Shopping insights reveal the new must-haves for our new normal

Image credit: HoneyLimeCo

If 2020 has taught us one lesson, it’s to expect the unexpected. With much about the school year still up in the air for many – whether learning will take place at home, in the classroom, or a hybrid of the two – back-to-school shopping lists are looking a little different this year. But what hasn’t changed is that families are turning to Etsy to stock up on unique and personalized items to prep for the new year ahead.

Here are some of the top back-to-school shopping trends we’re seeing emerge on Etsy as students of all ages, from preschool to college, gear up for a new year of learning, whatever it may look like.

Kids masks and accessories

Fabric face masks have quickly become an everyday essential for kids* and parents alike, and they’re certainly at the top of the list for those heading back to the classroom. Over the last three months, ‘face mask’ was consistently the top search on Etsy, with one reusable or washable face mask related search every second over the past 30 days. And while simple, solid black varieties once dominated best-sellers in the spring, we’re seeing masks increasingly becoming a way for kids to express their style and add a pop of joy to their outfits, with bright florals, stripes and tie-dye patterns becoming the new must-haves. 

We’re also seeing new mask accessories emerge on the platform, with sellers offering handy new ways to wear and store masks. Personalized lanyards, carrying cases and “mask chains” are all rising in popularity (great news for parents, as it means fewer lost masks!)

Bear Face Mask, Kids Face Mask, Tie Dye Face Mask, Personalized Face Mask Bag, Clean and Dirty Face Mask Bags, Hat & Mask Combo, Personalized Face Mask Lanyard, Kids Mouth Nose Mask

Teacher and school staff appreciation

There’s no doubt that teachers and school staff – including counselors, school nurses, and more – deserve all the thanks in the world. And while gifts for teachers typically spike towards the end of the school year, we’re seeing them surge now, with a 26% increase in searches for teacher gifts and a 27% increase in searches for school faculty gifts in the last month (compared to the same time last year). Items like personalized mugs, keychains, and care packages are a thoughtful way to show teachers and school faculty you appreciate all that they do to keep kids safe, engaged and on track. 

Principal Gift, School Counselor Print, Teacher Gift, Personalized Best Teacher Badge, Personalized Teacher Keychain, Personalized Thank You Teacher Mug, Personalized Nurse Bag

At-home learning necessities

Adapting to new class and studying environments has been a reality for some time, and may remain that way for many this fall. In order to set students up for success with a comfortable and productive place to learn, families are creating new workspaces at home: in the last month on Etsy, searches for desks and desk accessories have increased 131% (compared to the same time last year). We’re also seeing parents seek out new learning tools to keep young minds inspired and motivated: over the past month on Etsy, searches for like homeschool planners have increased 216%, searches for learning charts have increased 68% and searches for periodic tables have increased 31% (all compared to the same time last year).

Large Desk Mat, Weekly Planner, Periodic Table Poster, Ceramic Fox Pen Pot, Wooden Clock, Cork Planter / Pencil Holder, Desk Organiser, Wooden Clipboard, American Sign Language Alphabet 

Wall decor: a canvas for self-expression

While backpacks and locker decorations were once the mainstays of self-expression, kids and teens who are attending class virtually are now showing their personal style with items that stand out on-screen, like wallpaper, wall decals, and art. And temporary decor like peel and stick wallpaper is a great non-permanent choice – parents will love that it can be removed. These fun options give virtual learning spaces an extra dose of inspiration, and inject some joy into the school week grind. Over the past month on Etsy, there has been an 866% increase in searches for wall collage kits, a 500% increase in searches for homeschool decor and a 168% increase in searches for peel and stick or removable wallpaper. 

Solar System Wall Decals, Live Love Live Folk Flower Poster, Abstract Painting, Travel Collage Kit, Sunset, Honeycomb Shelves, But First Coffee Print, Oranges Removable Wallpaper, Bloom Gold Print 

First day of school signs, reimagined

First day of school signs continue to be a popular pick for parents looking to commemorate and share this exciting milestone with friends and family. And while the trend is holding strong with over 24K search results for first day of school signs available on Etsy, we’re seeing new variations, like “first day of distance learning” signs, emerge in light of the times, with pennants and wearables also popping up in addition to the classic posters and chalkboard options.

First Day of School Chalkboard, Printable First Day of Homeschool Pennant, First Day of School Shirt, First Day of Virtual Kindergarten Sign, First Day of Distance Learning


The transition from high school to higher learning is a big leap, and today’s college-bound students certainly know how to face any challenge coming their way. Whether they’re decking out dorms or zooming lectures from home, college kids have a wealth of options on Etsy to keep their study spaces stylish, comfortable and tidy – from desk organizers and tech accessories to cozy blankets and colorful notebooks.

Leather File Organizer, Goal Getter Notebook, Standing Desk, I'm the Magic Magnets, Leather Mouse Pad, Mi Casa Es Su Casa Blanket, Desktop Lamp, Color-block Notebook, African Print Wristlet Key Fob 

For more inspiration, shop our Back to School collection for every age group here. 

*Per official guidance, face masks should not be used by children under 3.