As a long-time educator, I cringe when I see back-to-school sales in July (soon to be followed by Halloween candy at CVS in August!). Most parents, however, anxiously await Labor Day weekend, knowing their kids will be back in school soon. Trying to get excited myself, I scoped out some cool gear this year for elementary school kids. In addition to the standard backpack and lunch box shopping, here are some other fun items I found recently:

Inspirational pencils

We all know kids go through a lot of pencils. If you’d like to send your kids inspirational messages when they’re in school, check out these pencils on Etsy with messages like “You are Awesome,” “Be Yourself,” and “You are Loved.” Here are some others with similar good vibes to get your student through the day.

Pencil cases

I’m always on the lookout for cool pencil cases, no matter the season. They’re handy for school, yes, but they’re also perfect for a weekend trip with your kids or an evening out at a restaurant. Here are some unique ones: In the “less likely to lose” category, these monogrammed pencil cases will help your child keep track of their stuff. These are good for kids of all ages. Or if you’re looking for something more basic and inexpensive, Shein makes some roomy ones, and at $8 the price is right.

Gear for the animal lover

Who can’t use a new water bottle? We go through many water bottles in our house. Swell makes all kinds of sturdy designs — and has a lot of animal prints. (Sloth water bottle, anyone?) I also found some interesting elephant paper clips I might buy for my own school office.

Personalized homework folders

Kids seem to need a lot of folders. These are unique, and (wishful thinking) perhaps they’ll help my second grader stay more organized!

Other fun stuff

“Be Yourself” locker mirror

Name labels

Funny erasers, because we all make a lot of mistakes!

Erasers for the fast-food lover (and which kid isn’t!).

Elementary student planner — it’s never too late to help your student get organized.

And sometimes we just can’t remember what day of the week it is. How about fun socks — both girls’ and boys’ styles!

Finally, if you don’t have one already — a back-to-school sign. Yay! Time to celebrate!

These items are sure to put a smile on your little ones’ faces! Cheers to another school year — we hope it’s a brighter one.

Cheryl Mastrogiovanni
Cheryl is a native of Salem, MA, and now resides in Arlington with her husband and son. A graduate of Boston College, she has been a high school counselor for over 20 years and enjoys helping seniors navigate the college application process. A lifelong Boston Bruins fan, Cheryl began attending hockey games with her father in the original Boston Garden at the age of 8, a tradition she is now sharing with her son. Cheryl published a children’s picture book about the Bruins, and is also passionate about soccer, Cape Cod, all things Italian, and spending time with her family. As much as she loves to travel, she equally loves coming home. Loves: playing soccer on the weekends, GOOD pizza, hot summer nights, '80s music, sneakers, and being organized Dislikes: long meetings, loud noises, messiness