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This is a common exchange in households and classrooms everywhere as kids fight over possessions. Though scrawling your child’s name on all her stuff in permanent marker may cut down on squabbles, it’s not the kind of personalization most youngsters truly desire.
“Having special school supplies can be directly correlated with your child’s overall attitude toward learning and starting a new grade,” says Laura Staal, a professor of education at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and a mother of five school-age children. Identity and ownership give kids a sense of pride, she says.
Here are some tips for choosing items that are unique to your child, whether it’s gear that reflects his interests, or personalized school supplies that bear her name or initials.
Kids know what they like — at least for right now — so let them choose personalized school supplies that reflect their interests and tastes. “Buy folders, notebooks, pens and pencils in bold, fun and crazy patterns,” notes mom and style expert Lee Heyward of Style with Lee in Charleston, SC. “Their boldness makes them easy to keep up with, and they’re simple to replace throughout the year if needed.” Draw the line at bigger-ticket items, though. “Their favorite Disney character backpack is great until the new latest and greatest character comes out.”
When you’re shopping for personalized school supplies for kids, make a few notes about their interests to guide your decision making. “Think about what they love to read, what music they listen to, what they’re passionate about,” suggests gift and style consultant Janet McKean of McKean & Company in Hillsborough, NC. “Is the child all about the environment and sustainability, or do they talk nonstop about a favorite TV show, super hero or sports team? Do they love bold Lilly Pulitzer-ish prints, or are solid colors and earth tones more their style?” If your child has a number of interests, consider binders with clear covers that he can personalize and use to showcase a favorite picture or artwork.
Another way to make school supplies special is personalization. From classic monograms to modern images, it’s easy to help kids leave their mark on everything from pencils to backpacks. Let kids write or choose a fun font for their name or monogram and then make copies on label paper (instant stickers!) and iron-on transfers (for cloth items and clothing). You can order a stamp featuring the design to create personalized school supplies.
If you, your child or a relative is especially crafty, “embroider your initials or a symbol you love, like a flower” on fabric items, such as backpacks and school uniforms, Heyward suggests. “Use the same symbol and create your own stickers to use as chic labels.” Not feeling hands-on? There are plenty of made-to-order options at your local Copy & Print Center that enable you to enter the name or initials, and then let someone else do the design and printing. You can even print customizable notebook covers.
“Do all you can within the bounds of appropriateness for your child’s school, your family’s values and your budget to encourage your children to create personalized school supplies,” advises education strategist Steve Peha of Teaching That Makes Sense in Carrboro, NC. “This increases motivation and ownership. But most importantly, it encourages children to understand themselves, to take pride in themselves, and to learn to just be themselves. It’s healthier for kids to create their own identity through this process than it is to assume the identity of someone or something else.”