The Ultimate Guide to Back to School Shopping in Columbus, Ohio

This Guide Has All The Tips You Need to Go Back to School in Style

back to school written on a chalkboard surrounded by school supplies


Bridget Houlihan


Jan 21, 2021

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As summer winds down and thoughts turn to the approaching autumn, it can only mean one thing-- it’s time for back to school shopping! Although most kids are sad to see the summer end, it’s also an exciting time as well. As the final days of August approach it means it’s time to stock up on new school supplies, backpacks, lunch boxes, and new clothes-- all to help the school year get started on the right foot.

While kids are excited for all the new things they’ll get to start the school year, parents want to know where they can find the best deals on the items their kids need most. Most schools have a prepared list of items that each student will need for the school year, which is always the best place to start. Once you have your list, you’re ready to start shopping! We’ve put this ultimate guide together so parents in the Columbus area know not only what to shop for, but where to find it! No matter what age your child is, you’ll be sure to find all they need to start the school year with this guide.

Get everything on your child’s back to school list at convenient Columbus stores.

Grade School and Middle School Shopping

From kids just starting their at their first day of first grade, to kids at the end of their middle school years-- if you’re looking for items for kids starting grades 1-8, make sure you look on the school website to find the specific list for each grade. There you’ll find everything your child could need according to their grade. To make it easier, we’ve divided this back to school shopping section into broad categories-- so no matter what you’re looking for, there are a couple of options available!

School supplies - The basics

Get your kids started on the right foot this school year with awesome school supplies. Many parents can probably remember how exciting it was to go out and get to pick your folders, notebooks, binders, and pencils. So let your kids enjoy this part and let them pick out the ones that they’re sure to get a lot of use out of. One of the best places to pick up the basics is at your local Columbus Target store. There you can stock up on glue sticks, markers, colored pencils and anything else your grade or middle school kiddo might need. Also, consider checking out the Target school list assist if you can’t seem to get a hold of your child’s school supplies list.

Other items you might want to consider picking up are wide ruled loose leaf, blunt edge scissors, pens, and highlighters. For kids in middle school, there might be calculators or other math-centric items such as a protractor on the list, but those are sure to be easily available at any major store in the Columbus area.


Every kid wants a new backpack at the start of the school year, no matter what age they are! It’s the handiest item on your back to school list, and one that will be used on a daily basis. With that in mind, make sure to invest in a durable backpack, but one that your kid really enjoys as well. Check out the backpacks at any Walmart location in Columbus and you’re going to find the perfect pack for your young child or tween. They come in shapes appropriate to kids of all sizes in grade school and middle, and in all their favorite characters and designs. There are also roller backpack options for those kids that just want a comfortable way to carry their assignments and not put so much strain on their backs.

Because your kids are still growing, they’ll be sure to grow out these backpacks at some point, so there’s no need to break the bank on this purchase. Just make sure the pack can fit their supplies and any homework or books they might bring home!

Lunch boxes

What kid doesn’t like to show off their new lunch box on the first day of school? Lunch boxes seem to be very personalized, and if your kid is in grade school, will probably want to have their favorite superhero or cartoon character adorn theirs. Good thing these types of lunch boxes are in no short supply!

For your middle school student, there are all kinds of bento boxes they can choose from that can easily compartmentalize each lunch item. It will stay cool and dry, and can withstand accidental drops without leaking. It’s the perfect way to keep yummy items ready for their lunch period. Target, Walmart, and Amazon are great places to find your child’s next favorite lunch box!


Going back to school means getting new clothes, so make sure your kids go back to school in style! Starting the school year with a couple new outfits is a nice way to let your child’s personality shine through. Let the younger kids show off their favorite characters, without hurting your wallet, at the many options in the Columbus area. Middle school kids will definitely want to pick out their own outfits, all according to the latest trends, of course. The Polaris Fashion Place is a great place to find all this season's hot outfits.  A couple of warm weather outfits and some cooler weather outfits are all you need to make sure your kid has some great clothes to start on their first day of school. You might also want to consider a special outfit for picture day as well!

High school kids can need some pretty specific supplies, make sure to check their school’s supply list before shopping.

High School Shopping

If your child is starting high school, this is definitely an exciting time! Here they’ll get to make new friends, join clubs, and find some interesting hobbies or athletics to pursue. Back to school shopping for high school kids can be a breeze, just follow some of the suggestions below for some fantastic ideas about where to start shopping in Columbus.

School supplies

As with your grade school or middle school child, it’s always a good idea to check with the school’s supply list before embarking on a shopping trip. If you’re pressed for time, Amazon is always a good option for back to school supplies. They have a section devoted to kids in grades 9-12, so anything on the school’s supply list you’ll be able to find there. The best part is it will be delivered right to your door!

Pick up all the pens, pencils, erasers, notebooks, binders, and folders they could possibly need to start the school year. Both Amazon and Target have great deals on computer paper as well, which your student is sure to need when printing out reports and essays.


Every high school kid needs a way to carry around their books to and from class, as well as to home and the library for study groups. It’s a good idea to invest in a solid backpack at this point, one that might even last a couple of years. Backpacks get used for so much more than books with high school students-- it might also carry their musical instrument, volleyball uniform, or debate team binder-- so make sure you invest in a durable backpack!

If you know your child will heavily rely on their pack, consider stopping over to the Columbus REI store and get one that can withstand anything they can throw at it. Since some high schoolers get attached to their backpack and keep it for a couple of years, this might be the last backpack you’ll purchase for a while!


Depending on your student’s course load, there may be some electronic items on the school supply list required by the school. This could include a particular calculator for graphing and math functions, or even a computer and printer. There are always lots of back to school sales at many local Columbus stores, so check them out for some great deals. When your child starts school, it also may be a good time to upgrade their phone-- to make sure they have all the latest tech available.


High school kids always enjoy getting some new back to school clothes-- what better way to show off their personality and style? You can either accompany your child while they pick out some new outfits, or let them choose to go shopping with their friends. Either way, they’re going to love getting some new clothes to start the year!

If your child’s school has uniforms, make sure to pick up some new items according to the dress code that will give them a variety of things to wear throughout the year. There are always ways to accessorize with uniforms, so considering going out shopping with your child for those instead!

Your college student will have a blast picking up some essential items for their dorm room, whether for studying or just hanging out.

College Shopping

No back to school list would be complete without some options for those students embarking on higher learning at a college or university. Colleges also have lists that include items your student will need to thrive in this environment, so when looking for supplies, make sure to check that out as well.


Every college kid needs to have a reliable computer in order to take notes, do research, and write papers. It’s essential that you do your homework and understand what type of computer will work best with your child’s course work. College involves a lot of writing, so you’ll want to invest in a computer that is compact and lightweight to be easily transported anywhere they want to get work done. It’s also a good idea to get a printer as well, just so it’s available for any emergency printings. Portable thumb drives are also a good idea for students to have around just in case.

Dorm room

Whether your child is starting their freshman year, or their senior year, they’ll need some supplies for their dorm room! Dorms always come equipped with basic furniture, but consider checking out the Columbus Ikea for some ideas to really make the room cozy. There they have all kinds of lights, wall decor, bed linens, laundry containers, and accent pillows to really create a great atmosphere for both studying and relaxing. Thrift stores and resale boutiques are also another great way to find cool items to put in their dorm room-- it’s also a great place to find some back to school clothes as well!

Back to school shopping is always exciting for both kids and parents, and when you have a little direction, it can be easy as well. Consider checking out some of the ideas on this list for your kids’ back to school shopping-- no matter if they’re starting first grade or their senior year in college!

September 5, 2019
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