What to pack in a kindergartener’s backpack (Complete checklist)

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Kindergarteners look so cute wearing their backpacks for the first time. But you may wonder, why are their backpacks so big?

What could they possibly have in there that they need every day?!

When it comes to packing a backpack for kindergarten, it’s important that parents get it right.

You’ll want to ensure that your child has all of the essentials that they need for school while packing as light as possible so that they’re not weighed down by the weight of their backpack.

In this guide, we’ll explain what kindergarteners need to pack in their backpacks each day, and what they can bring into school on the first day and leave there. 

The main things to pack in a kindergartener’s backpack each night are:

  1. The daily folder
  2. Change of clothes
  3. Fresh bottle of water
  4. Emergency contact info

But there are a few more things parents might need to know about.

With a little organization and planning ahead of time, packing your kid’s backpack for kindergarten should take no more than five minutes each night.

What to pack for the first day of kindergarten

Around the start of the summer break, your school should send you a supply list that details everything that you will need to bring on the first day of kindergarten.

Not every school does this, but many schools ask parents to bring in all of the equipment that kids will need for the whole school year, on the first day of term.

Some schools may instead simply ask for a donation towards arts and crafts materials.

Some of the items on the school supply list (such as scissors) will be just for your child to use and these should be labeled with your child’s name.

Other things (such as tissues) will be for the whole class to share and so these don’t need to be labeled.

The kindergarten supplies list may include both essential items, as well as some things that the teacher would appreciate you donating if you can.

The requirements vary from school to school, so if you haven’t had a list, be sure to ask the school what’s expected.

Here’s an example of a typical Kindergarten school supply list:

  • Plastic folder with pockets
  • Journal
  • Hard-cover binder
  • Pencil box
  • Scissors
  • Box of pencils
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Box of crayons
  • Box of washable markers
  • Paint set
  • Erasers
  • Glue bottles and glue sticks
  • Construction paper
  • Box of dry erase markers
  • Antibacterial wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Tissues
  • Paper towels
  • Baby wipes
  • Ziploc bags
  • Headphones for the computer
  • Gym towel
  • Gym shoes
  • Gym clothes

If the school requests a particular brand, such as Crayola crayons or Fiskars scissors, then it’s important that you buy that brand.

If the teacher think it’s important for all of the kids to use the same brand and materials, trust them on that.

Getting everything on the school supplies list can be costly, so look out for any coupons, back-to-school sales, stores with price-matching policies, and cheap deals on Amazon.

If you struggle to afford a whole year’s worth of supplies at once, don’t worry about this.

Speak to the class teacher in private. They will be happy to let you bring in things throughout the year if you explain your situation.

Aside from the school supplies, your child will need a backpack in which they can carry just the things that they need on a daily basis…

What size backpack does a kindergartener need? 

The best-sized backpack for a kindergartener is 20 to 22 liters.

This is equivalent to a small- to medium-sized adult backpack. This will be big enough to fit their daily folder, lunch, and other essentials, without being too bulky to carry.

A medium-sized adult backpack may look huge on your pre-schooler, but that size is needed to be able to fit their daily folder.

If the backpack can’t fit the folder, it’s simply too small.

Experts say that a child’s backpack shouldn’t exceed 15% of their body weight.

According to the CDC, the average five-year-old weighs 40 lbs. Therefore, the backpack and its contents should be no heavier than 6 lbs!

We recommend that you purchase a sturdy yet lightweight backpack with adjustable, ergonomic straps.

Ideally, the backpack alone will weigh less than 1 pound.

To ensure that the backpack isn’t too heavy for your child to manage when they walk or take the bus to kindergarten, you’ll want to think carefully about what you put in it each day to make sure it only includes the essentials.

List of things to pack each day for kindergarten

Each day, your child’s kindergarten backpack should contain the following items:

Daily folder

The folder will be used to transport loose sheets like artwork, homework, and letters to parents between school and home.

Get one with pockets and a fastener to ensure that nothing falls out and gets crumpled.

This may be provided by the elementary school, in many cases.

Lunch and snacks

Lunchboxes with lots of compartments are great for kindergarteners as you can add a variety of different things like:

  • chopped veggies
  • cubed cheese
  • crackers
  • fruit
  • pasta
  • boiled eggs
  • mini sandwiches
  • pretzels and hummus.

You don’t want your kid to get bored of the same lunch each day.

Water bottle

Your child will need to bring enough water to last the school day – a 16 oz bottle should be enough if you also include a juice box for lunch.

Buy several water bottles to use on rotation and be sure that they’re all labeled with your child’s name.

Spare clothing

Kindergarteners may have accidents, so should you ensure that they always have a spare pair of trousers and underwear.

Keep these in a Ziploc bag so that the clean clothes can be switched with the wet items.

Suggested read: Can your child start kindergarten in diapers?

Hand sanitizer

It’s a good idea for children to sanitize their hands throughout the day.

A bottle of sanitizer that clips to the outside of their backpack will help them to remember to apply it regularly.

Emergency contact information

On a piece of paper or card, write down your child’s name, date of birth, any medical conditions, parents’ names, telephone numbers, and addresses.

Laminate it or place it in a Ziploc bag and attach it to the inside of the backpack with a cable tie.

Seasonal items

Depending on where you live, your child may need:

  • snow pants
  • boots
  • a hat
  • scarf
  • and gloves for kindergarten in winter

In the summertime, your child may need to pack a sun hat, sunglasses, and extra sunscreen.

Preparing the backpack each evening

One of the best kindergarten parenting hacks is to always prepare the backpack in the evening so that you’re not rushing around in the morning.

With a good system in place, you can easily prepare a backpack in under five minutes.

Each night, you’ll need to:

  1. Check the daily folder and remove any papers that are to stay at home.
  2. Remove the lunch box and water bottle and clean them.
  3. Make lunch for the next day and leave it in the fridge overnight.
  4. Leaving water in the fridge overnight will make it nice and cool.
  5. If your child doesn’t tend to drink enough water, you may also want to add a couple of slices of fruit to make it taste nicer.
  6. Hopefully, the spare clothing will be ready for the next day, but if not, you’ll need to replace it with another set.

Then in the morning, all you have to do is put the pre-made lunch and drink into the backpack and you’re ready to go.

This whole dance doesn’t have to take more than 5-10 minutes!

Wrapping Up

Depending on the requirements of each school, the list of supplies that kindergarteners need to bring on the first day may be lengthy.

If it is, then the parent can carry all of this into school and hand it over.

There are also some things that kindergarteners need to bring in their backpacks each day.

The main items are their daily folder, lunchbox, water bottle, and spare clothing. Other things like hand sanitizer and emergency contact info are also recommended.

Once you get into a routine of emptying your child’s backpack each evening and preparing it for the next day, it will quickly become second-nature and you’ll easily know what to pack.

Before you go, find out what to do if you missed kindergarten registration, and save these kindergarten talent show ideas for later!

Hope this helps!