It always warms a mother’s heart to hear their child say “I love you,” but sometime around the dog days of August, Moms across the country start longing to hear three other little words.
Back. To. School.
Whether your kids are excited to meet their new teacher and reunite with their classmates, or they’re absolutely dreading that long walk down the hallway to homeroom, going back to school is always a big change from those lazy days of summer. One way to help your family adjust is to mark the occasion with a special ritual or tradition. Plan an annual outing, a festive meal or a fun family custom for your kids to anticipate—even as they bid a sad farewell to sleeping in and to spending long, laid-back afternoons doing something close to nothing.
Start the Day Right with a Back-to-School Breakfast
Pretty soon you’ll be hitting the snooze button and cursing the person whose idea it was to start school at 8 a.m. While you’ve still got energy and enthusiasm for special school-related surprises, why not wake up early to make the whole family a special breakfast? Some fun ideas include:
- French toast sticks. Allot each diner a small ramekin of syrup for dipping. Bonus: they’ll use way less than when pouring it from the jug.
- Egg-in-a-hole, a tasty treat that goes by numerous names. Use a heart- or apple-shaped cutter to make a space in a slice of bread to cradle the egg as the whole caboodle cooks together.
- Breakfast pizza. It’s pizza. For breakfast. Need we say more?
- Breakfast burritos. See above.
- Alphabet pancakes topped with fruit and whipped cream.
Shoot the Perfect Back-to-School Photos
Taking photos on the first day of school is pretty much a mandatory Mom activity. You’ll want to show off your eager learners on social media, of course, but school snaps also chronicle how your children change year after year.
For even more sentimental substance, customize a chalkboard that contains every child’s pertinent information: school, grade, teacher’s name, friends, career aspirations, favorite subject, etc.
When it’s time for the shoot, ask the kids to leap so the camera catches them in midair. Take one serious pic and one that’s silly. (Or one serious pic and several silly ones.) Choose a special spot for a backdrop, such as the front door, porch, or driveway, or by the school’s sign.
Another fun addition to this tradition: “after” photos. Having your smartphone camera ready when you meet the bus can pay off in some pretty funny pics.
Make Back-to-School Shopping Special
Acquiring pencils, notebooks, and other classroom supplies at summer’s end can seem like the closest thing to a crucible that a parent undergoes. (Why are there never any yellow folders? How come the supply sheet specifies 8 glue sticks, when they only come in packs of 2, 10, and 24? Should you succumb to the siren song of 10-cent composition books, only to pay double at the same store for a box of tissues—or is it wiser to drive all over town seeking the best deals?) If you have a spouse or co-parent, trade off this onerous annual task so you each only do it once every two years.
When it comes to back-to-school clothes, however, turn a simple shopping excursion into a fun, one-on-one date with each child in the weeks leading up to the school year’s start. After you’ve found the perfect outfit, stop for ice cream or some strawberry lemonade to make this tradition extra meaningful.
This quality time also gives your kiddos the chance to talk confidentially about how they’re feeling and air any fears or insecurities they might be harboring. (Similarly, set aside time in the first week or two to check in with each of your children. That way you can nip any potential problems in the bud, and make sure there’s nothing standing in the way of their education -- and their enjoyment of school! -- this year.)
Pro tip: While last year’s backpack and lunch bag might be perfectly serviceable, spring for brand-new ones if your budget allows for it. It’s an easy way to get reluctant students to dread this event at least a little less. Save the old ones for backups or donate them to a good cause.
Thoughtful Touches for Back-to-School Lunches
Make your child’s lunch more fun by sending along something extra: a few puntastic jokes, some fascinating trivia for “Fun Fact Friday,” a puzzle, a riddle, or a funny doodle. Include some stickers, novelty erasers, tiny toys, or other treats for your child to share with friends.
Try choosing one day a week to get creative with themed food. This could be finger food, circle-shaped items, food that’s all one color or that represents a rainbow, items that start with the letter T. (If your kids are older, challenge them to figure out the common denominator for themselves.)
Celebrate the End of Summer with a School Year’s Eve Party
Keep kids’ minds off the next morning (and the jitters it might bring) by throwing a School Year’s Eve party. What this entails is entirely up to you, but consider these ideas:
- Plan a backyard bash featuring the hallmarks of summer—grilled burgers and dogs, watermelon, corn, popsicles, s’mores, water balloons, super soakers and great outdoor games.
- Throw a bangin’ dance party so everyone can bop ’til they drop to upbeat summer anthems. (Bonus: your young ones might get so tired out they’ll forget to beg for a later bedtime!)
- Let them eat popcorn and nachos for dinner while enjoying a movie night. Choose school-centric flicks that are inspirational, relatable, or just plain ol’ hysterical.
- Have a “Let’s Taco Bout the Summer” party. Enlist everyone’s help to set up all the fixins for a make-your-own taco buffet. While you chow down, share pictures and videos as you reminisce about this year’s beach trips, pool parties, and other fun in the sun escapades. Then, lest anyone get too sad when saying goodbye to summer, switch gears and ask the kids what they’re excited about and what they want to accomplish in school this year.