The first day of school will come sooner than you think, and what child doesn't like a celebration? Parents can begin the year with a bang by introducing new Back to School traditions and revisiting old ones!
Ask adults about what they recall on those first days of school, many years ago. They usually remember the activities their family did as they prepared for a new school year. “I loved the freshness, the possibilities, the blank slate that came with each new school year," says Ali Edwards, a parent and author of scrapbook and project idea books in Eugene, Oregon. “I waited with anticipation for the day we would receive the letter in the mail from school that detailed all the stuff we would need,” she says. “Sometimes I was excited about the clothes, but most of the time it was the supplies: pencils, pens, Trapper Keepers, lined paper, notebooks.”
So how can you celebrate your child’s first day of school? If your family doesn’t have any traditions, here’s a sampling of creative and inexpensive ways you can kick off the new school year:
Give a Schultüte
Start the year by presenting your child with a schultüte—a big cardboard cone that kids in Germany are given as gifts for the first day of school. Roll poster board into an open cone and stuff it with supplies like crayon boxes, pencils and erasers, but also tiny toys and chocolate candies. Check out our schultüte activity.
Distribute “Welcome Back” Candy Grams
Who said Valentine’s Day is the only day you can give away sweets to classmates? Your child can start a tradition by handing out “Welcome Back” candy grams on which she can conduct fun “polls” to learn more about her classmates. On a colored index card, write a question, such as, “What was the best book you read this summer?” or “What school event are you looking forward to this year?” The activity fosters communication between classmates, particularly new ones, early on.
Plan an Afternoon Screening
If your child and her friends want to celebrate their first day of school after school, throw a movie bash. Screen a fitting Back to School flick like Akeelah and the Bee or Freaky Friday. They will have a relaxing, familiar place to chat about new teachers and classes, any anxieties, as well as share what they’re looking forward to.
Fill Up a Dream Chest
Create a “dream chest,” or a box that your child will fill over the year with newspaper clippings and various media that reflect or relate to her dreams and aspirations. Making a dream chest is an activity suggested by the Legacy Project, an educational resource organization founded by educator and author Susan Bosak, and will encourage your child to identify and set her goals. On the first day of school, she will toss in her inaugural artifacts: magazine articles about her role models, for instance, photos of far-off places she hopes to someday explore, or brochures of organizations whose community work she finds inspiring.
Embark on a Photo Tour
Images are powerful. Before the first day of school, gather your child’s past school year photos. In the evening, when this exciting day is winding down, sit down with her as you peruse each one. Photographs jog our memory, so let each snapshot prompt her to recall an emotion she felt that day. Repeat this process for each year until you reach the present. End the activity by asking her what she anticipates for this new school year: what she fears, as well as what she’s eager for.
Traditions come in many other forms: You can cook a special dinner the night before the big day (and let your child pick the menu), bake and frost cupcakes to resemble apples (and give to teachers), or hit the mall for new accessories. Hopefully, these traditions will inspire you to create new ones.