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Looking for fun first day of school traditions for kids? Check out this list of easy back to school traditions to start this year.
Back to school traditions are a sweet way to make memories for your kids, and this list is full of simple ideas. I highlight lots of ideas that don’t take any special materials or activities so anyone can implement them with no advanced planning needed!
Our kids started school for the first time this year so it was important for us to start a few traditions this year with our kids, like getting first day photos and writing letters to each of our kids after their first day.
I hope this list helps you find easy and fun traditions for your family. Let’s dive in!
Back to School Traditions
First up are general back to school traditions that can be done in the lead of to school starting. These can help your kids transition between the end of summer to the start of school and can be done in the weeks before.
1. Goal setting for the school year
Have a family night where each member writes down a goal for the upcoming school year. Some example goal ideas could be learning multiplication, reading a chapter book or making the soccer team. You could even display each family members goals on a board or fridge.
2. Write a letter to your kids
Before the first day of school, write a letter or email to your kid as a time capsule and save them until their high school graduation. Or, write the letter after their first day recounting how their day went. We set up an email for each of our kids when they were born, which makes it easy to email them for milestones.
3. Back-to-School countdown calendar
Think of this as a back-to-school spin on an Advent Calendar for Christmas. You could do a simple paper countdown chain, do a different school preparation activity each day leading up to school or do a countdown of summer bucket list activities.
4. Summer scrapbook
As a closing activity for summer, spend an afternoon making a scrapbook of their summer activities. As you make the scrapbook, share memories you’re thankful for to help with the transition of summer ending.
5. Wish bonfire
Write school year hopes or goals on pieces of paper and throw them into a bonfire together. After the wishes, make s’mores!
6. Family school stories
Ask grandparents or parents questions about what school was like when they were little. Bonus tip: record videos of them answering, you can never have enough videos of your loved ones (something I wish I had done more of before we lost my dad).
7. Neighborhood kids party
Host a get together for nearby kids in the neighborhood so they can meet each other or reconnect before school starts.
8. Hand-me-down purge
Before going back to school shopping, start a tradition of having kids sort through old school supplies and clothes that they can pass on to siblings, friends or donations. This both helps cultivate a sense of giving and reduces clutter before new supplies come in the house.
Back to School Shopping Traditions
Next, here are some traditions specifically around back to school shopping. These ideas involve school supplies and preparations for school.
Back to school shopping is a core memory of school for many kids so adding family traditions here are a nice way to form family memories.
9. Include donations on your shopping list
Have the kids pick out extra school supplies to donate to their school or a local charity as a practice in giving and gratitude.
10. Shopping day treat
Add some fun to back to school shopping by adding a treat to the day, like picking out a special item or lunch. You could also go for a surprise treat once the shopping is done like ice cream.
11. Budget practice
Use back to school shopping as a fun budgeting activity for kids. This is an activity that can be scaled up based on the age of the child (or try school supply shopping at the Dollar Tree for easier calculations for younger kids).
12. Take a photo with school supplies
After your shopping trip, snap a photo with your child and the school supplies they picked. This is an easy way to see memories of how their taste changes over time.
13. School supply scavenger hunt
If you’d like to do back to school shopping without your kid, you can still make it a fun tradition and memory by making a scavenger hunt for their new school supplies.
14. Personalize your supplies
After your back to school shopping day, do an evening activity where you personalize the items to get ready for school. This could be as simple as putting name labels on items (we personally use Mabel Labels) or putting fun stickers on things.
15. Backpack day
Do a special shopping day for a new backpack. Or, do a “backpack tune-up” if you’re reusing last year’s backpack by deep cleaning the backpack and organizing it with school supplies.
16. Themed shopping days
Instead of having one overwhelming shopping day, break back to school shopping up by theme days. Do a day for clothes, a day for supplies, a day for lunch foods, etc.
17. Fashion show
After shopping for back to school clothes, do a big fashion show at home where the kids can model their new outfits for the family.
Day Before School Traditions
Here are back to school traditions you can do the day before school starts. The day before back to school can be a weird liminal space for kids so adding traditions or a yearly activity can help ease the school transition.
18. Early pictures
Try on first-day-of-school outfits the day before and snap your back to school pictures. The first day of school morning can be full of nerves and getting into a new routine that doing pictures the day before can provide a little relief.
19. End-of-Summer party
Host a party or small family get together to say bye to summer and welcome in the new school year.
20. Back-to-School Eve dinner
Have a special dinner the night before school starts. You could serve the same meal every year or always get pizza to make it feel like more of a tradition.
21. Night before bedtime story
Pick a special school-themed book that you only read before the first day of school each year. On the book cover, write a sentence to remember something about that year, like their favorite part of summer or their favorite activities.
22. School year time capsule
On the day before school, have kids put items, art or notes into a “time capsule” to be opened on the last day of school.
23. Magazine collage vision boards
Cut up old magazines and make collage vision boards for their new school year.
24. Cooking activity for school lunch
There are a number of ways to involve kids in preparing for school lunches that can make fun back to school traditions. For example, you could go to the grocery store to pick out special school snacks or make a favorite food to be packed for lunch the next day.
25. Special activity
You can spend the last day before school doing a special activity that you do each year. When I was growing up, my friend’s mom took us to Chuck E Cheese on the day before school started and I still remember those days as an adult.
First Day of School Traditions
Here are some traditions for the big first day of school. These are traditions for the morning before the first day of school, again with a focus on traditions that are easy to include in your regular routine without much planning.
26. Back-to-School breakfast
Having a special first day of school breakfast is a simple tradition since you’ll be eating breakfast anyway. Make it a tradition by serving the same thing every year (e.g. special pancake flavor or favorite dish).
27. Breakfast in bed
Another fun spin on a back to school breakfast tradition is serving your kid breakfast in bed on the first day of school. It adds a fun novelty to the morning and is an easy tradition to implement.
28. First Day Photo
Take a yearly photo on the first day of school. Make it feel like even more of a tradition by doing the same photoshoot every year. Need picture ideas? Here is my list of easy back to school photoshoots.
29. Morning walk
For schools that start later in the morning, do a short family walk in the morning before school. This can be a nice calming activity before the school day.
30. Lunch Notes
Slip an encouraging note in your child’s lunchbox during the first week of school.
31. First day fairy
For ambitious parents, you could do a spin on the Tooth Fairy and have a ‘First Day Fairy’ that leaves a candy and note by their backpacks.
After the First Day Traditions
Finally, let’s close the list with family traditions for after the first day of school. These traditions are ways to celebrate your child completing their first day of school. There are also ideas for recording memories from their first days of school over the years.
32. Calming after school activity
Pick a special activity to do each year after the first day of school. It could be something as simple as board games or going for a family bike ride.
33. After school treat
Go out for a favorite treat like ice cream or a snack to celebrate the first day. By always getting the same treat after the first day, it’ll feel like a new school year.
34. Post-school interview
Record a video where you interview your kid about their first day. This makes for a fun keepsake and a sweet way to see how their responses change over time.
35. Movie night
The first day of school can be overwhelming so planning a family movie night is a great cool down activity for the big day. You could do a school themed movie like Matilda or Kindergarten Cop.
36. Special dinner & reflections
Have the same special dinner after each first day of school, even something simple like “treat” fast food or a favorite family spaghetti. Each family member can share their favorite part of the first day.
37. Thankful dinner
Much like you do at Thanksgiving, each first day of school you can go around the table and share what each member was thankful for on the first day of school. This is easy to incorporate into any dinner making it a simple tradition to start.
38. First day of school journal
Keep a journal that kids only write in to record their first day of school memories. After recording that year’s memory, revisit old year’s back to school entries.
39. New bedtime book
Each year, gift your child a new book for bedtime after the first night of school. The book could be school themed to get them excited for the school year.
Need more back to school ideas? Don’t forget to snap these cute back to school pictures this year.