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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.

Sending children back to school safely

It’s safe to say that this back-to-school season will be like no other that anyone of us has seen in our lifetime. 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, MD, 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. If your child is heading back to school this year, here are some essentials you should stock up on.

Note: Prices listed were accurate as of press time; pricing fluctuations may occur.

Hand Sanitizervia

Hand sanitizer


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In the instance where 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 A&S Hand Sanitizer, according to Dr. Sonpal. “When using it, tell them they should cover all surfaces of their hands, including their fingertips, and rub them together until they feel dry.” Find out 21 creative uses for hand sanitizer you never thought of before.

Travel Soapvia

Travel soap


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When it comes to cleaning hands, hand soap is king. While sanitizer is a good #2, you may want to consider sending your child off to school with some soap in a travel dispenser to use in the event that the school’s bathroom has run out of soap. This KISEER Mini Portable Travel soap comes in sheet form—all your child has to do is add a small amount of water. Check out these traditional school supplies you can buy for under $1 at Target.

Cloth maskvia

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 so they can rotate them while one is being cleaned as many school districts are requiring children to wear them, says Dr. Sonpal. Younger children will be more excited to wear a mask if you let them pick out their own, like these from Cubcoats. Make sure your child knows to avoid these 11 common mask mistakes.

Face shieldvia

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, as current evidence suggests that they 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, PhD, infectious disease expert and former Harvard Medical School professor, 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.

Disposable masksvia

Disposable masks

$19.98 for 50

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In the instance that your child forgets their cloth mask at home, Dr. 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.

Sanitizing wipesvia

Sanitizing wipes


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Your child is going to come across at least a dozen surfaces over the course of their day at school, from tabletops to computers, so it’s smart to pack some 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 Dr. 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. Know the signs of when back-to-school anxiety is something more serious.

Personalized labelsvia

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 Dr. 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.

Utility hook toolvia

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 Dr. 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.



$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 Dr. Sonpal. He recommends packing a few packs of pocket tissues, like these from Kleenex, in your child’s backpack. Find out 40 things your child’s teacher wants you to know.



$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 make sure she has her own 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, MD, travel vaccination specialist and co-founder of Practio. Here are 16 things your child will learn in school that you didn’t.

Hand lotionvia

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 Dr. 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 making sure that 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. These are more of the cutest back-to-school products you’ll want to keep for yourself.

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 have to have their temperature taken upon entry to school. While the school will be providing their own temperature-taking device on hand, it’s not a bad idea to have a touchless forehead thermometer at home, like this one from Tru Med so you can quickly take their temperature as they race out the door. Next, read on for 18 things you won’t find in school anymore.

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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.