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Back to School - What should go in your child’s backpack?

As parents prepare for the possibility of a return to in-school learning this fall, back-to-school shopping comes with the added stress of thinking about protections against the coronavirus.  
“We know the uncertainty can feel overwhelming,” said Shirley Huang, MD, Chief of General Pediatrics at Tufts Children's Hospital. “Making sure your child has what they need in their backpack can help alleviate some of that stress.”

Dr. Huang says picking a backpack that’s easy to clean is a good start. The next step is organizing what’s inside so your child can easily find what they’ll need throughout the day. She recommends including:

  1. Face covering/mask

    Wearing a mask is an important part of the plan to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Ideally, choose a mask with two or more layers. Help your child identify a pocket in the backpack that is only for their mask where they can place it when not in use. 

    An extra mask

    If you can, include a back-up mask in case your child’s mask becomes wet, soiled or lost. You can also ask your school if extra masks will be provided.
  2. Hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content

    It can be helpful to clip this to the outside of the backpack to make it more likely that your child will remember to use it frequently. Schools will likely provide hand sanitizer in the classroom as well. 
  3. Tissues and/or hand wipes

    If possible, it’s a good idea to include a travel size package of tissues and/or sanitizing hand wipes.
  4. School supplies

    Put together a small container with pencils, erasers, a glue stick and other supplies your child will use regularly throughout the day. This will cut down on the sharing of supplies. If schools are providing individual supplies within the classroom, these extra supplies can be left at home to prevent the need to bring them back and forth from the classroom and home.
  5. Filled water bottle

    Water fountains will likely not be in use. Be prepared. Anything that cuts down on sharing is helpful. 

In addition to organizing your child’s backpack, Dr. Huang says it can be helpful to have conversations about the things kids can do to help keep themselves and their families safe, including reminding them to clean their hands often and reviewing proper hand washing techniques.

“It’s also a good idea to talk about the importance of wearing a mask, keeping a physical distance between students and avoiding sharing items like devices, food and water bottles,” said Dr. Huang. “Additionally, having some fun putting together your child’s back-to-school supplies and keeping a positive attitude can go a long way toward lowering overall stress for you and your child.”