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2008 Back to School Shopping Guide

We know most of our readers still have kids a few years away from making demands as to the brand of sneaker on their feet or backpack on their shoulders. Until then, the choice is all yours, mamas. So we've uncovered some fabulous goodies for the beginning of school, most from indie shops and smaller designers.

Plus some awesome discount codes. Of course, discount codes.

The picks here are entirely, as always, advertorial free. Just the stuff we love from sites we trust. But we adore our sponsors too! Click over and score yourself some great deals.

Help us spread the word by posting a Cool Mom Picks BTS button on your website or blog sidebar, and you'll be entered to win an extraordinary back-to-school prize package valued at more than $700!

You could win:

*A $200 gift certificate towards clothes, gifts and gear from the fabulous boutique The Silly Wagon
*A $200 gift certificate towards CMP's favorite labeling essentials from Mabel's Labels.
*The celebrity fave Whipstitch Leather Diaper Bag from Nest in trendy metallic bronze so that mama gets a little something-something for her efforts too.

Congrats to lucky winner Jill D, winner of these amazing prizes just for putting our button up!

The Coolest
Backpacks and Bags

We've found enough fun, funky schoolbag options that your kids will hardly need any convincing to forgo yet another made-in-China licensed character in their possession.

*Agatha Ruiz de la Prada rocks prints on her backpacks! We love the poker hearts also available in a version for smaller trendanistas. ($24-36 at Little Jet Set, shown)

*The It Bag for boys this year has to be Room Seven's Spaceship Dog bag which is selling out before it even gets into stock. Fabulous, but not cheap. ($119.95 at The Silly Wagon)

A close second: Their I Want to be a Pop Star backpack featuring a crooning croc. ($98 at Little Dudes and Divas)

*Little kids love the modern Little Kids Backpacks from Dante Beatrix, if only they can get past the hurdle of choosing their favorite animal. Also available at Itty Bitty Ladybug. ($36, shown)

*Any kid will be delighted to zoom to school with a shiny Zid Zid Airplane bag at the ready. ($37.95, shown)

*Your little easy rider will look too cool toting the black nylon Biker Bag ($35) and matching insulated lunch pack. ($18 at Chocolate Cake Club)

*Barcelona-based Busquets makes a colorful floral Mariona Backpack for lucky girlie-girls. ($65 at Little Jet Set)

*As an alternative to backpacks, the mini messenger bags from Ellie Bellie Kids are beautifully handmade out of canvas. No polyester here, thanks. ($32, shown)

  • The Silly Wagon: 15% off with code bookworm08
  • Little Dudes and Divas: 10% off with code COOLMOMPICKS thorugh 8/31/08. Free shipping with $50 purchase, and free bib with any diaper bag purchase over $100
  • Itty Bitty Ladybug: *10% off everything and free shipping on orders over $99 at Itty Bitty Ladybug with code COOLMOM10 through 9/15/2008
  • Chocolate Cake Club: 15% off any order with code COOLMP through 9/15/2008
  • Little Jet Set: 10% off any order with code COOLMOM through 9/30/2008
  • Ellie Bellie Kids: 20% off regular-price items with code CMP through 10/1/2008
The Coolest Kicks to
Go From
Blackboard to Blacktop

We love the shoe shopping perhaps best of all each fall. Here are a few of our favorite new styles to take kids from the schoolroom to the school yard looking comfortably chic.

*Fair trade, fashionable, and sustainable kids sneakers from Veja now come in sizes up to 10 in easy but chic color combos.($60 at Nonchalant Mom, shown)

*See Kai Run has launched their new eleven line for kids 3+ with plenty of sweet options for fall. (most $54)

*Vincent is one of our first stops for stylish, sturdy kids shoes that don't break the bank. Our picks for fall: Sporty, soccer-inspired Hampus ($39.95) and the more polished Frederik. ($44.95, shown)

*Morgan & Milo makes adorable canvas sneaks with racing flames. Snap them up, SoCal moms! ($36 at Ollie Bolen)

*Looking for sneaker alternative? West Village Kids is trendy boot central. Check out the Pom D'api flower boots in a shimmery mauve at a mere $156 (shown). The quilted black boot for boys (or rocker chicks) is equally drool-worthy for $138.

*Preppies-in-training can sport the handmade soft leather Emilio loafers from Livie & Luca in yacht-club approved forest green and taupe.($37.50)

*Handmade nubuck Wallaby shoes from Little Raggio look great with cords, or on girls with ribbed tights and little schoolgirl skirts. ($72 at Tiny McSmall)

*If foul weather kicks are on your list, check out the rainboots from Small Paul at Modernseed. We thought we were over skulls...until we saw these. (Reduced to $28, shown)

*Aigle's Bison Wellies are olde London chic. ($64 at Tiny McSmall)

*Let-It-Rain offers up classic Wellies in traditional neutral colors. Oh, and pink. ($32)

The Coolest
Smart, Not Smart-Alec,
Kids Tees

Ironic kids tees? So 2005. Kids can look both intelligent and (almost) too cool for school if you know where to shop. We love this new wave of smart!

*Infinitees makes alphabet tees that are far from dorky. B is for Brando? Awesome. ($32 at Start a Food Fight, shown)

*S is for a decidedly realistic (and scary) shark on the cool edu-tees from Biome5. ($32)

*Girl Mogul's Future leader of the free world tees feature ethnically diverse grrls. ($13.99, shown)

*Send your future spelling bee winner off in a Sapient shirt from SATees. If she can spell it, all the better.($20.99)

*Artist Sarah Utter's Future Librarian tee is awesome, but we wish it came for boys too. ($14.95 at Buy Olympia)

*Okay, so you can get a wee bit smart-alecky, even with an alphabet tee, if you're procuring yours from the series of child-unfriendly alphabet shirts for up to 3 years. R is for Roadkill is one of the tamer options.(about $30 US at Twisted Twee, shown)

The Coolest
Peanut Butter Carriers,
Hold the PVC

Why oh why do people continue making lunchboxes lined with a known carcinogen? No idea, but we've got some way cool alternatives.

*The one thing cooler to your kid than Diego's name on his lunchbox? His own name. We love the personalized flame lunchbox from em tanner. ($35.95 at the Silly Wagon, shown)

*Cute and CEH-recommended Lunchbug lunch bags now come in a colorful Matisse-y flower print. Ooh la la. ($19.50 at Nubius Organics)

*Munchlers from Built NYC are funky animals that unzip to placemats. Awesome. ($9.99 at Nubius Organics, shown)

*Just want the basics, grab a couple ACME Bags made from recycled cotton. ($6.95) You can even let your kid dress his up with stickers or collectible Pak Nak charms. ($3.99 ea)

*We just adore Fleurville's Lunch Pak with space-age silver trim that can be worn as a backpack. ($32, shown)

*If you can trust your kid to bring home all the pieces--and that's a big if--the bento boxes from Laptop Lunches are not only safer, they cut down on a ton of waste. Moms swear by them! ($20.99 and up)

The Coolest
Lunchbox Treats

Yes, we know you always pack healthy, low-fat, well-balanced lunches. But once in a while, a special treat is called for. Or maybe mama just needs an extra hug at the end of the day.

*Have a box of the Wicked Whoopies whoopie pies shipped from Maine then stick them in the freezer until lunch packing time. The flavors are outrageous. ($24, shown)

*We adore the organic goodies from mom-run Late July. If they're not in a store near you, you can order the cookie/cracker sampler from their website. ($18.95/21 packages)

*The peanut butters from P.B. Loco are transfat-free and just freaking good. Kids will totally love the Peanut Butter with Jungle Banana or Sumatra Cinnamon and Raisin if you don't hoard it for yourself. ($6.95, shown)

*Real Simple called the organic chocolate chip cookies from Snikiddy Snacks "the best cookie" and we totally agree. The Grilled Cheese Puffs are pretty awesome too. (Shown, $42 by the case at Amazon or in stores.)

*Way better than the stuff "made with 10% real fruit juice!", WaddaJuice blends pure juice with purified water. Kids dig the spill-proof bottles too.

*If you've got a kid with a peanut, egg or dairy allergy, there's no better resource than Divvies, a lovely family-run company which rocks the cookies, candy, flavored popcorns and much lauded cupcakes. You can even get the cookies automatically sent every month. (Snacks $5 and up, shown)

*Kids who can't have dairy can still have yogurt, with Coconut Yogurt from So Delicious available around the country. Yum.

  • Late July: 25% off with code coolmom25 through 9/15/2008
  • P.B. Loco: 10% off with code COOLMOM
  • Divvies: 10% off with code cool through 9/30/08
The Coolest
Eco School Supplies

You already know where to stock up on the basics. But splurge a little on some special green supplies, and give the kids a valuable lesson before school even starts.

*Stubby Pencil Studio has the motherlode of green colored pencils including Smencils, the scented colored pencils made from recycled newspapers that kids go nuts for. ($14, shown)

*Instead of juice boxes, send your kids off with a cool resusable water bottle. There's a nice selection at Nubius Organics including the new colored Kleen Kanteens ($15.95+) and the affordable New Wave Enviro bottles ($9.50+).

*We've seen staple-free staplers before, but never ones as charming as the doggie and kittie staplers at Think Geek. ($7.99, shown)

*Plan Toys Happy Shape Pencils: So cute! And made from recycled rubberwood with no chemicals. Get lots. (.95 for four at Kangarooboo.)

*A totally non-toxic glue stick? Absolutely, if it's this one from Coccoina which smells like marzipan. Don't eat it. ($4.50 at See Jane Work)

*Family-run EcoJot makes a "Kids Rule" line of sweet-looking 100% recycled notebooks. The Apples Sketchbook and Birdbrain Jumbo Notebook are our faves. ($7.50+ at Journals & Notebooks, shown)

*At All Things Renewable, we spotted clipboards made from repurposed circuit boards. So geek-chic! ($18.50)

*The new Eco backpacks from Dante Beatrix are made of nylon fashioned entirely from recycled plastic bottles. Also? They look incredibly cool. ($50, shown)

The Coolest Uncoats

One way to avoid the PUT YOUR COAT ON NOW! argument: Skip the coats and opt for layers, like these cool hoodies and sweaters that kids won't want to take off.

*Your little angel will look more Hell's Angel in a Don Ed Hardy hoodie. Well, a Hell's Angel with a trust fund.($105+, shown)

*The one of a kind Lola & James concert tees-turned-flannels and hoodies are so rocking, snap it up if you see it in the right size. ($66+ at Little Dudes Only)

*Handprinted graphics and embroidery make the red autumn street hoodie from Random Nicole a keeper. ($65, shown)

*Ella Moss does cotton like buttah, including the raspberry striped hoodie. ($56 at Shop Genes)

*It's Nacho Libre! Or really, Monster Republic's El Diablo hoodie. ($46, shown)

*Don't balk at the idea of a sweater vest - they're totally hot again. Love the one from Kate Quinn Organics with a zip front. ($52)

The Coolest Mama

Back to school season should make things easier on mama too. Browse the list, click through, and stay organized. And sane.

*How did we live without the note to self sticky pad? No idea. ($3.25, shown)

*MomAgenda's new 17-month wall calendar has planning space for you plus up to 4 kids.($19.95)

*Let's face it, we're all working moms, and Mommytrack'd has us covered with their handy Mom Essentials Organizer. ($14.95)

*Here's one that's absolutey free: The Cozi online family calendar which is so smart, you can even get your grocery list sent to your cell phone. (Freeeeee)

*Studio JK does some cool things with vinyl labels" to help keep all those toys and craft supplies organized. ($18, shown)

*Put the sharpie away and score the Ultimate Back-to-School Pack from Mabel's Labels. In the end they save you a lot of money in lost kid stuff. ($39)

*Lunch Lessons is a thoughtful, helpful manual to better, faster lunch-packing. No spending six hours pureeing spinach to hide in brownies either. ($15.61, shown)

*Aviva Goldfarb's The Six O'Clock Scramble is easily one of our readers' favorite cookbooks to keep you from ordering in pizza every night. ($12.21) She also has an excellent weekly newsletter. ($54.50/year)

*Make sure someone else is doing the cooking once in a while! Someone with a big white hat and a culinary degree. For those ocassions, get a hold of the Baby Daze Sitter Slips. ($6.95 at Chocolate Cake Club)

*Tequila. 28 bucks.

  • Mom Agenda: Free shipping on purchases of $75 or more with code COOLMOM through 9/30/2008
  • MommyTrack'd: 15% off any order with code CMP15
  • Chocolate Cake Club: 15% off any order with code COOLMP through 9/15/2008

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