Back to School Favorites 2018!

2018 Back to School Favorites, Tips, and Mom Hacks

Motherhood and Children

It’s here! DoSayGive’s annual back to school favorites roundup! This year I am sharing my favorites in every category (backpacks, water bottles, lunchbox accessories, etc.) so you can quickly find what you need. I am also sharing LOTS of coupon codes, money-saving tips, mom hacks and even teacher discount codes so be sure to read through the whole post!

First here are some money-saving tips as you back to school shop: 

  • Follow your favorite small and big businesses on social media for back to school discount codes and offers (esp. Facebook and Twitter for the big stores)
  • Shop Tax Free Days in your state
  • Ask friends with older children if you can buy their gently used uniforms (and they might graciously just give them to you!)
  • Dollar stores are a great place to stock up on basic school supplies (esp. if you need to bring stuff for classrooms)
  • Find used sports gear on
  • Buying online usually results in less things than a shopping cart at Target!

Favorite Source for Shoes

Amazon– duh! And Zappos! I buy our girls’ uniform shoes and classic Keds online. I also buy soccer cleats and ballet shoes, too. Why fight the back to school crowds and traffic when you can get with free shipping and free returns? For classic leather red, white, and navy shoes try Cecil and Lou. Unsure of size? Print out a shoe sizer or buy one. Order two sizes and send back what doesn’t work.

Favorite Socks

Did you know you can get classic Jefferies socks on Amazon. A 3-pack is only $12.99! I also love the monogrammed knee highs (above) that will be so cute with uniforms. Also Nike and Under Armour socks are on Amazon, too.

Favorite Labels

I have been so impressed with Minted’s labels over the years. I use the .375″ width size for clothing labels and the rectangle size for water bottles, etc. They really do stay on through the dishwasher and washing machine!

CODE EXPIRED Right now get 15% off personalized labels, notebooks, and stationery at Minted (love their stationery!) with code B2School!

Favorite Backpacks

Pottery Barn Kids (and PB Teen!) for the win! At least for preschoolers and elementary students. Note: the preschool size is really small and will not hold a lunch box. Right now they are 20%off + free shipping but click here to make sure because they are always changing their discount code.

For babies and MDO children, I love the classic gingham and seersucker lunchboxes/backpacks. I prefer personalizing with the child’s name instead of monogramming so the childcare worker or teacher can find locate it more easily (and your child can start to recognize his or her name!). Cecil and Lou has the cutest backpacks for under $30 that are perfect for Mother’s Day out.

My oldest has moved on to Jansport backpacks (on sale at Kohl’s!). They have so many fun patterns. Note: only the larger size has a water bottle pocket on the side. The North Face makes great backpacks, too.

Runners up: Skip Hop for preschoolers, John Hart, and I love these backpacks at Anthropologie right now. Oh and how darling are these Cat & Jack backpacks from Target??


If you need a bag tag, Joy Creative Shop has some and is offering 20% off sitewide with code backtoschool20.

Favorite Lunch Boxes

Pottery Barn Kids are the most durable lunchboxes. They last for at least the whole year maybe two. I like the classic size.

I will say, I have friends who love the Yumbox. Use code TRY20 right now for 20% off! I just read about these stainless steel lunchboxes if you want a non-plastic product.


Water Bottles

I wish I could say I loved the PB Kids water bottles that match the backpacks but I just don’t. They don’t stay cold and tend to leak. And S’wells are great but we’ve had teachers who request they don’t bring them to school.  (They tip over so easily and make a loud noise when they do. If children keep them at their desk I can see how that would be distracting!)

Right now our favorites are:

  • Contigo AutoSeal Water Bottle – I saw The Today Show’s website voted this as the number one kids’ water bottle. It’s not as expensive as some of the others but keeps water cold and doesn’t leak. And there aren’t many parts to it. Yay. My girls like how easy it is so pop open.
  • Polar Insulated 12 oz Water Bottle and Well Bowed’s monogram water bottle– These are good for preschoolers who only go a half day and don’t need that much water and don’t need it to be cold for 8 hours. Easy for them to refill themselves if needed and no parts.
  • Hydroflask Water Bottle – It used to be that S’well was “the” water bottle but now it is Hydroflask. It keeps drinks cold for 24 hours. Middle schoolers to high schoolers to college kids will love and probably want this water bottle. It’s pricey so makes a great gift!


Favorite Ice Packs + Accessories 

After making lunches for 6+ years I think the best ice pack is this non-sweat ice pack. And these thin ice packs are great when you don’t have limited space in the lunchbox.

I still love these plastic bento boxes made famous by 100 Days of Real Food. They are just simple and all year or several years if your children don’t accidentally throw them away;).  Yes, these dividers fit into the PB Kids Classic lunch boxes I mentioned above. Also still use these yogurt tubes and these cupcake liners that fit nicely inside the dividers. Also our PB Kids sandwich dividers have lasted forever.)


Lunchbox Notes

Why buy lunchbox notes when you can download these cute ones from Minted for FREE? Although these Anthro notes are pretty sweet. (Or you can just write them the old fashioned way – on post-it notes.)


Nap Mats

Etsy has the best selection for personalized nap mats. The less bulky the better for nap mats because you will have to carry this in along with a backpack and your child, of course. Smocked Auctions has some, too!

School Supplies

Amazon is my go-to for school supplies. For elementary aged a simple homework caddy has been helpful to us. Everything in one place they can easily pull out when it’s time to do homework.

Other things that have been useful to my children:

  • A bookmark timer is also an essential when children have nightly reading requirements.
  • A binder zipper pouch is a requirement for many students and Well Bowed offers personalized ones for $8 for DoSayGive readers right now. If in Dallas use code DALLASPPU for local pickup.
  • Sale! This Well Bowed monogrammed marker case makes a great pencil case as well. It’s $12 for DoSayGive readers (reg. $14).

First Day Outfits

Be sure to browse my favorite classic children’s brands in this guide! And I’ll be doing a post on this very soon on an affordable classic brand I love!


Favorite Clothing Deals

As we get closer to the start of school we will start seeing more clothing deals. A few to keep in mind: last year Old Navy offered buy one get one free sale on uniform apparel in August and Target had jeans starting at $6. So be on the lookout for those again. A few more:

Nordstrom – Up to 40% off new fall merchandise through August 6th. A great time to buy shoes, coats, and basics like underwear. I just ordered this Tea Collection dress for my girls and some leggings. I wrote a full post on my favorite kids’ finds in the sale here.

Lands End – 40% off with one full price item with code PICNIC (uniform basics)

The Children’s Place – Entire site 60% off + free shipping (no min)

Hanna Andersson – Buy 1 Get 1 50% off Kids’ Basics. (Great time to buy girls’ leggings!)

Tea Collection – Take an extra 20% off sale styles with code STAYCOOL.


First Day Signs

There’s so many chalkboards and printables on Etsy.This printable is super cute and only $3. Or these vintage chalkboards are cute, too. (Sorry, I can’t find these school bus signs but will update if I do!)

Tip: If you have a chalkboard make sure you use a removable chalkboard pen (so much easier than chalk!)


First Day Teacher Gifts

It’s not necessary but thoughtful! One year my girls brought a bag of crisp apples. (I like simple!) You could put together a teacher survival kit or give this (non-crafty) mini emergency kit. I don’t think you have to be overly cutesy with the gift tags although this cookie printable is pretty cute and so easy to throw together. And let’s not forget that gift cards are always a welcome gift with teachers! Target, Amazon, or the local teacher supply store.

Remember, Joy Creative Shop is offering 20% off site wide with code backtoschool20 through August 6th. A personalized notepad is always a nice teacher gift. (I think anything consumable is a good teacher gift!)


Favorite Teacher Discounts

I love how stores love our teachers! If you are one, here are some great discounts:

Anthropologie – 20% off full-priced items online and in store with teacher ID (August 6 – October 7).

J.Crew Factory – 15% off online!

Ann Taylor, J.Crew, and Banana Republic – 15% off one full price item when you show ID in store

Target – 15% off school supplies and storage solutions with teacher ID

Michaels – 15% off entire store when you show ID


More Mom Hacks for This Time oF Year

  • Book hair appointments online or by phone so you don’t have to wait
  • If your child doesn’t have time to break in new leather saddle oxfords take them to a cobbler and they can put them in their machine to break them in. It only costs a few dollars if I remember correctly.
  • Buy a cheap shoe sizer and maybe never step foot in a shoe department again!
  • It’s easy to say “yes” to everything in August for both you and your child. Be sure you have the capacity to commit to something before you say. If you need help saying “no” read this post.
  • Write/Print a list of morning checklist and put in their room or the kitchen. This is especially helpful for anxious children and helps all children learn to be responsible for remembering water bottle, library books, lunch homework, etc.

Hope these tips and tricks help!

Let me know yours!






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6 thoughts on “2018 Back to School Favorites, Tips, and Mom Hacks

  1. Great ideas Lee! My oldest starts kindergarten this year and she’s so excited! We are all early birds but I’m nervous about staying on task so that we are out the door on time. Do you have any tips? I often work early In the morning and have a hard time shutting it off, then before I know it we are rushing.

    1. I think doing as much as possible the night before is key! And a checklist in the morning for kids is so helpful. If they can’t read you can do illustrations. Water bottle, lunchbox, etc.

  2. Do you have any tips for building a back to school wardrobe? Do you strategically buy certain items? A specific number of outfits? Buy what you love? I have three girls 4,2 and an infant and am starting to feel overwhelmed by all the clothes we currently have but still need—especially for the oldest. I’m in Texas and feel like so many of the boutique brands I love often sell out by the time it’s cool enough to actually wear their stuff here.