Staples delighted parents when their commercial featuring a Christmas classic admitted that for adults, back-to-school really is the most wonderful time of the year—but anyone who’s dealt with the late-summer blues knows that most kids decidedly do not relish returning to the classroom.
And while your kids may never skip toward the school bus on that first morning back, taking part in back-to-school rituals can make the process a little less torturous. Whether this is your first time sending a little one toward the hallways of a new school or you’re looking for a way to wring some enjoyment out of a process that’s proven difficult time and again, these small moments can become back-to-school traditions that make the season a little more exciting for kids.
Shopping (of course)
Buying back-to-school supplies isn’t exactly thrilling—and it can be a real hardship for some families when schools begin to require them to buy more and more stuff—but turning it into a day-long event, including choices for the kids and maybe even a treat (second-hand is perfectly acceptable, too!) can give them something to look forward to.
Whether it’s something small, like a fancy new pencil box, or an element that’s a little more exciting, like a new pair of shoes, new supplies can help kids picture what the first day will be like—especially if their supplies aren’t to be used or opened until they’re finally back in the classroom.
Writing a letter
For a no-cost back-to- school ritual, look no further than the Letter to Your Future Self. In the week before school starts again, help your kid write a letter to themself to open on the last day of school. Set out goals for the year, ask questions about what happened, or write down something they wished they’d done this summer but didn’t get a chance to do. If you like, this is also a great time to draw a picture or put a photo or memory away for later—then, at the end of the year, you’ve got a great piece for an AwesomeBox of that school year.
Seal up the letter and put it somewhere safe that it won’t be forgotten, whether it’s in a drawer or on a shelf with the date of the last day of school on it. This helps your child picture what it’ll be like when school is out and it’s summer again—which is a great reminder that just because back-to- school feels like the end of the world, it’s really not!
Preparing for autumn
Summer is fun for kids because school is out—but that’s definitely not the only reason it’s such a popular season. Leaving behind the trappings of summer (sunscreen, days at the pool, baseball, and the smell of barbecues and freshly cut grass) can feel sad to a child. To help cheer them up, try getting pumped about the new season.
Switch from cotton to flannel sheets, start thinking about Halloween costumes (it’s never too early) or look at photos from last year’s trip to the pumpkin patch. Make warm apple cider (yes, even if it’s still hot outside!) and talk about what your kid likes about the fall. Give them something to look forward to!
Meeting the teacher
One of the most classic back-to-school rites of passage is walking through those big doors when it’s still summertime to go visit a new teacher. That’s for a good reason, too; checking out the classroom and getting to know the person who they’ll be spending so much time with can calm anxieties about what it might be like, and might even get them excited about what they’re going to learn.
If you can, take a trip to meet the new teacher in the weeks before the school year begins in earnest. This gives your kid a taste of the new year—while they’ve still got a little bit of summer left to enjoy.
Sitting down for family dinner
As a child, nothing makes you feel more special than time set aside to just be together as a family. Borrow a page from the Best Birthday Ever handbook and host a special family dinner the night before the big day. Not only will it help take their minds of any nervous feelings, it’s also a time to talk through what they may be worried about. Dinner doesn’t have to be fancy—it just needs to include everyone at the table, eating and talking.
If your family keeps a growth chart—even if it’s just pencil marks on the wall in the hallway—there’s no better time to take annual measurements than on the first day of school! Before your little one heads to the bus or hops on their bike, have them pause for a height measurement, then compare it to how much they’re grown since last year.
This is also a great exercise with siblings—letting the bigger ones measure the little ones shows that you trust them and that they’re ready for new challenges.
Taking a photo (and looking at old ones!)
School photos are great for a laugh later on, but before your kid sits in front of the laser beam backdrop, consider snapping a First Day of School photo. Not only is this a great way to commemorate the day itself, it also gives you and your family a wonderful keepsake to remember every first day by—which can be helpful if your child starts to get glum as the school year approaches.
Looking back at other first day photos, take note of the outfits (remember those shoes? You’d never fit into that skirt anymore!), the appearance of the room, and any other changes you can see. Ask your child what they think next year’s will look like, or how different it’ll be.
Then, considering turning these first day photos—or any of the photos you took this summer—into something to help you and your child remember all of the memories they’ve made. A summer or Back to School AwesomeBox could be just the thing to help your kids (of any age!) feel like they’re ready for the challenges of the new year—even if you’re having the best time ever.