Kids’ curiosity about the world can be sparked in unexpected way and sometimes the smallest things—things adults easily overlook—will ignite their imaginations. With the school year beginning and summer travel ending, why not buy school supplies that will do more than just be places to write in and things to write with?
Here is my list of school supplies that I hope will inspire your kids’ imaginations and maybe make them more curious about world cultures and the many different experiences of their classmates. This back-to-school shopping might even give the kids ideas for your next vacation.
19 Global-Themed Back To School Items For Every Age Kid
Pens, Pencils & Basic Supplies
I know so many kids whose interest in anime has inspired an interest in Japanese language and Japanese culture in general—and who have suggested a family visit to Japan.
Encourage that interest with this blue or pink anime back-to-school set. It has pens, pencils, ruler, a small notebook, a pencil case to hold everything, two pop-sockets for their phone, an ID holder and lanyard and buttons for their backpack.
If your middle-schooler is constantly losing pens consider this set of 12 anime black gel pens.
They’ll like the stylized anime art enough to make a point of holding on to them. The set of 12 should be enough to make it to the end of the year.
This set of pencils with international flags on them will encourage kids to ask questions about the flags and the countries they represent.
And since they won’t match everyone else’s yellow pencils the kids will be able to keep track of them.
How many of the flags can you identify?
Once kids hit middle school a school-year planner is handy for helping them learn to organize their assignments and keep track of deadlines.
Why not go with this planner with monthly and weekly calendars and a world-map on the front cover.
This set of three folders with African prints is fun and your kids will always be able to easily spot their folder in the classroom pile. Two durable pockets in each will help them organize their worksheets and letters to parents.
You can buy a set of three notebooks to match.
The same company makes backpacks with matching pencil cases in the same three patterns plus one more.
These landscape sticky notes will remind your high school or college student that there is a world full of mountains and oceans to explore, while also reminding them they have a group-project meet-up tomorrow.
The bright colors are friendly and will help them stand out on a crowded bullietin board.
Round, cloth pencil cases hold quite a bit, don’t take up a lot of space in the backpack and will survive the dings and dents of the school year (plus, you can wash them). I love the pastel Mexican print on this one.
It also comes in prints with Mexican dragons, Day-of-the-Dead sugar skeletons, a reggae lion, and Indian and African geometric patterns.
You can buy the same-style of pencil case in one of three Anime prints. This bold style one plus one that’s more kid-friendly and another with a cooler edge to it.
This slim pencil case is ideal for the high schooler who is ready to give up their big elementary school pencil case but still needs to keep a calculator, pens, pencils and other small items organized and handy.
The vintage Indian lotus and elephant print is pretty irresistible. But you can also choose an Eiffel tower, Japanese cherry blossoms, a Japanese dragon, Costa Rican sloths or Mexican sugar skulls. All of them are fun without being too childish.
Backpacks & Lunch bags
I love the artwork on these three African Woman backpacks from Alaza. A solid basic backpack with a deep main pocket and small side and front pockets for water bottle and phone.
Perfect for the teen who wants to make a statement with their school bag.
Alazza also makes two Eiffel Tower backpacks, perfect for the elementary or middle schooler who is also an aspiring French student.
Nothing says European like these distinctive Swedish FJallraven backpacks. They’re waterproof, have a good size front pocket and have large handles that make them easy to grab from the car or school closet.
They come in three sizes from a mini for your littlest student to an extra-large one for your college student’s text book and laptop. Yes, they’re more expensive than a lot of other backpacks but they’ll last for years.
French and English kids favor these short and side satchel-style backpacks and I’m not sure why they haven’t caught on here. They fit small bodies better than a many standard backpacks and they can fit a lot of papers, notebooks and pencils.
These Tula bags are clearly for the preschool and kindergarten set but Kipling has styles suitable for elementary and middle school kids on its UK website.
Inspire your daughter’s inner artist with the colorful Frieda Kahlo lunch bag. It’s insulated with a side water bottle pouch, and a removable shoulder strap (handy on field trips when they want to be hands-free). And the details perfectly capture this Mexican artist’s unique style.
More Great Ideas
• Check out these handy items for feeding preschoolers on the go.
• As well as these building sets and puzzles that fit in a kid’s backpack.
• And these smart bags for traveling with kids.
Other Cool Stuff
Keep this pack of 60 bookmarks with retro-style sketches of European scenes on hand throughout the school year.
Use them as rewards to your kids for hitting reading goals, add them to birthday party gift bags, attach them to classmates’ birthday presents and more.
Or try these artsy monochrome Paris bookmarks for your teen. They make a great stocking stuffer as well as a back-to-school extra.
National Geographic has excellent resources for kids these days.
Pop this World Atlas on their shelf and they will refer to it for all kinds of school projects and reports — and also just for fun.
Pair it with an equally good United States Atlas makes for a useful set.
Try This German Back-to-School tradition
On the first day of school kids all over Germany receive schultütes, or school horns. They’re cones filled with school supplies and some candy or chocolate to sweeten the school year.
We’ve made these for Tiny, Tween and even Teen Traveler. She likes them so much she might take one off to college with her, maybe with coffee and Target giftcards instead of gummy bears and markers.
You can make your own schultüte with these easy instructions, and use some of the items above to fill it, along with your kids favorite candy, chocolate or cookies. It’s a fun way to start the school year and distract kids from any first-day jitters.