Yeah – we're smack-dab in summer vacation mode. But, much like the wheels of a school bus, the back-to-school movement is in motion here in southeast Michigan. While most kids don't want to even think about hitting the books, though, retailers and companies are busy hawking fun new gear for the fall. If your tykes tend to sing the back-to-school blues, get 'em stoked for school with some sweet supplies. These nifty (and affordable!) little study buddies will be the talk of the classroom.
Drab metal dungeon – begone! Blinging out your locker is hot – we're talking the whole interior-decorator works, from mirrors to wallpaper and carpeting. Top it all off with this crown jewel: A snazzy faux chandelier. Available in blue, pink, white or black, it attaches to a locker's ceiling with super-strong magnets – and actually lights up (bonus: motion-sensor controlled to turn on only when necessary, making those three AAA batteries last longer). Runs $25.99 at LockerLookz.
Don't trust the cafeteria food? We've got you covered. Bring your lunch in this fun, reusable bag. All BYO totes are colorful and designed with lively patterns that beat a brown bag any day of the week. They also insulate food up to three hours outside of a refrigerator, keeping kids' grub fresh and crisp while they're learning. Available in three patterns for $9.99 each at Staples.
Ermahgerd! This cute-as-heck critter is here to help bolster that old "the dog ate my homework" alibi. Truly, every time your kid closes the zippered jowls, she can legitimately declare, "A monster ate my pencils!" Luckily, though, they'll be safe and sound in this clever creature case, which practically pops with personality. Grab one for about $5.99 at Staples or $9.99 at ZipItStore.com.
Seriously – what kid hasn't played Angry Birds? This popular game app can be downloaded on iPhones, Androids, Kindles and iPads. And, this autumn, your child can bring Angry Birds right to the classroom – thanks to great gear available exclusively at Office Max. The new line includes pencils, notebooks, backpacks and more. Your child won't be an "Angry Bird" when he "Dives" back into school with this stuff! Runs $1.50-$24.99.
Who knew notes could look so delicious? Slip a handwritten "slice" into your kids' lunchboxes for a delightful surprise with this darling little 150-page pad, designed by Martijn Deurloo for Kikkerland. Complete with a cherry on top, this three-dimensional treat could almost double as party decor! Gobble one up for $4.50.
Laptops are homework powerhouses, souped-up with oodles of programs and software. So why not personalize the outside of your laptop, too? Schtickers offers an extensive list of cover designs. Plus, there's the option to create your own. Choose an image by Van Gogh – or become Van Gogh by designing your own masterpiece! Your child won't be the only student with a laptop, but she'll stand out with these skins. Costs $24.99 to create your own.
Need a way to get your daily dose of fun? Check out this unique writing set that boasts natural remedies for young Shakespeares (try blue for a mood boosts, quips seller CoolPencilCase.com – or red for a shot of energy during those all-night cram sessions). The syringe-style mechanical pencils are a stitch, and capsule-shaped erasers and pens (the pen pops out) round out the 'script. Doctor- and mom-approved! Runs $8.85.
These fun, celestial-shaped utensils are the perfect pick for any child with "crayons" on their school supply list. Eco Star Crayons are made right here in the USA with 100-percent recycled non-toxic materials (cast-off old Crayolas, to be precise). If one side gets dull, just flip it over and use another edge (they tend to break less, too!). Buy your 20-pack for $7.95.
Future paleontologists can get a head start on their dino discoveries with these little guys – the more you erase, the closer you get to the hidden fossils within! Kikkerland also created these irresistible mistake helpers. They're $8 for a set of two.
Keep your child hydrated with this new hands-free water bottle. Just fill 'em up with water and go! Swiggies are perfect for lunch, recess and even gym class. These wrist-sized bottles, which secure with an adjustable Velcro strap, also are a green, BPA-free alternative to the plastic bottle, making them environmentally friendly to boot. Kids' sizes hold 8 ounces of liquid (11 ounces for adults). A pair will run you $12.95 plus $5.50 shipping.
Make note taking a fashion-forward affair with this insanely spiffy quartet of highlighters that masquerade as nail polish bottles. Now, she can paint up those textbooks in serious style. It's $12 for the set of four at Urban Outfitters.
Is your child forever forgetting his locker combination? Does the lock stick or jam? Give infrared technology a try! This cool lock makes your kid's locker spring open with the push of a key-fob button. Made by Kidpower, Inc., the Laser Lock Keyless Security protects valuables with ease. And with thousands of unique codes to choose from – and no keys or combos to worry about – this strong, durable lock is great for lockers (and any other indoor application). Comes with a key-chain remote and requires two AA batteries. Costs $9.99-$14.99, depending on retailer.
Everything little architects need to succeed is right at their fingertips. This set of 13 bright crayons mashes up two key elements to nurture what kids do best – there are oodles of colors for creating, and crafty block shapes for building. Pick up this set by the always-inventive Fred & Friends for about $10 on Amazon. Stack on!
It's a pencil! It's a pen! Either way, these deceptive, ink-filled tools by Kikkerland – which sport that authentic No. 2 wooden feel and come topped with erasers – are super-cool for writers of all ages (and just may help prevent pen theft). Snag one in each of the five colors, which include blue, green, yellow, red and pink. They're $3 each.
Last but not least – the backpack is, of course, an absolute must. This year, try a fun personalized tote from Pottery Barn Kids (choose from preschool, small and large sizes, or a rolling style). Its superhero motifs save the (school) day: Send your child off as the "Caped Crusader" Batman or The Amazing Spider-Man. Or check out PBK's array of other patterns, ranging from whimsical owls to bold color blocks. Monogram it with up to nine characters for an extra $7. Packs run $24.50-$69.50.