All year long, you dream of summer: lawn sprinklers, trampolines, ice pops and fireworks. Of the adventures your family will have. And then you blink, and it’s that time again: back-to-school.
And while “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” might indeed play in your head on repeat as you think of the kid-free hours you’re about to enjoy, back-to-school time can also be incredibly stressful — for kids and adults alike. It means no more sleeping through alarms or wearing swimsuits as acceptable public clothing. It means nervousness about a new year of tests and quizzes, meeting new teachers, and new first impressions.
But not everything has to be new; we’ve rounded up ten super-sweet back-to-school traditions that will ease any anxiety your kids may have, earn you instant best-parent-ever status, and make the first day of school the best day of the year.
For those of you who love a good party, why not have a little get together with your child and a few of their closest friends the night before the first day of school? Make simple decor with brown paper bags and chalk, serve milk and cookies and give them a goodie bag of fresh pencils and some fun erasers. Maybe even dig out some educational films from eons past or outdated Bill Nye episodes. A back-to-school party is a quick and easy way to celebrate the start of school and the end of summer, and bonus: You know it will end early because there’s school in the morning.
Design a scavenger hunt
The night before school starts, hide all school supplies around the house and create a scavenger hunt so that your child can locate each pen, ruler and notebook. It’ll make packing their school bag for the first day so much more fun and get them pumped about all the brand new supplies. The hunt can be super elaborate and include a whole hand-drawn map of the house if you’re so inclined or could be more of a “hot, cold” situation (we’re equally supportive of either).
Decorate the car
Nothing says, “I have arrived,” like pulling up to school in a car decked to the nines. Grab some window markers, fill the cab with balloons, wrap a boa around the antennae and blast your kid’s favorite triumphant ’90s pop song. If you really want to go the extra mile, pull out last year’s Halloween costume and pop it on for the ride to school. You won’t be getting out of the car, so you’ll still save a shred of your dignity, and you’ll be the talk of the drop-off line, I promise.
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Me & you
If your child is nervous about their first day of school, a sweet tradition is buying something for you both to wear, either a tiny Mommy-and-me bracelet or a bandanna tucked in their backpack. Something they can look at and know that you have the exact same thing on your person at that exact moment. It might not be a tradition you’ll need to do forever (somehow, I think once they get to high school, mommy-and-me anything might go out the window, except maybe mommy and me tattoos, but that’s another story), but it’s a really adorable way to ease their nerves in the meantime.
Take on a sweet German back-to-school tradition
Ever heard of a schultüte? It’s a paper cone that parents give their kids on the first day of elementary school in Germany, stuffed with sweets, school supplies and toys. You can mark this big day the same way — and even fudge the tradition by giving it to your kids regardless of what grade they’re entering. It’s the perfect way to start the morning out on a fun, positive note and a helpful distraction from any back-to-school jitters. Plus, your kids can share their schultüte goodies with new classmates.
Make a home movie
Get some video footage of your child getting ready for the first day of school. You can create a tradition where you capture video every year and, when they get to senior year, present them with an edited video of all their first days. It’s the perfect time capsule for both of you and only has a 95% chance of making you cry very, very hard…
Instead of the traditional picture on the first day of school, try this twist on the classic: Buy a large “Class of…” T-shirt and take a picture of your child wearing it on the first day of school each year. As they grow up and the shirt fits better and better, it’ll be a nice reminder of how far they’ve come (and how tiny they once were!). Paint their hand and make a handprint in fabric paint on the back of the shirt each year for an added visual timeline. Plus, when they go to college *sob*, it’ll be a perfect keepsake for you to sleep with every nigh… *ahem* I mean, for you to put on a shelf and look at occasionally.
‘Twas the night before the first day of school, and all through the kitchen, the children were baking crayon cupcakes that were bitchin’. All right, all right, but baking these crayon cupcakes is a genuinely great activity to do with them before school starts and make the perfect first-day-of-school after-school snack. If you’re looking for some brownie points from the get go, maybe have your child deliver one of these delicious goodies to their teacher. Just make sure if you have any really little ones, they do not eat the crayon. Because they will have rainbow poop. Just trust me on this one.
Blinged-out lunch bag
Pack an extra special lunch for your kid, with a paper bag or box featuring stickers and decorations of all their favorite things. Have you not gone a single day this whole summer without hearing “We Don’t Talk About Bruno”? Snag some Encanto stickers from Etsy. Watched so many episodes of Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol that your head just might explode? Find little themed decorations for those shows. Throw in some extra stickers so that your child can share during lunchtime.
Celebrate with a sundae bar
Is this tradition for you or them? Who’s to say? Let your kids know that they’ll have a treat waiting for them at home when they get back from their first day. Set out a sundae bar station complete with all the works — hot fudge, whipped cream and lots and lots of ice cream. They can have a blast making their own treat as they tell you about their first day of school and you can eat all the hot fudge your heart desires. That’s a win-win tradition right there.