Next we take a look at glue and watercolor paints.
Glue is another item that parents should be wary of buying cheaply. Store brands seem to be the worst offenders, making claims to dry clearly, but then leaving blue, sticky patches in the middle of artwork. Or worse, the glue just does not hold fast, so art falls apart (I could say that's an application problem on the part of the user, but I find that most grade schoolers have the opposite problem and use too much). Gel glues, in my experience, are also not the best option for younger students. The ability to squeeze out only the amount needed isn't really developed yet. Even my eighth grade art students take some time learning how to put out the right amount of paint from the tube, and young children are just fascinated with squeezing things out—especially if there's any glitter involved. I would recommend that you stick with the stick (no pun intended!) when it comes to glue, and save the bling for folders.
The final item I want to make some recommendations about is watercolor paints. With paints you need to decide what quality is most important to you: washability, rich color or lightfastness. If all you are concerned with is washability, then Crayola is a great brand and probably the most economical. For rich color Prang is hard to beat. If lightfastness (which means the art will not fade when exposed to light, such as in a frame), you need to buy Sargent; they are pricier, but they are lightfast, and as far as I can discover, they are the only ones that are. I do not recommend other brands because many of them contain so much glycerin (to make them washable) that when water is added they become gel-like and are very difficult to paint with, besides giving weak, pale, unpleasant colors.
Next time we'll talk about the bottom line with school supplies. Photos courtesy of http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/32487 and http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/233995.