When I was a kid, the day back-to-school flyers started to show up at our front door was a momentous occasion. Yes, I was the kid who couldn’t wait to go back to school … shopping. I would carefully cross-reference my school supply list with the items in the flyers and prepare my arguments in favour of the (more expensive) fashionable binders and fluorescent pens. Maybe I imagined it, but it seemed like my mom also enjoyed the back-to-school shopping sprees, especially when it came to helping me pick out my first-day-of-school outfit. In hindsight, maybe it was just the promise of me being back in class instead of following her around the house professing my eternal boredom that made her eyes sparkle as we entered the mall on the hunt for the perfect outfit.
September marks a big milestone for me: my first back-to-school season not as a student or a teacher but as a mom. My son starts kindergarten, and he might be willing to hop on the school bus in his pyjamas, but I love back-to-school shopping too much to miss the opportunity to dress my fledgling student in comfy, durable clothing that promotes his independence. (Translation: shoes with Velcro, pants with elastic waists and tops with zippers.) I’m sure my enthusiasm will wane when it’s my fourth or fifth back-to-school season, but for now, humour me as I share five things I love about back-to-school shopping.
1-Planning for litterless lunches
Spoiler alert: my lunches will not be Pinterest-worthy. Sandwiches will not be cut into animal shapes. Cute notes will not accompany every meal. My point of pride will be the minimal packaging, and likely my son will grow to resent my refusal to pack juice boxes and yogurt tubes.
My mom was definitely ahead of the curve in terms of litter-free lunches. I was one of the few kids in my class drinking out of a reusable bottle and eating out of plastic containers, toting all my food in a lunch kit rather than a grocery bag or paper bag. Just like little me, my son gets pretty excited for packaged foods like granola bars, fruit cups and individual yogurt cups … but I’m trying to teach him that it’s important to consider the environmental impact of the foods we choose. I know packing his lunches is going to get old fast, but it’s really important to me that his lunch be as eco-friendly as possible. We’ve chosen durable, insulated stainless steel containers for his lunch and his requisite three snacks (I will be shocked if he if ever comes home with an empty lunch kit), and I’m going to put a list on the fridge of ideas for school lunches. It will be a short list. He’s very picky … but at least he doesn’t mind repetition! (If you’re looking to make it rich, start investing in cucumber and cheddar cheese stocks this September.)
2-Meticulously labelling supplies
I remember watching my mom take a paring knife and carefully shaving off a straight line of coloured coating at the top of each and every one of my pencil crayons and then methodically writing my name in fine-tip black marker. Confession: I did this to my classroom supplies my first year teaching. There is something oddly satisfying about neatly printing out a name onto virgin school supplies, or in my son’s case, carefully applying adorable, customized labels. I have never owned an actual label-maker because I feel like the consequences would be disastrous. My desire to #LabelAlltheThings is very strong.
3- Choosing durable and functional apparel
I know not all five-year-olds are as flexible about their clothing as my son, but generally speaking I still get to pick what he wears. Although, truth be told, he may end up leaving the house with a superhero costume on top of the outfit I’ve chosen for him. My son doesn’t own a single pair of jeans or khakis, or any kind of pants that don’t have a comfy elastic waist. Just like his mama! I absolutely hate how it feels to sit down wearing stiff pants, and I hate the feeling of a button fly digging into my belly. That’s why my son will be heading to kindergarten in athletic casual, and that is why I’m lucky to work from home where I can use “athleisure” wear as my daily uniform!
While I have fond memories of heading to the mall with my mom for back-to-school shopping, I am very grateful that fabulous leaps in technology have made it possible to shop at Sport Chek for Cub’s clothes from the comfort of our couch. It was easy to browse through some of our favourite brands to find just what we were looking for: sweatpants, zippered hoodies and long-sleeve t-shirts.
Four days later, the clothes were at our door (shipping is free on orders of $50 or more), and rather than wrangling my son into a change room, he got to try on his new duds at home. (Returns are free in store!)
4- Picking the perfect backpack
My son’s idea of the perfect backpack likely features many licensed superhero characters. I get that—I had a pretty rad Barbie backpack back in the day. For kindergarten, Cub needs to be able to tote his lunch kit and an 8.5″ x 11″ plastic folder for home-school communication. I imagine he’ll have library books in there some days and maybe a sweater. Since kindergarten is all about autonomy, I wanted to pick something that he could easily pack and unpack himself. Zippers can be a struggle, and when a backpack’s body is narrow, it can be hard for kids to fit all their gear in properly and still be able to close it up. We chose a backpack with a wide, drawstring opening. No matter what he shoves in there, Cub will be able to close it up. The important thing will be reminding him to take the time to close it up so nothing rolls out on the bus …
5- Finding clothes that build confidence
Again, fashion is not yet at the forefront of my kindergartener’s mind. He just wants clothes that he can move in. His kindergarten day is going to have a lot of different activities, from active time in the gym to “naptime” on his (carefully labelled) yoga mat. He doesn’t want to be the kid who has to get the teacher to help him button up his jacket, and he doesn’t want to fumble with zippers in the bathroom. Since he’s my firstborn, I will sheepishly admit that at 5 he’s not yet as autonomous as he could be. I affectionately (and impatiently) help him get dressed, go to the bathroom and put on his shoes. I know he can do these things himself, and if I choose clothing that is kid-friendly, I won’t spend my whole day worrying that he’s stuck in a bathroom stall unable to get his pants back on. His Under Armour sweatpants and hoodie, paired with Skechers Velcro sneakers are the perfect “I can do it myself” uniform!
Get Ready for Back to School at Sport Chek!
Whether you look forward to back-to-school shopping or you loathe it, Sport Chek has the brands your kids want and the quality they need, paired with excellent customer service both in-store and online. (You can even chat with a Sport Chek expert via Facebook messenger.)
Disclosure: I have partnered with YMC and Sport Chek and have received compensation for this post. All opinions in the post are my own.