With back to school coming up, I’m sharing some of my favorite personalized label ideas to help keep you organized, keep you sane, save you money (whoo!) and even keep the peace if you have more than one kid.

(Parents of two or more, you know what I’m talking about!)

We have what you could call a label-obsessed home. Between kids’ gear, clothing, books, uniforms, pantry containers, summer camp stuff, gaming controllers, there is a lot to label! ¬†I mean of course personalized labels help ensure that any new back to school gear that goes off to school with our kids, actually comes back with them. (Sigh.) But there’s so much more.

Especially these days, when more parents are concerned about germs; the fewer water bottle mix-ups, the better, right?

Truly, no labels I’ve used hold up like the ones from our partner Mabel’s Labels, which make the brilliant back to school packs of personalized labels¬†for big kids and little kids that I’ve loved for an entire decade now.

Behold, our personalized label journey through the years! (Also, a neat way to see how your kids’ tastes and interests have changed.)

Personalized labels through the years: Tips for using them | cool mom picks with Mabel's labels

Look! I have proof!

Mabel’s Labels are smartly designed, they have a zillion options your kids will like, and they’re offering us all great discounts if you order early.They are also remarkably¬†durable and waterproof — even in the laundry or dishwasher — that they actually stay put, like they’re supposed to. And not all labels live up to that claim.

My favorite tips and ideas for personalized labels for kids

Updated for 2023

12 creative, sanity-saving labeling tips for back to school 2022 | cool mom picks

On behalf of our wonderful, longtime friends at Mabel’s Labels, I’m so happy to share some of my very favorite personalized labels ideas that you may not have even considered.

1. First of all, have the kids design their own labels. And let them take allllll the time they want. Tips for personalized labels to save you money, save your sanity, and keep the germs at bay | cool mom picks

I can’t stress this enough — however much you want to raise an eyebrow at your child’s design choice (“but you don’t even play basketball!”) ¬†— let your kids pick out the colors, the font, the graphic design icon…everything. It’s a form of self-expression for kids, same as their shoes or their haircut. Plus, it’s such an easy “yes” to give them, and don’t you love being able to say yes?

Mabel’s Labels offers literally thousands of possible design combos. And, a handy design tool that lets you play around online and preview your masterpiece. So set aside a little time — or more likely, a lot of time — just you and each child, and let them go through the¬†process of trying out different fonts, colors, and patterns on the website until they find exactly the perfect one for them.

It just may end up being a new annual back-to-school tradition for you, like it is for our family.

2. Use fresh labels to¬†snazz up last year’s back to school gearHow to use personalized labels to save a ton on school supplies each year | Cool Mom Picks in partnership with Mabel's Labels

My kid has gone from the cute stuff to the simple, graphic labels. Your water bottles can last through many taste changes by just changing labels!

If your kids are like mine, one minute they’re into kittens, the next they’re into skateboards, then skulls, then back to kittens.

Instead of buying a brand new water bottle, lunch box, or backpack each year in a new style, stick with basics and solids — then just get a new set of personalized labels to help make their gear feel “cool” for the new school year.

If you use as many labels as we do, you’ll probably be ready to order a new pack each year anyway. And that includes the teen years. Just choose their middle school label pack or “stylish” personalized label pack for more sophisticated designs.

3. Add pronouns to your personalized labelsPersonalized labels tip: Label books to make them more personalized and inviting

I love this idea so much, ¬†and I love that Mabel’s Labels can allow you to add pronouns on the second line of your labels, like I did here (also at top). Introducing oneself by name as well as pronoun (hi, my name is Liz and my pronouns are she/her) is increasingly common, and I’m hearing it more and more from my own kids’ friends. So I think adding pronouns to the second line of a name label is a wonderful idea — not only for kids who use they/them pronouns either. It helps to normalize pronoun usage, and makes it more comfortable for classmates who may not identify in a “traditional” way.

Hey, kindness matters.

4. If you don’t want to use a child’s full name, use initials.

Parents have different opinions about using a child’s full name, nickname or phone number on labels so we leave that up to you.

If you’d rather avoid full names, it’s easy enough to use a child’s initials.¬†This way teachers, coaches, sitters, or other parents can still identify your kids’ stuff, especially if it gets misplaced or left behind. Besides, the icons and color combos will make it easy to identify whose is whose, even without a full name.

Tip: Order one of the split label packs from Mabel’s Labels and you can combine multiple names in a single pack, if you want some with a name, some with initials.

5. Label lunchboxes and backpacks on the insideThe important reasons for labeling back to school items on the inside

My first instinct is to label items like backpacks and lunch packs on the outside so our kids can spot their own stuff, but adding a personalized label on the inside can be helpful for a few reasons:

  • It’s smart for young kids who may be prone to fidgeting with their labels and peeling them off
  • It’s a good trick for older kids who doesn’t want to ruin the “look” of their cool new gear
  • If you hand down your gear like we do, it’s easy to swap in a new label without any evidence of an old one.

6. Label books with personalized labels to make them more special. (And more likely to be read!)Creative ideas for personalized labels: Use them to make books more inviting | Cool Mom Picks in partnership with Mabel's Labels

Instead of buying dedicated personalized bookplates, you can use your back to school pack of personalized labels right in your kids’ books.

There’s something magical about personalized book labels for our kids — they make that book somehow more of a treasured possession.¬†If you’re gifting the kids a series of chapter books¬†as a back-to-school treat to encourage more recreational reading time, kids will be overjoyed to discover their names already right inside. And hey, it works on regular school books, binders, and composition books too.

7. Use personalized labels for kids with allergies or food sensitivities — at home, too.Tips for labeling back to school items when your kids have food allergies | cool mom picks with Mabel's labels

If your kids have serious food allergies, when you’re labeling something that will leave your home you need to be big and bold.

For a little extra reassurance, I highly recommend using Mabel’s¬†customized allergy labels¬†or personalized medical tags outside all lunch bags and supplies. The design is hard to miss — and the tags even include emergency contact info and lots of room for alert details.You could also design your own allergy labels with regular Mabel’s Labels¬†that accommodate two lines. Just use all caps to write NO NUTS for the first name, and ALLERGIC for the last name.

Plus, you’ll have that extra confidence knowing how well these kinds of labels really stay on lunch boxes and back to school gear for years and years.

How personalized labels can help kids with allergies or food sensitivities | cool mom picksYou can also use personalized labels at home. If your kids tend to have “their” cereal or “their crackers” — whether because of food sensitivities, allergies, or any other reason — it’s so much easier to pour that food into a container that you label with their own name, instead of changing the cereal or food name name every time.

8. Don’t stop at school gear. Label EVERYTHING kids may fight over.Creative uses for personalized labels to help save money, cut down on fights, and bring fewer germs home!

Do you know how many fights you can avoid by labeling gaming controllers, Nintendo Switches, AirPods, stuffed animals…even mugs? Let’s just say a lot of fights. A whole lot. I love those generous friends and family members who give my kids matching t-shirts or stuffed animals — and I also love that Mabel’s Labels can help differentiate them. Hey, Squishmallows are serious business.

9. Borrow a trick from classrooms and label your shelves and hooks to keep kids from fighting. (Or dumping their junk on the floor.)Tip: Label mask hooks using Mabel's Labels. They peel off the wall pretty nicely too (sponsor)

Well this isn’t the 2020s summarized in a single photo

What parent of two or more kids hasn’t drawn an imaginary (or not-so-imaginary) line down the middle of the back seat to stop the fighting? Use that same trick with shelf space, mask hooks, cubbies in a mudroom, closet hooks and so on.split label packs from Mabel’s Labels are also helpful if you want to order a single pack with multiple names for use around the home. And by the way, as sticky as Mabel’s Labels are, I have tested them and they come off our walls just fine, no damage.

10. Don’t forget to label shoes! Especially if your kids play¬†sports, or change shoes for dance or other activities.¬†

After more than two years and a *lot* of wear, these labels still stay on! My youngest wore these slides for two entire summers — through rainstorms, puddles, wet summer camp grass, pool showers, and even city streets.¬†Her Mabel’s Labels shoe labels hung on so long, she’s outgrown the cute cupcake design — and finally, the shoes.¬†

I don’t know how my kids did it, but when they were younger, one of them always managed to lose a single shoe each year, including a sneaker (huh?) a flip-flop at the pool, a ballet shoe, or a slipper somewhere between a sleepover and home.¬†Shoe labels¬†can help take care of that pretty easily.

Above all, be sure to label roller skates, ice skates, cleats, ballet shoes,¬†or other sports shoes that can blend in with all the identical ones at your kids’ extra-curricular. The circle labels in the back-to-school packs of personalized labels work great for this.

Have you ever looked inside a ballet school lost-and-found bin? Then you get it.

11. Use shoe labels to help younger kids tell right from left..without embarrassmentPersonalized labels tip: Help kids learn right from left without being embarrassed if they are still working on it.

I like that personalized labels can help younger kids be more responsible and more independent, and telling the right shoe from left is a perfect way to do that. While there are lots of shoe labels that say RIGHT/LEFT, kids who may be a little older and are still working on right/left may be reluctant. That’s why I really love the Mabel’s Labels solution: their preschool personalized label packs¬†and new preschool school labels contain a pair of labels that, when put together, create one complete image, like this rainbow.

You can also try designs like a cute yellow school bus, a video game controller, plenty of animals and more. Click “choose design” and play around. It’s fun. (Psst, I bet your child’s daycare staff, preschool or kindergarten teachers will be grateful for them too.)

12. Keep a spare sheet of labels near the front door for items that don’t tend to go to school every day

I admit we often forget to label the items that aren’t everyday school items — and of course, they’re the ones that don’t always make it home.¬†So before you send your child out with a pair of headphones for a project, a special hat for Crazy Hat Day, a borrowed calculator, or your own point-and-shoot camera for a field trip, label it!

We stash extra labels by the front door or coat closet for that purpose, and then we’re more apt to remember it.

Thanks to our sponsor Mabel’s Labels for saving our kids’ stuff — and maybe yours — for so many years.