It’s back to school time and parents and kids should know about some of the best products out there this school year.
If you are like me that you like to document your child’s first day of school. If that’s the case, then Hallmark’s Pics ‘n’ Props My First Day of School Kit ($29.95) is just what every mom needs. The kit includes a 5x7 photo album, chalkboard and chalk as well as inserts for preschool through 12th grade. The inserts make it easy for mom to appear to be super crafty. My mom tester especially liked the kit’s journaling cards which allows her to document her child’s first day of school thoughts….she can’t wait to review 10 years from now. She also really likes the kit's ability to be used over and over again. Hallmark’s Pics ‘n” Props is truly a must-have for every parent. STARS: *****
For elementary aged kids, Pottery Barn Kids (PBK) has a wide selection of backpacks that are specifically designed for little kids. The company sent me its My First Backpack Horse version ($34.50) which is simply adorable and the perfect fit for my preschooler tester. PBK has a wide variety of backpacks for both boys and girls in various sizes and themes for boys and girls. My kid tester loved that the sample backpack for PBK’s My First Collection was the perfect size for her and didn’t cause her to tip backwards or hit the back of her little bottom. STARS: *****
Parents who are getting ready to send their kids to preschool should consider purchasing their child a Glow Pet ($29.99). These snuggling soft pillows are perfect for naptime at school and super cool for your kiddo in the evening because also has a soft glowing light that helps kids who may be scared of the dark. Kids can easily push the button on the Glow Pet’s paw and the glowing light turns on or off. According to the company, “each pet has special LED lights inside that create a glow without producing heat, and the built-in timer automatically shuts the light off after 20 minutes or it can be switched to manual mode and the Glow Pet will stay on until the on/off switch is pushed again.” Available in 10 different furry options, including Shimmering Seal, Sparkling Unicorn, Brilliant Pup and Flashy Penguin, my kid tester is in love with her Sparkling Unicorn and sleeps with it every night. Each Glow Pet opens into a 15 inch pillow. She’s really looking forward to bringing it to preschool to show her friends during naptime. Available online at www.glowpets.com.
Pottery Barn Kids (PBK) also has a great selection of lunch boxes. Themes include Starwars, Batman and Spiderman to girl themes including cute prints and animals. PBK sent my kid tester the matching lunchbox from its My First Collection ($29.50). The cute lunchbox has the same pink horse and colorful floral saddle adorning its front. My kid tester was so excited to use her lunchbox that she’s been carrying it around nonstop. All PBK’s backpacks and lunchbags can be customized for a nominal fee. STARS: *****
Another great backpack option for your preschooler or elementary aged student is by SuperME. These fun and functional backpacks feature a cape that is tucked into a secret pocket that is easily accessible and allows your child to transform into his/her own superhero. The backpacks also come with a cute superhero mask and hero patch. Parents will like that the SuperME backpack is also machine washable, water resistant and is made of naturally insulated material. The backpacks also have an adjustable chest strap and reflective buckles for safety. My kid tester put her SuperME Superhero Cape backpack ($39.90) on and proceeded to “fly” around the house. Her mom had difficulty trying to convince her to take the SuperME backpack off. Truly a great addition to your child’s back-to-school gear. The bags are available at www.supermehero.com, on Amazon and in retail locations. STARS: *****
Brita’s water filtration system water bottles are a great size for toddler and elementary aged kids and the company recently announced a licensing deal with Nickelodeon. The company sent my kid tester its Hard Sided Bottle for Kids Dora the Explorer ($18.99) water bottle. Featuring an easy strip straw, this water bottle includes a filter inside that helps improve the taste of your child’s water without having to use bottled water or already filtered water from your refrigerator. My kid tester enjoyed using the flip up straw and her mom was happy that the straw was durable enough to withstand her elementary aged child chewing and distorting it. STARS: ****
School supplies are typically a must have and Pilot has a wide varietry of pens this school year. The company sent a sampling of its new products including is G2 and G2 Fashion Pens which last twice as long as other gel ink pens. My tester liked how smoothly the pen wrote and its soft comfort grip. The company’s FriXion Clicker and FriXion Light come equipped with an eraser. Yup, you can actually erase ink and the pen comes in seven different colors. The company’s B2P Gel and B2P Ballpoint pens are made of recycled bottles so they’re great for that environmentalist. While the Dr. Grip PureWhite and Dr. Grip FullBlack are designed to be twice as comfortable as traditional ballpoint pens. Perhaps my tester’s favote is Pilot’s Precise V5 pen which has a rolling ball and writes extremely smooth and seemed to enhance my tester’s penmanship. For a complete listing of Pilot’s line of pens, log on to Pilotpen.us/.
Tweens, teens and college aged kids should check out Claire’s for their wide selection of back-to-school gear. Claire’s sent my tester its Striped Backpack ($28). This cute backpack was in navy and white stripes and had multiple pockets to store gear. A brown “leather” trim adds a element of sophistication to the backpack. Comfortable and durable, this backpack is a great pick. Even better, the striped backpack is on sale now for just $14 and is available at Claire’s Stores and at Claires.com. STARS: ***1/2
Another backpack option is from Wayfair which sent my tester its Wildkin Majestic Macropak Backpack ($30.79). Sporting two side pockets which each can accommodate a water bottle, the Macropak has a mesh enclosure interior and multiple interior pockets. My tester really liked the cute pink print design and exterior pocket which she stores her smaller accessories, i.e., pens, pencils and other stuff. Designed for kids ages eight and up, it’s a durable backpack that is available for purchase at wayfair.com. STARS: ****
Back to school often means loss of items, a jacket, sweater, water bottle, etc. If it drives you as crazy as it does me, then consider purchasing labels from Name Bubbles. These cute customizable labels come personalized and are extremely durable. You can pick Name Bubble labels that are dishwasher and washing machine safe. What I liked best as a mom is they have labels that you can customize with your name, phone number and e-mail – all the while keeping your child safe by not advertising their first name to strangers. Name Bubbles have different label packages to select from, i.e., school labels ($38.88); sports labels ($26.88); daycare labels ($42.88); and camp labels ($38.88). Log on to www. Namebubbles.com to place your custom order today. STARS: *****
Do you want your child to start the first day of school off on the right foot? If so, consider purchasing your tween or teen some hello breath spray. Made with 99 percent natural ingredients and are alcohol free, the hello breath sprays come in assorted colors and flavors. Super cute trendy packaging and a small size make it easy to store in your backpack, purse or pocket. And since it’s a spray, it’s easy to share with friends. The company sent my tester an assortment of its flavors – the pink grapefruit mint was her favorite. STARS: ***1/2
Every kid going back to school needs a new pair of sneakers. Brooks, long known for its great running shoes doesn’t disappoint this fall. The company sent my tester a pair of its Glycerin 11 sneakers for men in blue ($150). My tester was impressed with the comfort level of the shoe and has worn them both for exercising at the gym, running outdoors as well as paired them with a pair of jeans for everyday wear. A versatile shoe, Brooks has a great selection for women and men as well as kids too. Available at retailers nationwide and online at http://www.brooksrunning.com. STARS: ****
And if your child doesn’t want a new pair of sneakers but instead wants shoes, Crocs had an ever expanding product line. I was surprised to learn that Crocs now makes heels and wedges. I associated the brand with its original popular clogs. The company sent me a pair of its Leigh Wedges ($54.99) and they are really cute and comfortable. The Leigh Wedges are also extremely fashionable and can be worn with a little black dress or a pair of designer jeans. I’d suggest checking out Crocs full shoe line. They have a wide selection for women, men, girls and boys. Available for purchase at crocs.com and retailers nationwide. STARS: ****
Does your child have an iPad that he/she uses for school? If so, consider purchasing Logitech’s FabricSkin Keyboard Folio ($149.99) which helps transform your iPad into a hybrid laptop…in a sense. Rated the number one keyboard for iPad (based on independent sales data for the United States), the Logitech FabricSkin comes with a protective cover, Bluetooth keyboard and micro-USB charging unit. My tester really liked the keyboard’s low profile and said it was a breeze to set up. What he also liked was the strong magnet that holds the iPad in place when using the keyboard; the front and back protection for his beloved iPad; and lightweight case. The Folio can also be used in a traditional sense as an iPad cover/protector. The Logitech FabricSkin Keyboard comes in five different colors and is sure to be a hit with your student. STARS: ****
Let’s not forget about accessories for back to school. GAIAM has some great accessories for tween, teens and college aged kids. The company sent my tester its two inch sure grip headband which is a great accessory to pull back your hair for a trip to the gym or to hold your hair back when washing your face in the dorms bathrooms. A silicone “stripe” on the inside of the headband ensures that its stays in place. A great little accessory to buy or send in a carepackage to your college student. Available at Amazon.com or Target. STARS: ****
GAIAM also has some cute stainless steel water bottles that are the perfect size for a backpack. The company sent my tester its Marrakesh 750 ml Stainless Steel Water Bottle ($9.98) which came in a light turquoise color with a tasteful circular design. Thin enough to fit in a typical car drink holder, its lightweight and BPA free. The Marrakesh water bottle also has a small handle that can be hooked onto a carabiner and attached to a backpack. STARS: ****
GAIAM’s Yoga Clutch ($9.98) is the perfect size for college kids to stash their phone, student ID and dorm keys. Available in cocoa/maldive and tangerine/posy, this durable Yoga Clutch is soft to the touch but durable since its made of yoga mat material. My tester loved the size of the pouch and carries it as a her purse and stashes it in her purse or backpack. STARS: ****
Cool Gear has some great back to school products. The company sent its 16-ounce Cool Gear Can ($9.99) for review. This water bottle is spill proof top sliding closure. Available in multiple colors and prints, the Cool Gear Can looks like a designer can but is easy to clean because it’s equipped with a screw top – straws are available too. BPA free, the Cool Gear Can also has a double wall that helps keep drinks colder. My tester liked the water bottle’s twist on a can and her friends thought it was pretty cool too. Available for purchase at CVS, Walmart and Bed Bath & Beyond. STARS: ****
Another great option for your student this school year is Contigo’s Autospout Sheffield Water Bottle ($24.99). Help your child set a good example and use a reusable water bottle that is 100 percent spill- and leak-proof. The Sheffield Water Bottle is also thermal-insulated and keeps cold beverages chilled for up to 10 hours with no condensation that could leak on his/her computer, tablet or phone. My tester really liked the 22-ounce capacity and sleek style…the sample sent for testing was stainless steel. He also really liked the bottle’s autospout technology – one button and the straw pops up for easy access. The Contigo Autospout Sheffield Water Bottle is available at GoContigo.com and other mass retailers. STARS: ****
Ok college kids, get ready for some of the must-have products to make your dorm room feel like home and add those special personalization features to set yourself apart from all those other college kids.
In need of a comfortable and collapsible chair for your child’s dorm room? Kohl’s has almost everything that a child needs when getting ready to go to college. The company sent its Student Lounge Memory Foam Butterfly Chair ($99.99) in grey to be tested. This collapsible chair is easy to assemble and comfortable to sit in. Its footprint is relatively small but the chair itself is roomy and more than comfortable. My tester was impressed with the soft material the cushion is constructed of and how easily it can be folded up and stored away when the extra space is needed. Even better, it’s on sale right now for $49.99. STARS: ****
Just because you’re at college doesn’t mean you want to live like a slob. Parents shouldn’t forget to purchase their college student a vacuum to ensure that his/her dorm room can at least be cleaned when mom and dad visit for Parent’s Weekend. Eureka AirSpeed ONE ($59) sent its vacuum to be tested. Weighing less than 10 pounds this vacuum is easy to maneuver and its slim profile makes it the perfect size to store in a dorm room. Utilizing Eureka’s AirSpeed Technology, which is engineered to move more air and remove more dirt, the AirSpeed ONE provides your college student with enough power to clean up almost any mess. And who wants to spend their free time vacuuming? So be sure to buy Eureka’s AirSpeed ONE to make sure your student doesn’t waste any time he/she should be spending in study hall. It should also be noted that the AirSpeed ONE has a 25 foot cord and a washable filter. The Eureka AirSpeed ONE is available for purchase at Walmart and Walmart.com. STARS: ****1/2
Cool Gear also has a great Stay Fit collection for those of us who like to pack our meals. We tested the company’s Lunch 2 Go product ($11.99) which is a BPA free, a three compartment tray that even comes with its own utensils, and found it to be everything it promises. A non toxic freezer gel lid keeps your food cool throughout the day. My tester was impressed with how cold her salad was after a day in her backpack. STARS: ****
Who doesn’t want a new laptop this school year? It’s almost become a necessity these days, especially at the collegiate and high school level. If you are looking for a laptop, Acer has a great reputation and wide range of product offerings. We tested the company’s Acer v5-122p-0643 ($449.99) and were really loving the computer’s touch screen capabilities combined with its traditional laptop offerings. For those techies out there, the Aspire contains an AMD quad-core processor and an AMD Radeon graphics card. For the everyday user, you will appreciate the computer’s slim profile; lightweight (just three pounds) and high definition viewing. My tester thought the computer was the perfect size to stash in a backpack or even a purse and again was really impressed with the computer’s touch screen capabilities. It felt like an iPad in some respects with all the added conveniences of a traditional lap top computer. The Aspire V5 Series comes in three different screen sizes: 11.6", 14" and 15.6". The two bigger models are available in four color options, while the most compact model comes in two. The Acer v5-122p-0643, is available on the Acer website and at Best Buy. The same model with different configurations is available at Amazon, Fry's, Target, Office Max and other retailers. STARS: *****
Don’t forget about buying your college student a new pillow before sending him/her off to the dorms this fall. Parents should consider purchasing a SensorPEDIC's SensorCool pillow ($60). According to the company, the SenorCool Pillows are the first pillows that feature a gel layer on either side of the pillow, so when one side gets to room temperature, users can just flip it over and lay on the other cool side of the pillow. It should be noted that my tester alerted me that the pillow has an odor that permeates through a pillow case and smells a little chemically. Update: my tester has been using the pillow for approximately two weeks and the chemical scent has lessened but it is still present. The pillow comes in both standard and contour shapes and is available at Dillards. STARS: ***
Decorating a dorm room can be fun and daunting at the same time. SKLZ has a great stress reliever that will help your college student’s dorm room be one of the most popular on the floor. The company’s Pro Mini Hoop Streetball Edition XL ($34.99) is, according to the company, an indoor basketball hoop with outdoor street style. Set up is extremely easy due to the hoops over-the-door mounts. The Pro Mini has a real chain net and polycarbonate shatter proof backboard. The set comes with a five inch mini hoop street ball and will keep your college student entertained. My tester was impressed with the chain net and cool street weather graphics the Pro Mini sports. The Mini Pro is available for purchase at sklz.com as well as major retailers like Target, Walmart, Dicks Sporting Goods and The Sports Authority. STARS: ****
Another option for a dorm room is from Wallpops.com. The company sent its Paris Jardin Magnetic Dry Erase Board ($26.99) which is the perfect accessory for any college dorm room door or wall. Also magnetic, the cute Paris Jardin Board comes in numerous prints and is equipped with a dry erase marker and holder. Let your kid’s dorm mates leave messages or tack up a note with a magnet (which is provided). My tester really liked the light blue floral print on the board and her ability to post do not disturb on it. Kits retail for $26.99 and are available for purchase at Wallpops.com and select retailers. STARS: ****
Another accessory which is a nice to have for your college student is a rug to personalize and give an aurora of added warmth to a dorm room. FLOR Carpet Design Squares is a unique product that can provide an added pop to a dorm room. These modular tile rugs come in individual carpet squares which are assembled by the user…think IKEA for rugs. Users can customize the rug to their own personal tastes to create a custom design that is held together with FLORdot adhesives. I tested this product and found that there probably should have been a few more FLORdots when using the rug in high traffic areas. When questioned, the company stated that customers can purchase additional FLORdots in packs of 12 dots for $5. The rug will be easy to pack up and store at the end of the year since it can be deconstructed to its original carpet squares but the customer will need to purchase additional squares to reassemble if they decide to utilize next school year. There is a wide variety of carpet square to select from. The squares were heavy duty (each weighs two pounds) and besides my suggestion of purchasing additional FLORdots, I think it’s a good option for any dorm room. FLOR Carpet Design Squares can be purchased online at flor.com. STARS: ***
Back to school isn’t just all about the kids. Parents’ schedules and project assistance also heighten when the fall school year rolls around. That being said, every crafty parent should seriously consider purchasing a Fellowes’ Saturn2 95 laminator ($159.99). It’s the perfect tool to help preserve important documents, like schedules, calendars, flash cards, certificates, and more. My tester really liked how easy the laminator was to use and its safety features which makes it safe to touch even when in use. The laminator has three temperature settings plus a cold lamination setting; it also has a jam release lever that helps remove any misfed projects. My tester used the laminator to create the kid’s fall schedule. Even better after laminated my tester was able to write on the schedule with dry erase markers to make updates as needed. Another highlight for my tester was the laminator's slim profile making it easier to find space for storage when not in use. The Fellowes’ Saturn 2 95 comes with a 10 pack of Fellowes 3mil laminating pouches and is available for purchase at Staples.com. Additional assorted pouch sizes are available at most major retailers. STARS: ****
Disclaimer: I and/or my kid testers were provided with product samples or loaner products but all opinions are solely mine and/or my kid testers.