39 Fun Back to School Traditions Kids Will Remember

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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!

this is a collage of back to school traditions like breakfast, ice cream, and a child holding a backpack. the text says 39 absolutely fun and memorable back to school traditions for kids to start this year

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

the picture is of a grandmother reading a child a book and the text says night before the first day of 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

the picture shows a child hugging a mom and the text says easy and fun 1st 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.

this is a collage of back to school activities like getting ice cream, a pizza game night, kids taking a photo by the front door and a child holding a letter board. the text says 39 back to school traditions

Read More:

Need more back to school ideas? Don’t forget to snap these cute back to school pictures this year.

About the Author

Elizabeth Jon is a Ph.D. researcher whose work focuses on pregnancy and education. At Shoestring Baby, she uses her skills to research baby name trends, in-depth baby gear reviews & money savings ideas for parents.

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