It can be daunting to weed through all the different homeschool supply lists out there, so I’m going to do the hard part for you. I’ve compiled a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves in your homeschool classroom, as well as some organizational tips from a mom of 3. These supplies and craft materials are all perfect for the early years, but can also be used for years to come.
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When my husband and I first decided that we were going to homeschool, my firstborn was only 2.5 years old. Yes, we take it that seriously! I’ve heard it all over the years, now. So, let’s knock a few things out of the way.
Yes, we know you don’t have to do any schooling in these early years.
Yes, we know play is enough.
No, you don’t have to buy curriculum. We make our own and purchase it anyway, because we like to.
And most importantly – our homeschool supply closet took years to fill. Knowing this, I will be sharing with you the things I think are non-negotiable to buy if you’re planning on doing any sort of structured homeschooling in the first 7 years.
What do toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners need in their homeschool room?
In these early years, the best thing we can do is let our kids play freely with a variety of different toys and games. We adore art projects and all sorts of sensory mediums. I’m a former preschool teacher, and I adored my job. Putting together the weekly lesson plans and setting up the board was my favorite thing in the world. So, you would think I would be a pro, and that I would know exactly which materials I needed to have to teach my kids early on.
But, I’ve found that homeschooling is vastly different than teaching in a preschool environment. Aside from the obvious, there are 2 main differences:
- There are a ton of activities that we can do at home that wouldn’t have been possible or even allowed at a school setting for safety reasons. (My school didn’t allow homemade sensory bottles, shaving cream play, and some other things).
- We have 3 kids ranging 4 years in age. I have to cater to 3 different developmental levels and keep each child safe and make sure they’re able to learn in the way that suits their age. In a regular (non-Montessori) preschool, you can usually provide a task or activity to all the children in your classroom, and they’re all at about the same level.
Over time it’s gotten easier to quickly create activities with the same materials, for all 3 kids that are wanting and needing a different experience.
Homeschool Must-Haves for the Early Years
Here’s a quick overview of the homeschool items I absolutely think everyone should have for toddler to elementary levels (and maybe even beyond). Scroll down to see pictures and details.
To simplify your time spent shopping, you can also easily see every item in my Amazon storefront. See my “Homeschool Must-Haves” list, and my “Stock your Homeschool Closet” list. You can pick and choose what you need from there!
Big homeschool items to buy:
- Epson EcoTank printer (this thing is a beast. I’ve had it for over a year and still haven’t had to refill the ink. Also, uh, did I mention that the ink is cheaper than the others? Yeah, please invest in this one. Do it. Do it, now! Life-changing)
- Scotch laminator
- Orboot globe
- Chalkboard/Whiteboard Easel
- Tablets for the kids (we’ve done older refurbished iPads and Amazon Fire tablets)
- Laptop (for you) This is the laptop I have, and I love it! I don’t plan on upgrading until it eventually dies
Homeschool items to buy that will last years:
- Headphones for the kids (I like these because they’re wireless and you can get different colors for each kid)
- Wooden Tangram Blocks
- Dry erase pockets
- Wooden trays (I love these and these!)
- Animal figurines (Some good ones to have: safari, ocean animals, reptiles, farm animals)
- Dinosaur figurines
- Bug figurines
- Plastic bins (I always keep this size, this size, and this size)
- Musical instruments
- Squeeze bottles (I bought these from Walmart because they’re so cheap)
- Plastic eye droppers
- Dancing scarves
- Sensory tools (I like these and these)
- Counting bears (here are some on Amazon, and here are some from Walmart)
- Linking cubes
Nice-to-have homeschool supplies:
- Alphabet abacus (we got ours at Target but I don’t think they make them anymore)
- Hole punch
- Paper trimmer
- Loose-leaf binder rings
- Plastic drawers
- Toy mallet and tees
- iPad Pro (for you!)
- Magna Tiles
- White board
- Cork board
- Paint pallets
- Supply caddy
- Rolling cart
- Fun posters
- Schedule pocket chart
- Calendar pocket chart
The materials you should always stay stocked up on
I’ve bought several different pre-k and preschool curriculums over the last couple of years. Some will give you handy supplies lists at the beginning of the school year. Others break it up into weekly or monthly lists. There were some materials that really stood out to me as cheap must-haves. As soon as we run out of these, I immediately order more on Amazon or at our grocery pickup.
- Pom-pom balls
- Colored pencils
- Dot markers
- Glue sticks (disappearing purple, so they can see where they’ve put glue)
- School glue
- Safety Scissors
- Washable paint
- Finger paint
- Pipe cleaners
- Googly eyes
- Hot glue gun & glue
- Chalk for the chalkboard
- Sidewalk chalk
- Printer paper
- Laminator sheets
- Sheet protectors
- Cardstock paper
- Sticky velcro dots
- Brass tabs
- Scotch tape
- Gallon ziploc bags
- Painters tape
- Watercolor paints (don’t buy this one, it doesn’t work well at all!)
- Popsicle sticks
- Baby oil
- Dry erase markers
- Foam letters
- Magnetic letters
- Clear school glue (for slime)
- Shaving cream (not the gel kind)
- Contact solution
- Glass jars
- Plastic cups
- Easel paper
- Food coloring
- Cotton balls
- Water beads
- Construction paper
- Felt sheets
- Paper bags
- Tissue paper
- Contract paper
- Paper plates
- Activity books
- *Hang on to toilet paper rolls and paper towel rolls, too!
I also make sure we have some of these materials stashed in a controlled way in our homeschool closet, and then some that are on the last leg of their journey and can be destroyed by the kids in whatever craft project they do next.
For instance, we have a pouch full of markers that I won’t be heartbroken if and when the kids let them dry out, and a pack of fresh markers still in the box in the closet. On busy days, it’s okay if the kids forget to put the lids on, or smash the tips, I give them the pouch with the understanding that I will put fresh markers in it after, and order a new backup set.
A look at our homeschool room
My printer is my most prized homeschool possession. It’s loved by homeschoolers everywhere, and for good reason! This beast of a printer can print thousands and thousands of pages of homeschool materials without needing the ink replaced. It’s amazing.
I’ve replaced the black ink once in the last year, and the color has not been replaced at all. I own a curriculum business, so not only do I homeschool 3 little ones, but I print and reprint materials way more than the average family. It has been lifechanging.
We were using a little $50 printer before I bought my EcoTank, and I had to buy ink at least once a month. It cost me about $65 to do so each time. Want to guess how much my EcoTank ink costs? Take a look here. Black ink is crazy affordable.
Yeah, that’s right! It’s considerably cheaper, and you only have to change the ink every year or so if you’re obsessed with printables. You could probably stretch it to 2 years! Seriouly. Buy this printer!
Most people don’t know that laminators are affordable and not out of reach at all. This Scotch brand laminator is tried and true. I’ve been using it for going on 5 years now. The sheets aren’t expensive, either.
This Orboot globe is one of my favorite homeschool items we have! My mom sent it to me last year for the kids and it was a huge hit. I don’t have any pictures of the kids using it yet, but it’s really neat! There’s an app that you download on a phone or tablet, and when the kids point it at the globe, animals and things pop up in real time!
There are many aspects of it that are a bit above their level, so I know this will be used for years to come.
They have 2 other versions that I’m going to buy as well:
- Planet Mars
- World of dinosaurs
This wooden alphabet abacus from Target has stood the test of time. We’ve had it since my firstborn was a baby. It’s been beat on, thrown around, dropped, you name it. And it’s held up nicely! Totally not a necessity, but very nice to have.
Some books are too nice to leave at the kids bookshelf. Also, we’ve had many animals over the years. That toy mallet was chewed on by one of our dogs when they were puppies. It still works, though!
This nature book is one of my favorites for Wildschool Wednesday. You can usually look through it the day of, and find something to do with the kids.
This is our morning basket. I’ll make a separate post going over what’s in it and what we cycle out every season. Obviously we have a poetry book and a sketch book in there.
Having file baskets hung up out of reach can keep you chaotically organized. Your papers might not be put away, but it won’t be ripped up by kids or misplaced under a pile or books or papers!
These velcro sticky dots are a must if you plan on putting together busy binders! I like this pack a lot. They’re very sticky and it comes in such a large amount, I don’t have to purchase them often.
Flashlights make for an engaging experience. Ask your child to go point the flashlight at all of the orange things they can find. Or all of the “b’s” in the house, etc. Just buy one that isn’t super intense. This is the one I ordered on my Walmart pickup.
These dancing scarves are fun! They can be very dangerous if you slip on them on hardwood, so they stay put away in the closet.
Having easy-to-grab mini units, worksheets, and workbooks are a must!
A playdough bin is also a must. You can also see all of my unused baskets and organizational supplies on the floor of the closet. These are great to have to grab whenever you might need them. Also, peep the scrap paper bin on top of the legos. You have to have one of those! Kids burn through paper like no other, and there’s no need to waste what’s leftover!
Sensory bins are a must!
Empty binders are great to have as well.
I love this brand of washable paint, because it’s way more affordable than the other brands I’ve seen, and I’ve had no problems so far. It works great and we use it several times a week! I’m able to stay nice and stocked up on it because of the price. Buy it at Walmart though, not Amazon!
Also, sidewalk chalk is great for the outdoors and all, but it’s also really handy to keep around for the kids to use on their chalkboard! The little ones break easily and are hard to hold.
I love these wooden bins from Amazon, and also these. They make for great activity trays.
I always keep some dinosaurs, bugs, and animals put away high for themed activities. Don’t worry, they have sets out that they can use whenever they like, too.
As you can see, not everything in my closet is Pinterest-worthy and perfect right now. This is just my real life peek at our school supplies. Parts of it even look a little chaotic, but everything has a place and I know where to look!
Remember, when building up your homeschool supply closet, that you don’t have to have everything at the beginning. Take your time! Start with what you know your child will use on a daily basis, and go from there. But, don’t sleep on that printer!
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