Reviews - school essentials

There is a vast range of school equipment on the market today. We have reviewed some of the best products around to give you help in selecting the most suitable for your child. We have included some other products here that are not strictly for school, but that will be useful in daily life. The selection also includes some weekly/monthly magazines.

Kiddicone 4 


Wow! This is so impressive and children will simply adore opening the exciting package - the cone will seem simply HUGE to a young child. I found it really exciting so just imagine a child's reaction! Kiddicone make gifts for children about to start school and we were lucky enough to be sent a Farm Friends Filled Cone for review.  It includes layer after layer of surprise gifts and fun treats to compliment your chosen design. Just look what you get! 1 x Green Twist and Sip Water Bottle;; 1 x Scrap Book to record School Memories and Achievements; 1 x Animal Themed Activity Book with Stickers; 1 x; Crayola Pack of 12 Colouring Pencils; 1 x Crayola Pack of 24 Crayons; 1 x Pencil with Novelty Animal Themed Eraser Topper; 1 x Pack of Kleenex Tissues; 3 x Balloons; 1 x Yoyo; 1 x Animal Keyring;a1 x skipping rope ; 1x bouncy squeakyy ball; 1 x Bubble Wand; 1 x Play Dough (10 colours) with Shape Cutters; Treat size Raisins, Chocolates and Sweets (Kiddicone even offer a vegetarian option, which is a great feature). (Contents may vary slightly in colour or design from these.) It all comes in a great big colourful cone with matching orange ribbon and tissue paper to secure the contents. It's an extremely well chosen selection, with appropriate gifts to really generate an enthusiasm for starting school, and tongive children plenty of fun. Other designs available are Owl, Pirate, Fairytale, Princess and Dinosaurs - a super variety to appeal to boys and girls, or unisex. Each Kiddicone is themed so your child will get an exciting range of gifts appropriate to the theme of the cone chosen - just one example of the thought that has gone into this exceptional product.

They are excellent value, at £37.95 (May 2017). Delivery is free on orders of any Filled Kiddicones anywhere in the UK, and you can expect delivery within 3-5 working days. See the whole range on the Kiddicone site, including unfilled cones if you want to create your own customised gift. We think these are simply brilliant; so well thought-out and what a wonderful way to generate enthusiasm for those first exciting days at school.  "The Company’s Founder spent her early years going to school in Germany. She fondly remembers her parents presenting her with what was known as a Schultüte (School Cone) on her very first day of school. It was filled with a range of exciting and practical items including stationery, books, toys and not forgetting those lovely sweet treats! To give children the best possible start in life, we are keen to support funding for Nurseries, Pre-schools, and Primary Schools in the UK and Ireland. If you would like information on how to join our growing number of Nurseries and Schools offering our products for sale, then please contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.."

  Kiddicone 1
Kiddicone Dinosaur Kiddicone Owl Kiddicone Pirate Kiddicone Princess
 snowball science

Whizz Pop Bang

Whizz Pop Bang is an award-winning UK children’s science magazine that makes science fun and engaging for 6-11 year old children. My five year old tester was over the moon with his first edition. He immediately started to read it and although he obviously needed some help, there was so much he could enjoy by himself. We had the Snowball Science issue and there is a phenomenal amount here to keep children happily and productively engaged for many hours. Make a snow globe, a barometer, a rain gauge, a pinecone weather station and a weathervane; and cut out a snowflake puzzle. There's lots to read about as well, all linked to the theme of the issue. Plentiful illustrations make the pages really appealing and the magazine is an excellent support for KS1 and KS2 science. Each month’s magazine is jam-packed full of hands-on experiments, fascinating facts, science news and discoveries, as well as interviews with real scientists to spark those imaginations and help to inspire a love of science. A really excellent magazine that is bound to stimulate and encourage children. Find out more at Whizz Pop Bang and you can preview a magazine here. The best value subscription (January 2017) is £34.99 for 12 issues.


Erasable Felt Tip Colouring Pen

These erasable pens are a great way to encourage children to be as creative as they like, without worrying about going wrong. If they don't like what they have written or drawn, simply rub it out with the attached eraser stud and start again. The unique ink responds to heat generated by rubbing with the eraser and goes clear, allowing you to colour over again or just remove any lines that have gone wrong without any damage to the paper. The rubbing-out is not instant - as it is the heat generated that does the erasing, children need to persevere and keep on rubbing. Parents will love these - you can let little ones loose with them as the ink is erasable if applied to carpets/walls/sofas (as if children would...). Brilliant! Simply stick the hairdryer over the marks and providing the temperatures exceeds 65 degrees Celsius the ink will turn transparent. That really is the key with all FriXion products, the application of heat and the ink disappears. Clever science! If you want to be extra creative, partially erasing the colours gives a lighter, softer effect, or you can erase lines and shapes within your pictures to highlight detail. Ideal for the current colouring craze, these pens practically guarantee perfect results every time. They are perfect for all ages and have a number of practical everyday uses. As well as drawing and colouring, FriXion Colors are also perfect for marking up notes, proof reading or reference points in textbooks and a great solution for temporarily marking on fabrics. The 2.5mm polyester fibre tip gives a 0.63mm colouring stroke; the colours are clear and bright and the pens smooth in use; the tips appear to be very durable too. The pens are available in a range of 12 colours from the Pilot website, or from Amazon - Pilot Frixion Colors Erasable Fibre Tip Colouring Pen - Assorted, Pack of 12.

Erasable highlighter pens pens

Such a useful idea - how often have you highlighted a piece of text, only to find the wrong words are standing out! Now, with these erasable highlighters with 4mm polyester chisel tip, you can erase cleanly by friction-generated heat, leaving no debris and without any damage to the paper. Simply use the rubber tip that is on the end of the pen, or apply a heat source such as a hot (dry) iron) or hairdrier.. Ideal for maps, text books, diary entries and more. A truly unique addition to your stationery collection. Again, a boon for parents as highlighters can be very tempting for little ones to use in places they shouldn't. Make sure you don't leave any important work in the sun though! You can buy from Amazon Pilot Frixion Light Erasable Highlighter - Yellow/Pink/Green, Pack of 3 and you will find a range of other colours, including a very appealing pastel colour set - most unusual. The pens are precise and clear - a pleasure to use. The jazzy decoration will appeal too.

FriXion Ball Erasable Pen

These pens are completely erasable - just rub over the writing with the special end of the pen and the heat generated removes the ink. It's a great idea to refill and reuse where possible as it’s not only kinder on the pocket but also on the environment; it also helps children to be aware of being responsible and not wasting our precious resources. So, these pens are excellent. FriXion Ball comes in 9 colours, singularly, wallets and blisters in various formats - you can see the whole available range, and purchase your pens, on the Pilot Pens website. The pens are also ideal for children who are just moving on to pens from pencils, as they can rub out neatly, with no residue and no marking of the paper.Perfect for puzzles too - I find pencils just too pale so I will definitely be using these with my favourite puzzle books.  I also received a pack of three refills - it's a good idea to make sure you (or your child) always has refills to hand - they are quick and easy to exchange. Buy the black pen here, and the refills here.

Pilot Frixion Clicker Erasable Retractable Rollerball 

This is the retractable version of the traditional FriXion Ball; it takes the same refills and is a handy alternative for those that prefer a lidless pen - this is often a better option for children, who easily lose pen tops. These pens are available in the standard medium 0.7 (like the FriXion Ball pens) and also the 0.5 Fine version. 10 colours in total are available and again, in a superb variety of pack formats. FriXion lets you write, erase and re-write, all with the same pen - no more hunting for a rubber!. Ink eradicators often leave a yellow watermark but FriXion erases cleanly - there really is no trace left. You can also write, erase and re-write over the same area as many times as you want. I found both pens really easy to use, the tip glides smoothly and the rubber tip both makes them comfortable to hold and ensures they don't slip. The pen is easily refillable with a twist-action barrel to replace the refill. The eraser avoids getting in the way of the retract mechanism, which is instead actuated by the pocket clip. Please be aware - due to the erasable nature of the ink when exposed to strong heat, it is not recommended for use with legal documentation, signatures etc. Buy your pen from Pilot. pen

Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Brilliant Colours Christmas Set


This seasonal Triplus fineliner special offer set comes with 10 vibrantly coloured pens, a gold metallic pen and seasonal postcards which will be perfect for writing those 'thank you' cards. the Fineliners have an ergonomic triangular shape which helps children to hold the pens correctly. The superfine metal-clad tip with a line width of approx. 1.0mm is ideal for precision work and perfect for relaxing, stress-busting colouring for children and adults. The colours are really strong and bright, and the tip remains precise even after plenty of use; they work well on paper and card and the gold pen looks brilliant on dark paper. The water-based ink washes easily out of most textiles; if pen is left with the cap off the ink will not dry - a very useful feature. The pens come in a plastic box which stands up - just flip the top flap back and click it into place, creating a stand for easy access to the pens - very neat. Stationery addicts will love these pens, and this special pack is ideal to keep children occupied creatively in the run-up to Christmas.

Staedtler Metallic Markerscolouring

Irresistible! This set of metallic markers comes with five pens - green, blue, pink, gold and silver. The pens are ideal for scrapbooking, greetings cards, labels and general crafting, as well as for adding special extra touches to colouring pictures - just a few touches of these really 'lift' the pictures; the nibs are a little thicker than I would generally use for colouring. They can be used on light and dark paper (they are stunning on dark paper), cards and dried FIMO air; the ink has a lovely sheen to it. It's good to know that the ink can easily be wiped off smooth surfaces using a damp cloth. The pens have a rounded tip and line width is approx. 1-2 mm. I do love my pens, and this set is just brilliant - children may well find their pens mysteriously 'disappear' so I recommend that adults buy their own set when buying them for children!

The Phoenix Weekly Story Comic

I well remember the joyful anticipation of arriving home from school on the day my weekly comic was due to arrive. Today's children and young people can feel that excitement if they have a subscription to the superb The Phoenix. The Phoenix is a 32 page weekly anthology comic suitable for boys and girls aged 6-12. It arrives through the post in a special Phoenix envelope every week to delight and inspire its readers! Every week, the magazine will be full of comic strip stories, some (in the true tradition of the comic) episodes in an on-going story. As well, readers have the opportunity to have their own work showcased in 'The Fanfare'. There are also factual sections - the magazines I was sent include 'Martin Brown's Lesser Spotted Animals' which describes such unusual creatures as the silvery gibbon, the guar and the onager; full of factual information, there are excellent. 'Phoenix Soup' is a fascinating medley of facts and spot the difference puzzles. Topical elements are included, for example the edition of 15 October commemorates the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings with some excellent pages based on the Bayeux Tapestry. There's lots more besides, with plenty of activities to involve the reader, all adding up to a fascinating collection that will have readers happily dipping in and out of the comic until the next edition is due. If you have a reluctant reader, The Phoenix will be excellent. It is beautifully produced, with high quality graphics on heavy shiny paper - a far cry from the comic of old. "At The Phoenix we care deeply about:
  • Publishing amazing content that delights, inspires and entertains.
  • Promoting reading for pleasure.
  • Introducing readers to new ideas and concepts.
  • Seeing creators get fair recognition and reward for their work.
These values shine through in every edition. I highly recommend The Phoenix - do take a look (it's available in Waitrose, W H Smith and bookshops). You can take out a subscription here - they offer excellent value for the amount of pleasure children will get from their magazine. It's a perfect present idea too - a present that arrives every week.


Scoop is a new monthly print magazine, especially written for children aged 8-12. It fills a very real gap in the market and I am impressed with the varied resources. These include short stories, poetry and graphic fiction from an impressive line-up of children’s writers and illustrators - I received the first issue with stories from, among others, Gareth P Jones and Catherine Johnson and poetry by John Agard. Comic strips and cartoons make the magazine accessible for even more reluctant readers, and everyone will enjoy the activities, puzzles and jokes, which ensure the magazine has appeal and value long after the first read. There are reviews and recommendations, and readers have their own chance to contribute to these - a great way to engage them with the magazine; there are also creative writing competitions. There are also plenty of factual articles, again from an impressive range of well-known people, including Georgia O'Keeffe and Tom Whipple (science editor of The Times). The whole magazine is in full colour and it is generously illustrated throughout - including some of Quentin Blake's illustrations from Kitty-in-Boots. There really is something here for everyone to enjoy and the joy of the magazine format is that it encourages children to take an interest and read about things they might otherwise have overlooked.You can take out a subscription here - either try the 3 month trial at £9.99 or sign up for a full year (10 issues) at £39.99. It's an exciting venture, and one I am thrilled to see. "Scoop is about indulging children’s love of the unexpected. Our aim is to enthuse children about the written word in as many ways as possible. It’s not only about books; it’s about all forms of story, hence our Dig into the Story motto... read on."

My Doodles Children's Novelty Character Suitcase

Holiday times are always eagerly anticipated, and now they can be even more fun with this super suitcase-cum-backpack. It's just the right size (dimensions: H370mm x W240mm x D110mm, weight: 1050g) for children to carry their travel essentials, whether off on holiday or for a sleepover. This wheeled suitcase is really well thought out, to help children get organized. There's a generously sized cushioned front pocket with a velcro fastener, which is ideal for storing en route essentials; there are mesh pockets each side, perfect for holding bottles. There's also an inside pocket and a secure zip closure, making sure belongings are kept safe. This suitcase is different though - and here's the great thing: it comes with comfortable, adjustable, wide straps that you can use to turn it into a backpack. The wheels are a good size and travel well over varying surfaces. There's even a pull out cover to hide the wheels when the suitcase is on your back (this would be improved if there was a clip to secure it over the wheels). It's very well made, with durable fabric that can be cleaned with a damp cloth. The friendly shark face will make it a winner with children. The suitcase has a pull out, height-adjustable handle to make it easy to pull along; no excuse for children not carrying their own luggage with this versatile piece of equipment. "At My Doodles we're all about making everyday things more exciting, which is why we've created a range of friendly characters and handy accessories to unleash your imagination. Designed to keep you company on your adventures, whether you're exploring at home or outdoors, we've made sure that My Doodles is always around to brighten your day." Take a look at their fabulous range - I'm sure you will be impressed; I certainly was!

My Doodles Cancer Research UK Children's Character Fun Novelty 85 dB Sound Limiting Headphone

Buy these lovely headphones and not only are you protecting your child's hearing, but you are also helping Kids and Teens Cancer Research UK - £1 from every set sold goes to fund research. We live in a noisy world, where we are bombarded with sound. It's essential that we protect our children's hearing and while we know it's important to tell them to keep headphones turned to a low volume, there are no guarantees. So that's where these volume-limiting headphones are invaluable - but they still deliver good quality sound. They are really comfortable to wear, with soft-touch material and swivelling earcups which fit snugly over the ears; they have a wide headband. They are easy to carry around, with their lightweight and foldable design which makes them perfect for putting in a bag or pocket. "Join us as we rally together to find new cures and kinder treatments for all the brave youngsters that face cancer. GBP1 from the sale of this product goes towards research to find better and kinder treatments for young people. Research holds the key to more children surviving and living longer, healthier lives." The technical bits - frequency response: 20 Hz - 20 kHz, sensitivity: 85 dB; drivers: 40 mm dynamic; DC input voltage: 0.178 V; jack plug: 3.5 mm. We received the gorgeous unicorn design - there are 10 different animal designs, including owl, penguin and shark; choose yours here. My Doodles offer fantastic ranges of co-ordinating accessories, for the child who likes everything to match. They are really attractive products and they are practical and well-designed.

My Doodles Fun Children's Novelty Silicone Character Snap-On Analogue Wrist Watch

We were sent the My Doodles watch - another excellent product which is made with activity and adventure in mind - the durable silicon material means this watch won’t be easily broken. Just like the rest of the My Doodles range, the watches come in a range of exciting animal themes - we were sent the shark version, and there are eight others, including bee, alien and fairy - see them here. Not only does the watch face show the creature, but the surround is also customised to give a really great effect. The watch easily snaps on to the child's wrist, offering a perfect fit without fiddling around with a clasp; the snap is very effective and the design means the watch will grow with your child; the strap is wide, soft and comfortable. An extra feature is the removable strap and clock face, meaning children can carry their watch however they want. It's important to teach children to tell the time, and once they have mastered the skill, they need to start planning their own lives so they keep to time - and this fun range of watches is the perfect way to encourage that. Children will love wearing them and, if they are very lucky, they may even have matching items from the same range.

Noris Colouring Pencils -  12 Assorted from Staedtler

Colouring pencils are a pencil case essential and these improved colouring pencils are perfect, with plenty of features that make them practical and durable. The coloured pencils are made from the enhanced wopex material, a useful production process which is a special blend developed by Staedtler, making the pencils stronger and easier to sharpen; I found them less messy to sharpen too. The six-sided barrel makes the crayons easy to hold and helps children with the correct pencil grip, thereby helping letter formation and writing skills. In addition, the crayons feature a non-slip rubberised surface. Increased break resistance is another feature - children inevitably press hard when colouring, and this is a really useful feature to save endless sharpening and to make the crayons longer-lasting. Last, but by no means least, the bright vibrant colours look really good on paper, producing drawings of which children can be proud. A super set of crayons which will also be appreciated by adults who have succumbed to the current craze for colouring. There's a set of 24 for more colour choice - Staedtler Noris Colour 185 C24 Colouring Pencil - Assorted Colours.

Staedtler Triplus Colour Fibre-Tip Pen Desktop Box - 20pens

Staedtler have produced a pack of fibre-tip pens with a range of useful features that will be much appreciated by parents as well as by children. I think the 'Dry Safe' feature is particularly good, given children's penchant for leaving pens uncapped - these will not dry out (I left one out for a couple of days and it still worked well). The sturdy tips, line width approximately 1.0mm, are pressure-resistant, meaning they don't splay out when used so the precision is retained. The manufacturers say that the ink washes out of most textiles, which is a definite plus. The ergonomic triangular barrel makes writing and colouring easy, even for extended lengths of time; the pens are easy to grip, even for younger children. This set comes in a resilient plastic case which neatly flaps out and stands up for easy access. The 20 colours are an attractive selection and they are really vibrant on the page - perfect for children and adults who enjoy colouring. The storage box makes this a very practical set for school use and also ensures all the pens are kept together when colouring is done.
 lunch box

Lunch Box - Pirate from Becky and Lolo

Children will be very proud to take this attractive lunchbox to school or nursery, or out on picnics and days out. The pirate design (always a popular one!) is very appealing, with plenty of different images, and the colours are bold. It is made from durable canvas (PVC, BPA and Phthalate-free) with a padded carry handle for comfort, this brightly coloured lunch box is easy to keep clean - a great plus is that it is machine washable - and is fully insulated to ensure children's lunches are kept fresh and cool. This colourful lunch box has a double zip fastening insulated main compartment plus a zippered front pocket for additional snacks; useful if your child takes a breaktime snack as well as lunch. The lunch box comes with an inner mesh pouch to hold an ice pack - I tested this with an ice pack and it did keep frozen for around four hours, which is perfect to ensure the food is kept cold until lunchtime. The approximate measurements are 20cm (h) x 25.5cm (w) x 8cm (d) - plenty of room for sandwiches, fruit and other snacks as well as for a water bottle which can be secured using the velcro straps.  It's a good extra feature that the lunchbox can be personalised, at a cost of £4.99. A great way to encourage children to eat their packed lunches, with plenty of space and good features. Buy from Becky and Lolo.
 lunch bag

Children's Lunch Bag - Forest Friends

This is so cute - I would very happily use it myself! It features a lovely woodland design with squirrels, owls and other creatures pictured among the trees. It's ideal for pre-school and nursery as well as the early days of school; perfect for family outings too. Made from 100% cotton with a PVC coating inside and out, and blue edging, the lunch bag is easy to wipe clean with a damp cloth. There is a mesh pocket inside the insulated bag and this will keep the contents well chilled until lunchtime. Velrco straps hold a drink bottle safely in place so it does not crush the other contents; there's plenty of space for even the hungriest child's lunch; the approximate measurements are 25cm (w) x 19cm (h) 6.5cm (d). There are two edge to edge zips which allow the bag to open flat out, giving easy access to the contents. I like the fact this bag comes with a shoulder strap as well as handle, making it easy for children to carry even if they have other things to hold. A very attractive lunch bag which I can see little girls using as a general purpose bag too. Perfectly fit for purpose, with all the features a good lunch box needs... and very pretty! Buy from Becky and Lolo.

Toddler Backpack - Transport

A super looking backpack with an eye-catching transport design featuring lots of vehicles including planes, trains and trucks, set against a blue background. It is made from durable, scotchguarded canvas and it is machine washable - wonderful! This backpack is called Pack N Snack by the manufacturer as it features a front zipped pocket fully insulated and food safe to store snacks, packed lunches. The material is 600 denier fabric, PVC, BPA & Phthalate free for safety. Fully lined double zippered main compartment has plenty of space and there is a food safe front pocket, fully insulated for packed lunches and snacks This backpack also comes with several additional features - the bag has a reflective trim for night time safety; a hanging loop; a mesh pocket inside holds a name label and there is a mesh side pocket to hold a drink bottle upright and safely away from other contents. The backpack measures approx 29.5cm (h) x 24.5cm (w) x 11cm (d) - perfect for younger children, the size ensures it fits well and they don't become over-burdened. The wide straps, which are adjustable, ensure even weight distribution and ensure the backpack does not slip. Perfect for little boys, this is a very practical and well-designed backpack which will be very useful on all sorts of occasions, including for school and for outings - it's roomy enough to be an overnight bag. Buy from Becky and Lolo. Matching items are available, including a lunchbox and a pencil case.
 Becky and Lolo Becky and Lolo say "Our aim and passion is to provide high quality, unique and practical products that are either exclusive to us in the UK or are difficult to find on the high street. As such, we source products from all over the world including innovative items that challenge convention and have not yet reached the current market place. Our range of re-positionable children's wall stickers are a perfect example. We believe that any gift for a baby or child should be colourful and original to stimulate and inspire, and all of our ranges have been carefully hand picked with this in mind. Ultimately, our sole mission is to inject bright colours into every gift and make them stand out from the crowd. We are continually sourcing new and contemporary products with the most up-to-date and on-trend designs and brands. We also ensure that our products are displayed to their absolute best through the quality of our images and descriptions." I urge you to look at the fabulous range on their website - I was very impressed and I know you will be too.