17 things you don't want to find in your child's bookbag

School boy with book bag
Buying your child’s first bookbag and seeing them carrying it proudly when they start school is a special moment. And it can be wonderful when they use it to bring home great ‘masterpieces’ that they have produced in the classroom. But before you know it, the bag has got covered in mud, drink stains and felt tip, the Velcro has stopped sticking, and holes have appeared in the corners. And you soon start to dread what you might discover when you open it... Rachael Newman-Sanders peeks inside.

1.     A leaking water bottle

Even though you’ve told them hundreds of times not to, your child has put their water bottle in their book bag with the top slightly open. There’s water (or worse, squash) all over their reading book, spelling book and homework book, as well on the treasured ‘star of the week’ certificate that they have been awarded that very day.

2.    A birthday party invitation

Party invitations are the bane of many parents’ lives, especially if the party is far away or at an awkward time. Even worse if it’s a joint party for two children in the class – which means having to choose and buy not just one card and present per party but two.

3.    Wet underwear stuffed in a plastic bag

Your heart sinks when you pick your child up from school, notice they are wearing a different skirt or trousers to the ones you sent them to school in, then find the tell-tale knotted plastic bag stuffed in the top of their bookbag...

4.     Another child's reading book and reading record

Your child has brought the wrong books home by mistake, and you can’t resist a quick peek to see what his or her classmate is reading. Then you discover they are two reading levels above your own child and that the teacher has been writing nicer comments in their reading record. Panic – and a bit of jealousy – start to set in.

5.     A flyer from the PTA

Volunteers are needed to help supervise the Friday night school disco and you just know it will be chaotic and full of tired, screaming children. You were looking forward to putting your feet up with an end-of-week glass of wine at home. Trouble is, you haven’t done anything to help the PTA this year and last time you spoke to the chair you promised her faithfully that you would help out at the next event...

6.     An accident report card

The teacher calls you in at the end of school to tell you your child banged their head at playtime. They seem fine, but you still spend the evening checking for signs of vomiting, a headache, or confusion, then a sleepless night worrying – totally irrationally – about whether you should be waking them up every few hours to check them out.

7.     Time-consuming homework

A mobile of the planets. A medieval castle made out of recycled materials. A brief history of the twentieth century. A pom-pom. You’ve got a really hectic week, plans for the weekend and you just know you’ll end up nagging them about it every five minutes and having to supervise the whole operation. Why can’t they just get ten easy sums to do?

8.  Mouldy fruit from snack time

It’s the last day of half term. You check your child’s bookbag and discover their snack pot from ten days previously, containing a pile of rotting, slimy mould. Apparently the children had sweets on the last day of term so didn’t eat their usual fruit snack. You head for the sick bucket, snack pot goes straight in the bin.

9.    A leaflet on nits

The teacher has sent home a letter saying that a case of headlice has been reported in the class. Your heart sinks (especially if you have daughters with long, curly hair) as you arm yourself with the nit comb and tea tree conditioner. It’s going to be anything but a quick bathtime tonight.

10. The World Book Day letter

How does it come around again so quickly? Everyone in the school has to dress up as their favourite book character. You have a box full of dressing-up clothes your child could use, but no, they want to go in a costume which will involve hours of 'making'. Even more of a nightmare if you only find the letter the night before the event, have more than one child at the school or each year group is assigned a theme.

11. A gluey, glittery painting

Your child has produced a beautiful painting, especially for you, and scrawled ‘I love you’ on the top. It’s the sort of thing which would normally make your heart melt and should make the whole process of bringing up a family feel worthwhile. Trouble is they have stuffed their brand new sweatshirt right next to it in their bookbag and the glue is still wet. And you know there'll be glitter in the bag (and on the floor) for the next month.

12. A school trip consent form

Your child’s class are going on a wildlife walk a few minutes' walk from school but you still have to fill in a consent form. Not only your name and signature, but address, home number, work number, mobile number, other parent’s address, home number, work number, mobile number, doctor’s address and telephone number. Oh, and allergies, medications, swimming ability...

13. A shiny fifty pence coin

You know it wasn’t in your child’s bookbag when they went to school, but they can’t give you any explanation as to how it got there. You spend the evening debating whether to admit to the teacher that your little angel may have ‘light-fingered’ tendencies, or pretend you didn't know anything about the coin in the first place and just put it in the supermarket charity box.

14. A school recorder

Your child has been chosen to get a term’s free recorder lessons - but only on the understanding they will practise at home every day. 

15. A milk tooth in a small brown envelope

Just before bedtime your child suddenly announces their tooth came out at school that day and that they need to get it from their bookbag ready for the tooth fairy. You, meanwhile, start to panic. You have no change in your purse, or indeed anywhere in the house. Do tooth fairies write credit notes?

16. A bill for school swimming lessons

You’ve just booked and paid for a (non-refundable) course of swimming lessons at the local pool – and suddenly realise the school are taking them swimming this term as well. 

17. A letter from the school nurse

The class is going to have the birds and the bees talk at school next week. Your child is beautifully naïve and you haven’t helped matters by burying your head in the sand. But you’ve always promised yourself you’d be the one to tell them the facts of life. There’s no getting away from it. You’re just going to have to have THAT conversation…

What is the worst thing you've found in your child's bookbag?