Ready, steady, school: my back to school tips

Ready steady school - Ever-changing Life of a MumWith less than two weeks left until the end of school holidays, I’m sure many parents are still scrambling around at the last minute to pull together their children’s back to school items.

In the last few years this has been a fairly simple process for me as I have only needed to top up on the essentials for my eldest daughter who is going into Grade 4. But this year, I needed to start from scratch as my youngest daughter is starting prep.

Here are a few of my tips for pulling together some of those essential back to school items.

Lunch boxes

Smiggle lunch box - Ever-changing Life of a MumEasy lunchboxes - Ever-changing Life of a MumIt is easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number and types of lunch boxes available these days. I find it can be a matter of trial and error as it really depends on what types of food your children like to take for their lunch.

For me, my girls enjoy a basic sandwich, fruit and vegetables and a couple of snacks. I have tried given them some more interesting lunches but they just screw up their noses and ask for a sandwich, or sometimes crackers or a wrap. Makes it easy for me I guess!

I find the double-decker Smiggle lunch box  is the one that works best for us – it is a great size and has two compartments.

I team it up with one of these Easy Lunchboxes, which has three compartments that allows me to fill them up with a School lunch box combination - Ever-changing Life of a Mumsandwich as well as a couple of fruit/vegetable options. It fits perfectly into the bottom section of the Smiggle lunch box and I just pop a small ice brick on top to keep it all cool.

Easy Lunchboxes mini leak-resistant containers also fit nicely inside the Easy Lunchboxes to stop foods from leaking into the rest of the lunch.

I then use the top section of the Smiggle lunch box to pop in a couple of treats/snacks for recess and lunch.


Drink bottles

Drink bottle collection - Ever-changing Life of a MumWe have a ridiculous number of drink bottles sitting in one of our kitchen cupboards, so much so we have a whole shelf dedicated just to drink bottles. Needless to say, I did not need to purchase any new drink bottles for school this year as my girls can select from the ones they already have.

My main adviSchool drink bottles - Ever-changing Life of a Mumce would be to buy one with a wide opening at the top so you can easily clean inside the bottle.

My favourites would be the Smiggle straight drink bottle, Smash large drink bottle (purchased from Kmart), Zak drink bottle with straw (the one with the Minion on it, purchased from Kmart) and the Yarra Valley Water drink bottle with straw (purchased as a school fundraiser).

School uniforms

Where you purchase your uniform from really depends on how strict your school uniform policy is. While I purchase each of my daughters a couple of the official school polo tops with logo, I tend to team them up with other school clothing sourced more cheaply from department stores like Target, Big W and Kmart.

You can purchase shorts or skorts quite cheaply at these stores. I like the Stubbies skorts from Big W the best – my daughter even wears them during winter with a pair of opaque stockings and her black school shoes. Looks quite smart actually!

My daughters also have a couple of school dresses each. I tend to buy these from our school uniform shop, mainly because any profits raised help support the school. However, you can pick these up more cheaply from the department stores if they are just the basic checked navy blue/red/green varieties.

When it comes to pants, I don’t always buy these at the start of the year as my girls tend to only wear them during the cooler months. While they prefer the bootleg pants from the school uniform shop, you can pick up some nicely cut tracksuit pants from Target or Big W throughout the year, particularly leading up to autumn and winter.


Our school’s policy if that they must wear a hat when playing outside in Term 1 and 4. My girls have a wide brimmed hat as well as a slouch hat. I pop the slouch hat in their bag so they always have a hat with them at school, plus it’s usually easier to wear when playing sport.

One great tip is when purchasing a hat for your daughter make sure you try it on when she has her hair tied up in a ponytail, otherwise purchase a size bigger than what she would wear with her hair out.


I tend not to scrimp on school shoes and usually buy good quality, professionally fitted shoes. Last year, I bought a pair of black Ascent Adela Mary Jane shoes from Athlete’s Foot  for my eldest daughter and they were the best. Amazingly, she still fits them and they are in great condition when compared to other shoes we have bought in previous years.

That being said, this year I came across leather school shoes in Target  and purchased a pair for my youngest daughter. The quality looks comparable to the other ones I bought for eldest daughter last year, so I thought I’d give them a try. I guess only time will tell whether this is a good option.

When it comes to sneakers, I usually purchase them from Target as well – the Fila brand has been quite good for my eldest daughter who still hasn’t worn out the ones purchased for her last year. I did need to shop around a but more for my youngest daughter this year – she is quite tall for her age and already in a size 13. The problem is that most sneakers change from velcro to laces at this size. She’s not confident in tying laces yet so I really wanted her to have velcro sneakers to make life a little easier for her at school. I ended up getting her a similar Fila pair from Payless Shoes.


When forking out so much money on school supplies, it’s really important to label these items well, but this doesn’t need to cost you a fortune.

For clothing, I simply purchase a laundry marker pen and hand write my children’s names on each item of clothing. For lunch boxes, drink bottles and so on I usually order personalised labels for each of my children. I have always purchased mine from Identity Direct, but there are a lot of similar companies out there.

I have never had any issue with these labels wearing out or falling off, so it takes some time to use up all the labels. I would suggest buying more generic labels that don’t feature your child’s favourite cartoon character otherwise you will be stuck with a bunch of labels they don’t want to use anymore when they grow out of that phase (trust me I’ve been there!).

School bags

School bag keyrings - Ever-changing Life of a MumWhether you go with the school issued back pack or purchase one of your own, my advice would be to make sure there is an outside pocket to fit a drink bottle as well as a large external zippered pocket to the main compartment inside.

I also suggest purchasing a couple of bag tags or key rings to help your child easily identify their school bag. This is particularly useful if your child is just starting school.

Art smocks and library bags

School art smock - Ever-changing Life of a MumIf you’re crafty and can sew then you can easily whip these up yourself. If you’re not (like me!), then you can pick up an art smock from Spotlight and even a basic library bag from Kmart.

I hope these tips have been helpful. Good luck and enjoy the rest of your school holidays, which are going by way too fast!

*This is NOT a sponsored post. All products listed are items that I use and love.

40 thoughts on “Ready, steady, school: my back to school tips

    • I know, and that’s after a clean out I did late last year!! Miss Five is really looking forward to starting school next week – I think if I wasn’t pregnant with baby #3 I would be feeling a lot more emotional about the whole thing, but I know there’s still another one to see through this stage of life in a few years time. Good luck with high school, that’s a whole different ball game isn’t it?

  1. Hi Erika, Just found your blog from Jess’ IBOT and your title caught my eye! I’ve ‘owned’ Ready.Set.School. as a trademark in Australia for 2 + years, along with Ready.Set.Teach. and whilst I am now ‘retiring’ both blogs it’s cool to see someone with a title like mine! Like minds and all that. My background is K-6 education (teacher & principal) and now I consult to groups of families whose kids are off to school. Great post! Good luck for the start of this year….. transitions are always tough..but it will all work out! Denyse

    • I only just got the little leak proof containers, so hoping they work out well. They look good though and fit nicely inside the divided lunchboxes. My kids don’t take a great deal of dips or sauces to school with their lunches, but I thought they might be good even for tuna and crackers. Don’t worry, your hat will still fit – I only discovered it by accident last year when I purchased a larger hat size because I couldn’t get her usual size, then I realised it fitted a lot better with her ponytail!

  2. I’m trying really hard to store all of these in my brain for future reference. My eldest starts school next year and I’m freaking out a little bit!

  3. Our school has a strict uniform policy, so we buy everything from it, apart from lunch boxes. It’s expensive, but at least it’s all done in one go.
    I like the lunchbox idea you’ve gone with. That would work well I think for my little girl.

  4. Great tips, Erika. I’m another year off my eldest starting prep, but I still have had to source some of the things you listed above. Spotlight definitely is great for library bags and art smocks. It’s hard to find a drink bottle that doesn’t leak too, isn’t it?! I’ve never tried Smiggle for drink bottles. Will have to check them out. #teamIBOT

    • Have fun! I just received our personalised labels in the mail yesterday, so plan to label everything next week. I will experience the fun of contacting books once school commences as book/stationery packs are being distributed to students on the first day back at school. Oh joy!

  5. Thanks for sharing all these handy tips. Most of my girls’ school things have to be uniform (like hats, school bags etc) so we don’t have too much choice – but it’s those drink bottles that kill me! They multiply in the drawers at night, I swear. They all leak though. And leaky drink bottles are like pens that have run out of ink – you try them, discard them and then somehow they end up back in the drawer. Good luck for the start of school!

  6. Some great tips here. I love the break down of everything. I’m about to do a clear out of our overflowing lunch box drawer as I think over the last 3 years I have tried out every type there is! Thanks so much for linking up to the link up too. x

  7. Thank goodness I have a year to worry about these things. Although, even at daycare, it’s the hats, school bags, lunch boxes and drink bottles we still have to organise. That and labelling everything!

  8. Fabulous tips, thank you! My little one is starting kinder this year, so I’m all over the lunch box and labelling ideas 🙂 Next year will be our big year, with prep, EEK! Good luck to your little one starting this year xx

  9. Gosh there are so many things required for school aren’t there. We already have an extensive collection of bottles, and have found one that my boy likes, so hopefully that is one less thing to have to think about when he starts school.

  10. Lovely summary post. I run a lunchbox talk as a school readiness offering for day cares but only stepped foot into smiggle last week. I liked their cooler bags and back pack. I am sure my little girls will love it there when they are older.

    • Thank you! Yes, prepare yourself for Smiggle, my girls love it! Their backpacks are great as they have lots of compartments – Miss 9 started using one last year for school, but my youngest is still keen on the official school backpack as I guess she’s pretty excited to start school.

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