The Back-to-School Gift Dilemma: Do Kids Really Need One?

Are we really expected to give our kids a "back to school" gift?!

If you buy something from the links on this page, we may earn a commission. How We Do It!

Are Back to School gifts really a thing?

Personally, we call “Back to School” the most wonderful time of the year.  It’s even better than the Christmas season.  But, similar to Christmas, so many parents are wondering if Back to School gifts is becoming a thing.  As if we don’t all have enough to plan for their school year?!

The newly odd tradition of giving back-to-school gifts has been fueled by a mix of commercial interests and a desire to alleviate  your kiddos anxiety about returning to the classroom. Retailers often capitalize on this time of the year to promote various school-related items, hoping to encourage us to purchase gifts for our kids. At the same time, some parents see it as a way to motivate and excite their kids about the upcoming school year.

Believe it or not there are actually some pros and cons of going the gifting route.  And while we’re not here to tell you what you should do (although, we are against it), we want to provide you with all the info so that you can make the decision for yourself and what works best for your own kids and family.

The Pros and Cons of Back to School Gifts


  • Encouraging Excitement: Starting a new school year can be daunting for some kids. A thoughtful back-to-school gift can help create a sense of excitement and anticipation for the upcoming year, turning it into a positive experience.

  • Boosting Confidence: The right gift can instill a sense of confidence in children, especially if it’s related to their academic interests or hobbies. It can serve as a source of motivation and self-assurance as they head back to school.

  • Practicality: In some cases, the back-to-school gift can be practical, such as new school supplies, a sturdy backpack, or a lunchbox. These items can be useful throughout the academic year and can ease the financial burden on parents.


  • Reinforcing Materialism: The culture of back-to-school gifting can perpetuate materialistic attitudes in children, where they might associate the beginning of the school year solely with receiving gifts rather than focusing on the importance of education and personal growth.

  • Unequal Comparisons: Not all families have the means to afford extravagant back-to-school gifts. This tradition may inadvertently lead to children making comparisons and feeling inferior if their peers receive more lavish presents.

  • Overemphasis on Consumerism: Back-to-school gifts can further contribute to the consumerist mindset prevalent in society today. By prioritizing material possessions, we may unintentionally neglect the essence of the educational journey itself.

Finding a Balance

Instead of making back-to-school gifting an all-or-nothing decision, parents can strike a balance that focuses on the spirit of the new academic year rather than excessive materialism. Here are some alternative approaches:

  • Celebrate with Experiences: Consider celebrating the start of the school year with experiences rather than tangible gifts. Plan a fun outing or a special family activity to create lasting memories.

  • Encourage Reflection: Take this opportunity to discuss the upcoming year with your children. Set goals, discuss interests, and encourage open communication about their feelings regarding the new school year.

  • Foster a Love for Learning: Prioritize the value of education itself and instill a love for learning in your children. Support their interests, engage in educational discussions, and demonstrate that knowledge is a gift in itself.

If You Have to Give a Gift, Consider These

  • Personalized Stationery: Get them a set of stationery with their name or initials printed on it. A colorful notebook, customized pencils, and a fun pen can make writing and note-taking more enjoyable.

  • Funky Backpack: Choose a backpack featuring their favorite cartoon character, a unique design, or a cool pattern. A well-designed and comfortable backpack can become a trusty companion throughout the school year.

  • Inspirational Wall Art: Decorate their study area with motivational wall art or posters featuring inspiring quotes or images that encourage a positive mindset and a love for learning.

  • Educational Board Games: Gift them educational board games that make learning fun. Games that teach math, science, language, or history in an interactive way can help reinforce academic concepts.

  • DIY Art Supplies Kit: Assemble a DIY art supplies kit with colored pencils, markers, sketchbooks, stickers, and other crafty materials to encourage their creativity and artistic expression.

  • Interactive Globe: An interactive globe that lights up or provides educational information can spark curiosity about geography and the world around them.

  • Book Subscription: Enroll them in a book subscription service tailored to their age and interests, ensuring a regular supply of new and exciting reading material throughout the school year.

  • Educational Apps or Software: Consider gifting age-appropriate educational apps or software that supplement their learning and offer engaging activities in various subjects.

  • School Lunch Accessories: Equip them with fun and functional lunch accessories like bento boxes, reusable snack bags, and colorful water bottles, making lunchtime a delightful experience.

  • Science or Craft Kits: Stimulate their curiosity with science kits that allow them to conduct fun experiments at home or craft kits that enable them to create personalized projects.


To be honest, as a professional gift giver here at Giftsicle for the past 4 years, I am surprisingly against back-to-school gifts.  Between all the toys you have to get them, their endless Christmas gifts, all the stocking stuffer trinkets, and overall clothes and games, we think it’s enough.  But, at the end of the day, you do what you think is best for your kids and your own family.