-for-money and quality essentials that will last through the year and beyond.

To make the process easier we've created a checklist of essential items and where you can find them.

School bags

A must have for any student, a school bag is one of the most important purchases you will make.

This item will be used every day to ensure your child has a safe place to store their school books, lunches, and personal items and get those items safely from school to home.

A bag is also an opportunity for your child to show off a little bit of personality with the colour and designs.

We recommend ensuring bags have enough space to fit all your needs and should be water proof to avoid any horrors with leaking food or water bottles. Padded straps are also a must to ensure your child is comfortable while wearing it.

Here are our picks.

VASCHY large water resistant back pack. Picture
VASCHY large water resistant back pack. Picture

Available in a range of cute prints including sharks, dinosaurs, unicorns and flowers this bag has extra long zipper tags for little fingers to grab, along with multiple pockets to keep items separated.

It features a main compartment for larger items, and two front zippered pockers and well as two side pockets for items such as water bottles.

Inside the main compartment is an inner divider for an A4 table or 15.6in laptop. It is water resistant.

Penny Scallan large backpack. Picture
Penny Scallan large backpack. Picture

Easy to clean, water resistant and made from 100 per cent cotton canvas.

This bag is available in a range of cute designs and has a large main compartment to fit all the essentials with ease.

There are also two zipper front pockets, a small zipper pocket on the size and a drawstring pocket designed to keep water bottles in place on the other.

Pencil cases

Pencil cases ensure your child is able to keep their stationary and writing tools organised and easily accessible. Most importantly they can prevent loss and damage.

One of the best benefits is also that pencil cases teach your child the importance of organisation and being tidy with placing their items in one location for safe keeping.

Amazon has affordable options for any budget.

Here are our picks.

Cicimelon large three compartment pencil case. Picture
Cicimelon large three compartment pencil case. Picture

A best seller for Amazon, this case has a 4.7 star rating from more than 17,000 buyers.

Available in pink, blue, green, purple, yellow, black and navy, it can fit up to 50 pens or pencils, sticky notes and stationary gadgets. It has three compartments for storing different items.

Lolocor 360° degree rotating pencil holder. Picture
Lolocor 360° degree rotating pencil holder. Picture

This stylish rotating holder is a great at-home organiser for use during homework sessions.

It features five compartments to divide items and can be rotated 360 degrees to the left and right so you can find scissors, the glue, textas or the pencil you are looking for easily. It also comes in a range of colours.

Lunch boxes

Likely the second most important purchase next to the school bag. You will be packing hundreds of lunches throughout the year. We recommend looking for a lunch box that is convenient to pack, sturdy and easy to clean to make the process as easy as possible.

Bento lunch boxes are extremely popular for good reason. They are convenient and compact in their design and they allow for a variety of food to be separated and well organised.

Not only are they visually appealing - a very important consideration when you're hoping to ensure you child eats their lunch - many designs offer sections with water or leak proof sections, spaces for ice packs and dividers to give the option to change the spaces depending on the food items you're planning to pack.

Here are our picks.

Penny Scallan Bento Box. Picture
Penny Scallan Bento Box. Picture

This Bento box design has six compartments including space for liquid items such as yoghurt, dips or sauce.

The leak-proof silicone seal inside the lid means you can rest assured the items packed in each compartment won't leak through or spill into another area - an important thing for some fussy eaters.

The tray is also designed to make packing easier with a guide on what to place in each section.

It has a 1.08L volume and is free from BPA and phthalates. Best yet the tray and silicone lined tray lid can be removed and popped into the dishwasher.

Bentgo lunch box. Picture
Bentgo lunch box. Picture

BPA, viynl, lead and PVC-free, the Bentgo is a great option for kids on the go.

The largest compartment can hold half a sandwich or a wrap, with the other three mid-size spaces perfect for fruit, vegetables or other sides. The centre circle compartment can house a small treat or be used for liquids without the worry of leaking.

The latches of the design have been made to be kid friendly to ensure little ones are able to manage open and closing with ease.

Water bottles

Hydration is critical for learning. Staying hydrated ensures we maintain option brain function including concentration and memory.

Dehydration can lead to fatigue, losing focus and can impact your child's ability to learn. Get hold of a good water bottle to ensure your child has access to water when they need it.

We recommend ensuring the bottle is not only durable, but is easy for them to open and seal again to protect against leaks.

Here are our picks.

B. Box Tritan drink bottle. Picture
B. Box Tritan drink bottle. Picture

B.Box is a leading kids brand when it comes to lunch boxes and bottles. There is a good reason why. They are lightweight, easy to use and extremely durable.

The triangle-shape of the bottle makes it easy to grip while the silicone straw allows for easy drinking with minimal pressure required.

The push button opening is easy for toddlers and older children to open and close. Not only are the pieces easy to clean (top rack dishwasher safe), they also come with a silicone base/bump guard to ensure it gets through the toughest of knocks.

Camelbak Eddy kids. Picture
Camelbak Eddy kids. Picture

This bottle is made of highly durable and lightweight plastic which is odour and strain resistant, easy to clean, dishwasher safe and free from nasties including BPA, BPS and BPF. It comes in a range of fun designs to suit any child's preferences.

School shoes

When it comes to school shoes you need to look for a shoe that offers proper fit, support and durability.

Look for arch support to help with proper foot development and comfort, durable materials made to withstand daily wear and tear, non-slip soles, breathability, and ensure it is easy to put on.

Shoes should also allow for natural foot movement by offering flexibility.

Here are our picks.

Clarks Originals Denver Standard Fit. Picture
Clarks Originals Denver Standard Fit. Picture

An all-round classic back to school shoe, the Denver is made of premium leather to withstand the reality that children will put these through a lot of wear and tear.

This design features a self-fastening strap making it a perfect shoe for younger kids to wear if they haven't yet learnt how to tie a shoelace.

The leather lining allows for the feet to breathe and extra padding around the collar ensures there is no concern with discomfort or blisters.

Asics Content 8. Picture
Asics Content 8. Picture

A great option for sports shoes are the Asics Content, which also features velcro fastenings to ensure little ones aren't struggling to tie up laces, or worrying about laces unravelling while playing.

The design even comes with a cute little feature to help kids learn left or right.

The CUB MATCH (trademark) sock liner features a printer tiger cartoon on the inside. Kids need to ensure the images match to ensure they have the shoes on the right feet.

Picture by Shutterstock
Picture by Shutterstock


Depending on your school of choice your options with uniforms will be different. Many major retailers such as Kmart, Target, Big W, Best & Less and Lowes carry a selection of school and sports uniform needs.

Generally items will come in main school colours such as white, navy, green, red/maroon and yellow with some variation between retailers.

For essential items such as shorts, skirts, long pants and hair accessories, we recommend checking out your local retailer for suitable items that are well priced.

Stationery and office electronics

Bring together a pencil and a notepad and you can create incredible things with a little imagination. When it comes to working out what essential items you need such as pens, pencils, notebooks and highlighters, right through to scientific calculators, diaries and laptops, consider your child's age and requirements list.

If you are looking for affordable options you can shop school supplies through Amazon by age range here:

Picture by Shutterstock
Picture by Shutterstock


Make sure everything you send to school is labelled and tagged including backpacks, lunch items, right down to individual socks. It will save you the hassle of having to replace lost items by ensuring they returned.

Bright Star Kids has a great range of options including bag tags, iron-ons and stickers.

Back to school dates 

The day your child returns to school depends on where you live.

Here are the dates you need to know. Be sure to double check on any pupil-free days.

  • Queensland: Monday, January 22, 2024
  • Australian Capital Territory and South Australia: Monday, January 29 2024
  • Victoria and Northern Territory: Tuesday, January 30 2024
  • Western Australia: Wednesday, January 31 2024
  • NSW: Thursday, February 1 2024
  • Tasmania: Tuesday, February 6 2024