10 Ways to Add Some Fun to Your First Day of School
No matter where you send your kids to school–public school, private school, or the living room–kids love the memories attached with the first day of school. Even if you already started school this week or earlier and didn’t do much to celebrate, it’s never too late to have some fun! (Okay, December might be too late.)
Some of the schools around us started their first day back on Monday. So, traffic has picked up a bit here and there around town. Stores are getting low on their school supplies. Families are returning from their summer vacations. Parks and beaches are getting less crowded during the day. There are indicators everywhere that summer break is coming to a close.
But, the end of summer break doesn’t need to signify the end of fun! In fact, even if you missed out on doing anything to commemorate the first day of school, you can spread out some of these activities throughout the first week of school or even into the second week to keep the summer fun going. Remember, summer isn’t officially over until September 22nd. So, we have lots of time!
#1 Start a New Tradition for This Year–A New Game to Play Together!
I have the “present” waiting for them on the breakfast table in the morning of our first day back to the books. They all know what it is–well, they know it is a game–just not which one. The anticipation is so fun! They usually start asking what this year’s game will be several weeks before school starts. I make them wait until they finish eating, then they all get to tear it open. The rule is that we have to wait to play until school is over. This was a great way to cap off their first day of school when they went to a traditional school, but just as fun now that we are homeschooling. In fact, I’ve found it gives them extra motivation to get everything done a bit faster in our homeschool day. Special note: Find a game that can be enjoyed by the whole family, or at least most members. Some our favorites have been Twister, Candy Land, Sorry, Monopoly Junior, Mexican Train, Skipbo, Apples to Apples, Guesstures, & Ticket to Ride…just not a video game. The goal is family unity, not just play time!
#2 Plan a Special Meal!
Whether you make them a special breakfast the first day or take them out for ice cream at the end of the week, kids always love to celebrate anything with food–don’t we all! I like to make fun letter pancakes. You just have to remember to pour it on the griddle backwards, so the “pretty” side of the pancake has the letter printed correctly. Special Note: Don’t make breakfast too complicated, just yummy! The first day can be kind of crazy, so you don’t want to go overboard.
#3 Decorate to Add Some Fun to Your Day!
I love to decorate the back of their chairs with streamers and balloons. I add a little sign with their name & grade on it. They love it! After the first week or so, once most of the streamers have been pulled off and the balloons either withered or popped, we move the sign to their bedroom doors. I usually make their signs using construction paper cut in the shape of a star, but we do switch it up a bit. Special note: Make your toddler feel special and make them their own special chair and sign.
#4 Take Lots of Pictures!
I have such great memories of sitting on the steps of my front porch for my first day of school pictures. But I was an only child. Getting out the door to head to school or even just trying to get the books out to start school at home can be hard work on the first day. So, we’ve been known to do “First Day Re-Do’s.” We simply take our pictures on another day to recreate our first day. Please take the pressure off yourself if you forgot or didn’t find time to get it done “before” school started. Also, don’t forget to get a picture of them with their teacher–even if the teacher is you! Special Note: Take a last day of school picture, too. It’s fun to see how much they grow and change in just a short time.
#5 Have Your Kids Fill Out a “Fun Facts” Sheet!
I like to have the kids fill out a First Day of School “Fun Facts” Sheet that I created each year. I have them print their name, grade, age, height, & weight, then ask them questions like what their favorite sport is, what they want to be, goals for themselves this year, what they think their favorite subject will be, favorite book, & what character quality they will work on this year. Be sure to do it with your little ones, too. They will feel special. Often I have them trace their names on the sheet, then I play secretary and fill it out with them. Special Note: I have a Last Day of School “Fun Facts” Sheet, too. It’s fun to see if what they put down at the beginning of school is still the same.
#6 Plan a Special Celebration for the “End-of-Summer!”
We love to have a big campout in the backyard, grill something yummy, and then roast some marshmallows for s’mores for our special “End-of-Summer” celebration. We usually invite a few friends to come over and join in the fun! One year all the dads slept outside with the boys, too. I saw flashlights moving around and heard giggles for hours…from the comfort of my soft bed. We usually try to do our camp out before we start school, but it doesn’t always happen. So, we just pick a weekend and call some families and make it happen at some point before it gets too cold to camp outside. Special note: When I’m too lazy to get the tent out, we just “camp” inside.
#7 Buy Some New School Supplies!
I probably don’t have to say much about this. Most people get new school supplies before heading back to the books. I really just wanted to remind those of us who homeschool, that our homeschool kids like to get new supplies, too. We don’t have to get everything new again, but new markers, crayons, & notebooks are fun. This year I created some fun covers for the kids composition books for different subjects. I only wish that I had discovered the self-adhesive laminating sheets earlier, since my contact paper wasn’t exactly “clear.” Special note: Again, remember to include your toddler and preschooler into the fun, new supplies. They look at it as presents that they want to get, too.
#8 Start Your School Year Off Slow & Easy!
This is probably more of a tip for homeschool moms, but my advice is to start slow with your first week or two. Don’t throw every subject into the mix right off the bat. It is overwhelming for our kids (and us) to re-adjust to our new (non-summer) routine. I know our family is pretty relaxed about our summer schedule. So, jumping in and trying to “do everything” on the first day can leave my kids discouraged and not liking school much. Special note: I find starting with just a good book to read aloud, some history, penmanship, & math are a great way to start. We slowly add in the other subjects as the days go by. By the third week, we have all of our subjects included into our schedule. Also, if you are using a new curriculum–like a different spelling program–think about starting just that subject a week before. This helps to get them comfortable with it. Again, go slow!
#9 Don’t Forget Devos & Prayer!
You wouldn’t send your kids to school naked, so don’t forget to “clothe” them in the Word and “bathe” them in prayer before you drop them off or crack open the books. Even if it’s just one Proverb and a quick prayer in the car, it counts!! Special note: If you can get your older kids (readers) into the habit of rising early for a personal devotion, then you will be helping them form a habit that will bless them for eternity! (Literally!) We like the above Devotion Books for our boys: The One Year Devotion for Boys, The Adventure Bible Book of Devotions, Cool Devotions for Guys (2-5yrs), (6-9yrs), & (10-12yrs), & for preschoolers the One Year Devotion Book for Preschoolers (good for girls and boys). I’m sure I’ll do another post some day on all the different Bibles and devotion books that I recommend. This should get you started. 🙂
#10 Write Your Kids Special Notes!
Whether it’s in a lunch box, on a school desk, bathroom mirror, or a pillow, you will bless your child by leaving a little note somewhere for them to discover. Best yet, do this throughout the year. My “bigs” have Bible study journals that they use for morning devotions. I often add a little note of encouragement in there for them to find. Please know that these are not personal journals, they know I look at them. They are often asked to bring them to me in the mornings, so I can help them with their understanding of the passage they are reading. So, I’m not intruding on their privacy. 🙂 Special note: (about your “special note“) If you have non-readers, it’s sometimes fun to cut out little hearts for them to find. You can leave simple “I love you!” notes, too. You’ll just have to read them to them.
So, there you have it! Hopefully you’ll find some fun new traditions to add to your “First Day of School” routine. Remember, I don’t do all this in one day. I spread it out a bit.
Let me know what your fun traditions for the “First Day of School” are, so I can glean from you!
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It is SO important to have a positive first day of school experience, especially when homeschooling. It just sets the tone for the entire school year. Today I’m going to give you 7 great activities for the first day of school, most of which can be done without a lot of extra expense or planning time.
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I know you’ve seen them on Pinterest. The photos where you hold a sign saying the school year and/or grade on it. Check out our First Day of School Pinterest board for ideas and printable signs. They’re so much fun to take and a great photo to treasure in the family album, besides being a good addition to your homeschool records file.
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2. Write “Who are You?” Journal Pages
Every child loves to share his favorite things. Let them fill out this free printable Journal Page with all their favorites listed, then try to guess each other’s favorites. You might even draw self portraits. Be sure to keep them (or take a photo/scan) as part of your yearly records or family memory album as well. It will be so much fun in later years to look back and remember what was “cool”. (Another option would be to create video interviews of each child answering the same kinds of journal questions.)
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3. Make a Time Capsule
Create a time capsule (perhaps in an empty soda bottle or yogurt container and bury it (or hide it) in a safe place to dig out and open on the first day of school next year, or save them for the child’s graduation. Possible things to include:
- the First Day of School Photo from this year.
- address and photo of your home (especially if you move often)
- shoe sizes or heights (to see how much they’ve grown)
- goals for the year (to evaluate if they’ve reached them or grown a different direction)
4. Do a Crazy, Surprising and Fun Activity
Don’t forget the fun! As Mary Poppins says
“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.”
Make it fun. Surprise them with a scavenger hunt, a water fight, a secret destination outing. A Crossword puzzle where the clues describe the field trips planned for this year. Do something that makes them excited about the prospect of a new year of learning together. For more ideas on creating crazy family fun see my post How to Create Happiness, 30 Ideas for Rainy Day Fun, and 3 Tips for a Great First Day of Homeschool.
5. Adopt a Learning Partner from Far Away
Ahead of time, make arrangements with another family (perhaps a missionary family) who live in a different part of the state, country, or world to be learning partners for the year. Here are some ideas:
- On the first day of school, introduce the family and their location using maps, a surprise package containing things from them/their area, virtual tours etc.
- Have a conference call or Skype with them to introduce each other and share the things you’re excited about for the year.
- You may even exchange flat travelers, so that you and the other family can include them in your activities and field trips for the year.
- Make a point to communicate with each other (email, snail mail, conference or video calls) at least once a month to update each other on what you’re learning and share interesting things about your country/state.
- If possible take a trip to visit them or meet them half way (if they live closer) to spend a day together.
6. Celebrate with Special Foods or Snacks
Make breakfast, lunch or snack time extra special with back to school themed snacks or party food (some great ideas here), or some dish that’s a family favorite, but not enjoyed frequently. Our tradition is to have cinnamon rolls on the first day of school.
7. Plan a Scavenger Hunt
To get the kids excited about the adventure of learning you could pre-arrange a set of clues. Start by getting them all in the car and giving them a clue, when you arrive at the first surprise destination they will discover the answer, and be given the next clue. You can do this for all of the subjects you will study. For instance, a clue could be something like: “I am part of your town, I helped it become what it is today.” And you end up at a local historical statue or your city museum and learn a bit of what you will study in your American History this year. You can be as creative as you want. It would also count as a field trip in most places. Win win!
What do you do on the first day of Back to School? I would love to have you share!
Here are seven great Bible verses that can help during that first day of school.
Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
There is nothing more important for a student to know than the fear of the Lord is the very beginning of wisdom. It begins there and stays there. Students will be under a lot of influence in school and be exposed to a lot of different philosophies and theories. The student must guard their mind by staying firmly in the Word of God, daily. He or she can find wisdom and instruction there because it is God speaking to us, however the fool will despise this godly wisdom and instruction from the Bible and pay for it in their life, even while in school.
First Samuel 12:24 “Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.”
When we are in school, we’re trying to accomplish something but when we are, we must show by our lives that we fear the Lord more than we fear being embarrassed. Schools are small enough that things get around and many people may find out you’re a Christian. When we stop to think back about all God has done, and that is immeasurably good, then we’ll have less fear about what others think. A person who’s trusted in Christ is on a journey toward the kingdom and this should make us realize we must fear the Lord, not fear the peers.
Proverbs 15:5 “A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.”
Solomon often didn’t take his own advice because he married foreign women and fell (really, jumped!) into idolatry. This tore the kingdom apart; only because Solomon didn’t follow the wise council of his father, King David. He heard his father’s advice; he just didn’t listen. It cost him much and Israel would never be the same again.
Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
I should have memorized this verse when I was young because when I started high school as a freshman, I was a skinny little runt. If I was a fish, they’d throw me back, but many children feel much the same way when they start school in a new environment, or moving up to middle school or high school, and even college. It’s a little interesting when you start the school year out and you don’t know anyone or very few at least. Think of this; God was with you last year in school…and He’s not going anywhere this year. He’s going to be “with you wherever you go.”
Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
This is given in a command form from the Apostle Paul. He tells the Philippians to stop being anxious about everything. Take that same “everything” and in prayer with thankfulness, make all of these requests to God. A prayer that’s full of gratitude will be a prayer that brings a better attitude. Being thankful is a choice, so just put all of your worries about school (relationships, friends, grades, papers, homework) in His hands and thank Him; even in a storm. You do that and “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7).
Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
Part of a godly definition of success is to not be “wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil” (Prov 3:7). If you’re wise in your own eyes, then you’re not acknowledging God, you’re only acknowledging your own wisdom, but that won’t help to straighten the path. Besides, if you and I aren’t trusting in the Lord, we’re trusting in our own understanding, and that’s not going to end well.
Psalm 56:3-4 “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?”
Notice the psalmist said “When I am afraid,” and not “If I am afraid.” Strangely, that gives me comfort to know that I’ve not been the only one to be afraid at times. I remember entering a new school and a few years later, a new college, and I didn’t know a soul! It was so odd being in the class where most everyone else knew one another, but I didn’t know anyone. What I decided to do was to start making friends. After a time, I had friends too, and felt like I fit in better, but I had to make the first move. You might too if you’re at a new school. As it turned out, one of the men I became friends with was in the same position I was.
Starting a school year can truly be difficult. The end of the school seems so far away. Even the semester can seem agonizingly slow, but take heart if you’re a Christian; God goes with you, and more than that, He is in you. Just before Moses was about to die, Moses spoke to encourage Joshua who could become Israel’s next leader. Moses told him, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it. It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deut 31:7-8). Do you and I understand that we’re never really alone? Because anywhere we go, God goes…and sometimes it even says, He even goes before us (Deut 31:8).. I take a lot of comfort in that truth.
Here are some more helpful verses: Bible Verses for Stress
Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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