Who would think there are so many different kinds of a thing so humble as a pencil? When choosing the best pencils for school, consider what they are to be used for as well as how old the child is.
If the pencil is to be used solely for writing, the HB is usually the best kind, where H stands for hard and B for black. The HB pencil is neither too hard nor too soft: it’s a happy medium. A pencil with an eraser on the end will of course be useful, unless it is to be used by a young child who has a tendency to chew the end of the pencil a habit which should of course be discouraged. For a very young child who is just learning to write, thicker pencils are available that are easier for tiny hands to grip. Since the lead is thicker too, it will not break so easily and the pencil should last a long time.
As a child gets older and begins to study geometry and art, other types of pencil will be needed. For the precision needed in geometry and graph drawing, a harder pencil that draws a fine line is required. The hard pencils range from 2H up to 6H, with 6H being the hardest of all. Unless mathematics is being studied at an advanced level, it is unlikely that a student would need anything harder than a 3H.
For drawing, softer or blacker pencils are more suitable. These are available in the grades 2B to 6B, where the 6B is the softest and blackest of all. It is a question of taste or personal style as to how black a pencil should be, but again anything softer than a 3B is unlikely to be needed unless a budding artist wants to create a particularly dark effect.
It is possible to buy sets of pencils that include one of each in the range, from 6H right through to 6B, and this could be cheaper than buying them separately. If an older child is studying both geometry and art, it would be interesting to have one of each type of pencil that is available and try them all out to see what effect they produce.
Mechanical pencils are a more expensive alternative to standard wooden pencils. They are suitable for writing and geometry, but less so for artistic drawing. They have the advantage of avoiding the need to constantly sharpen a pencil. A spare box of leads would have to be kept in the pencil case, of course, especially at the time of a test.
Anyone looking for a more environmentally friendly type of pencil will be pleased to know that alternatives are now available to wooden pencils or plastic mechanical ones. In the UK, for example, pencils recycled from plastic cups are available at www.remarkable.co.uk . They are certainly long lasting and therefore economical.
Pencils can so easily get lost that it may not be worth choosing the more expensive types. As your child grows older, however, it certainly seems as though they will need several different kinds of this versatile little piece of equipment.