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9 Ways to Celebrate the First Day of School

Ways to make the first day of school special. (photo by Yvonne Condes)

The first day of school. It can be a day of anxiety and dread. Instead, make it something to celebrate. Make it a big deal. Make it something your child will look forward to. Here are nine suggestions for celebrating the first day of school.

Ways to make the first day of school special.

  1. Start the day with a special breakfast.  Yes, it’s more work for you, but it sends the message to your child that you know the day is a big deal, and you want to do something special for your child. Wake up a little earlier and serve something you wouldn’t normally serve for a typical before-school breakfast, such as French toast, waffles, or an omelette.
  2. Plan an after-school date.  Give your child something to look forward to by planning an after-school date.  My son and I started this tradition last year when he went off to first grade. After school, we enjoyed an ice cream/brownie sundae — something we wouldn’t normally order. A few ideas include banana splits, a giant smoothie, and frozen yogurt.
  3. Pack a lunch box treat.  Include a love note and a special treat so your child knows you’re thinking of him during the school day. Maybe a few Hershey’s Kisses, a Rice Krispies Treat, or a Capri-Sun juice box. Make sure the treat is something your child would consider a treat, and be sure to check that your well-intentioned treat doesn’t conflict with any school policies regarding appropriate school lunches.
  4. Plan a pre-school manicure date.   School is a special place, the first day of school is a special occasion, so a manicure may be called for. Treat you and your daughter to a pre-first-day manicure date.
  5. Host a special family dinner.  After making it through the first day, let your child choose dinner that night. Do what works for your family — go out to a restaurant, hit the drive-through, order in, or prepare a meal at home, but let your child choose. (If you’ve got more than one child at home, see if they can reach a consensus or else take turns and let one child choose the first night and another child choose the next night).
  6. Cake for dessert.  A new school year deserves its own cake, complete with candles. Allow your child to select a cake, and then blow out the candles while making a wish for the year ahead. (You may prefer to do this the night before the first day, especially if you’re going out for a sweet treat after school).
  7. Take a yearly photo.  If your child is a willing participant, take a yearly photo in his first-day-of-school clothes and new backpack. (My son won’t pose for one at home, but last year we were able to get a quick photo while at school, waiting for the bell to ring.)
  8. Start the year with a book.  For younger kids, you can find a large assortment of sweet, back-to-school titles.  A few favorites include If You Take a Mouse to School, Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten, and First Grade, Here I Come!  (We also write a special message inside the book, and though I couldn’t find a book for incoming second graders, I’ll still be giving my son a new book the day before the first day of school).
  9. An apple for the teacher.  Start the year off with a positive attitude towards teachers, and have your child help you select an apple at the market to be presented to the teacher the first morning of the new school year. (And if your child is really nervous, remind him that teachers get nervous too. Teachers have the hard job of learning twenty or thirty new names; elementary kids just have one teacher’s name to learn).


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