When my oldest daughter started kindergarten last year, it was a big change for all of us. It was her first time attending school five days a week, seven hours a day. It was my first time being away from my daughter that long. I also have a younger daughter who had to adjust when her older sibling was no longer around all day. My husband is a high school teacher who also deals with more stress during this time of year. So I began some small, meaningful back to school traditions to help say farewell to summer vacation and ease everyone’s transition back to school.
My oldest just started first grade, and during the last few weeks we have repeated some of the same activities.
These are our family’s back to school traditions:
We choose a day toward the end of summer break and let our daughter (mostly) choose the agenda.
Last year, our child-directed day included a morning at a park where we played on the playground and fed ducks
and geese at a pond. We ate lunch from Panda Express – my oldest daughter’s favorite restaurant – at the mall food court and played on the indoor playground.
This year, we spent a morning at a park that features a splash pad and playground. We brought a picnic lunch and stayed into the early afternoon. My daughter probably would have asked to eat at Panda Express again, but my husband and I opted to broaden her horizons and we went to a large Asian buffet our kids have never been to. They
enjoyed favorites like crab Rangoon and made multiple trips to the soft serve ice cream machine, and they sampled squid, sushi, and bubble tea.
I surprise my daughter with a small gift on the first day of school.
The key word is small. Last year, I bought a Rapunzel coloring book and a package of gummy bears and handed them to my daughter when she walked out of school at dismissal time. This year I upgraded a little and bought a small Lego Friends play set, which I left on her bed for her to discover when she came home.
My shopping expeditions have several purposes: I’m not typically a “retail therapy” kind of person, but shopping for a small surprise gives me a nice mission during the first day of school so I don’t mope at home. It is a celebration of the start of the school year and gives my daughter something to unwind with at the end of a long first day. Small gifts also help us spend quality time together, whether we are coloring or assembling a Lego set.
During family dinner after the first day of school, we ask each person at the table to share his or her favorite and least favorite parts of the day.
This is a tradition we carry on almost every day throughout the year, but it began when my daughter started kindergarten last year. We go beyond questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” I like that we talk not only about good things. We also acknowledge disappointments and hurts, and we communicate that those feelings are legitimate and okay to share.Take a look at some of these other ideas if you’d like to start some of your own back to school traditions:
Other Back to School Traditions
- Have freshly baked cookies ready when your kids come home from their first day.
- Give your kids a visit from the first day of school fairy, who leaves school supplies and encouraging notes for the first day of classes.
- Serve a special back-to-school breakfast that includes everyone’s favorite foods.
- Put an inspirational note or special treat in your kids’ lunch boxes.
- Take a portrait and incorporate a list of your child’s interests and favorite things.
- Go on a “date” together before school starts.
- Read The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.
- Go on an outing after school to get ice cream or other goodies.
- Create a German schultuetes or school cone filled with school supplies and treats.
- Create a time capsule.
- Go out for dinner after the first day of school.
- Have a talk about being kind and helping others.
- If you home school, let your kids brainstorm field trip ideas for the coming year.
- Go on a camping trip the weekend before school starts.
- Welcome your child home from school with balloons, a welcome sign and other decorations.
- Make a summer scrapbook to help you remember all the fun things you did during the summer.
Does your family have any special back to school traditions?
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