My 6 Favorite Back To School Traditions

My kids are into the ceremony of things. They like traditions.  We watch Christmas Vacation as we decorate the tree and A Christmas Story after we open presents on Christmas Day.  On the last day of school, we go to one specific ice cream shop and then burn their notebooks from the year in the fire pit (it’s a bit morbid but it’s fun). 

Now that we’re heading back to school (gulp) I wanted to share the little moments that help us all get into the right mental space. Here are six things we like to do before the kids head off to their first day of school:

#1 Have a back to school movie night 

There isn’t one movie we watch every year, but we try to stick to a theme of a school setting. (This year, Lola is campaigning to watch Clueless. We’re trying to convince Penn Charles that he’ll like it.) We’ll have popcorn and junk food on the Friday night before school starts so we can all stay up a little later. 

I learned a long time ago to not plan too many things right before or after that first week of school. New schedules and routines are always an adjustment, so having a low-key activity already planned ensures we take some family downtime to rest. 

#2 Set your morning routine plan 

Parents of littles hear me out – one day your kids will be older and they will actually need an alarm clock to wake up on time. You’re just going to have to trust me on this one. For some reason where we live, the older the kids get the earlier their school times start. It helps all of us be on the same page in the mornings when we have a conversation ahead of time to set our new schedule. Our kids are starting at two new schools (hello middle school and high school!) but helping them realize how long things take in the morning motivates them to get ready without me screaming. 

We work backward from the time we need to walk out the door, think about how long they need to get ready and eat breakfast, and then figure out what time they need to be out of bed. This sounds really simple (and it is!), but it really does make our mornings smoother. 

#3 First day of school photo 

The first day of school photo is a pretty standard tradition, and rightfully so. I love having this record of seeing Lola and Penn Charles grow from year to year. I wish I was organized enough to have that chalkboard filled out beforehand, but I just have them hold up fingers with what grade they are entering. It’s not fancy but I can send it to my mom and she gets the point. I remind them the day before that we will take a photo before heading to school. Setting expectations really helps (but I can’t make any promises that you won’t get a few eye rolls or silly faces).  

#4 Yearly interview 

I wish I had this in a journal, but I have a google doc with their answers from the last 4 years. I keep the same questions every year and it’s interesting to see how their answers have changed over time. You can be creative with your own list, but here are a few to get you started: 

  1. What do you want to be when you grow up?
  2. What’s your favorite school subject?
  3. What’s your favorite book? 
  4. What’s your favorite hobby/activity?
  5. What’s your favorite school lunch? 
  6. Who are your closest friends?

#5 Last Meal 

Okay, so that’s maybe not the best title for this tradition, but I always let the kids choose their “last meal” the day before school starts. They get to pick what they eat the entire day. This simple little thing adds some fun to the day and helps take their mind off the gloom of being the last day of summer break. 

#6 Set goals (and rewards) 

Making intentional time to talk with the kids about what THEIR goals are for the year is one of my favorite conversations. This is often a really great glimpse into their thoughts and feelings for the new school year and helps teach them how to think about setting and working towards goals for themselves. Each kid comes up with their own list of a few goals for the year, and together we come up with some rewards to use as incentives along the way. 

What back-to-school traditions does your family have? Tell us in the comments. 

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