Is school really back in session for some of you? My own kids’ school year extended into June, and it was horrible. Everyone had begun posting their summer vacation photos while we were shuttling back-and-forth from one end-of-school party to another. Which means we’re still in the middle of our summer—August is still summer, right?—but now I’m starting to see these back-to-school pics in my feed. Ugh.
Different kids react to school in different ways, and my four approach a new school year with pretty much every possible reaction: excitement, nervousness, annoyance, complete and utter dismay that summer has ended. So we try to make the first day of school something to look forward to rather than something to dread. Here are a few ideas about how to make it special, whether it’s their first day at a new school or they’re old pros begrudgingly giving up their summer fun. Some ideas are my own, and some have come from friends. But all make the transition a little bit easier.
10 ways to make your kid’s first day of school amazing 1 of 11
Click through for our fun tips!
Leave a Note on the Mirror 2 of 11
Start the day right by surprising them with a note in their bathroom. Use it to make sure they know 1) how much you love them, and 2) that you understand the first day of school can be hard/scary/stressful. Use soap, lipstick, a dry-erase marker, or a sticky note.
Decorate Their Breakfast 3 of 11
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, or so we're told by sugary cereal manufacturers. Instead of the usual bowl of Cap'n Crunch, whip up something fun and memorable. Yes, you'll have to get up early. Yes, pouring a pancake in the shape of your child's grade number can be a challenge. Yes, unless you have professional cake-decorating tools, it's not easy to write all this crap on a plate.
But it's their first day of school. Do something to make their first breakfast of the school year as great as possible.
Decorate the Car 4 of 11
Hey, it works for newly married people, and it can work for your kids, too. Tie a few streamers or ribbons to the antenna or roof rack. Blow up some balloons. Write a fun message using white liquid shoe polish or fluorescent window markers. The kids will either think this is the most embarrassing ride to school ever or the best ride to school ever.
(Either way, you win.)
Plaster Them with Temporary Tattoos 5 of 11
Send a Secret Encouraging Note 6 of 11
If a note at the beginning of the day is a good idea, then so is a note in the middle of the day. While you're packing their lunch, write something fun on a napkin or a sticky note. Do they buy their lunch at school? Then just slip a note into their backpack. Sample ideas:
1. Hope you're having a great day!
2. Just a few more hours to go!
3. You'd better eat these vegetables, kid.
Make Lunch More Interesting 7 of 11
This is one of those that may not always be as easy for everyone. For younger kids, some schools let Mom or Dad eat with their kids every once in awhile. Maybe the first day of school is a good time to do it. Pick up pizza or their favorite fast food and enjoy lunch together.
If your work or other circumstances don't allow this, then you'll need to become one of those obnoxious super-creative parents who cut their kids watermelon pieces into puzzle shapes. Too much? Just give them an extra cookie and rely on the fun note you packed with lunch to do the job.
Welcome Them Home with Style 8 of 11
You know what's way better than the morning of the first day of school? The afternoon of the first day of school. Welcome your kids home with something they'll remember. Make a poster. Decorate the car (again). Write a chalk message on your driveway. Put streamers on the front door. Do something to help them relax and unwind.
Plan After-School Fun 9 of 11
After you've welcomed them home, indulge them with an unexpected activity, like a trip to the ice cream place, a "free" episode of their favorite TV show (we have strict rules about screen time), or a trip to the park. Warning: young kids will be excited to come home, and might need to burn off some excess energy.
Also important? Make sure they know this is just a one-time thing. Don't let after-school ice cream become a regular occurrence.
Feed Them Their Favorite Dinner 10 of 11
Take them out to their favorite restaurant or whip up something they love—anything that tells them, "today is a special day." (If you have four kids, like me, good luck coming up with a favorite meal that applies to everyone. This is much easier with one or two kids. In fact, everything's easier with one or two kids.)
These "You are special today" plates are a family favorite for birthdays and other special days.
Plan a Fun Evening 11 of 11
Hopefully your younger kids won't bring home much homework (in fact, the first evening of the school year typically produces more homework for parents than kids). If the evening is open, do something together as a family. Have a first-day-of-school game night or trip to the park.
Find something that helps your child relax before bedtime...because tomorrow you're going to do it all again.
What are your tried-and-true techniques to keep the first day of school from being the worst day of school?