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12 Fun, Creative Ways to Celebrate the First Day of School

The first day of school. Kids often have mixed feelings about this important day, and this year especially, emotions are likely to be all over the map. Just because kids aren’t returning to the classroom in the traditional sense, doesn’t mean there isn’t cause to celebrate.

A new school year is a big deal. Full of new opportunities and new challenges. Make the first day fun and special and memorable. Here are 12 fun, creative ways to celebrate the first day of school.

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Celebrate the First Day of School

1.  Enjoy a manicure/pedicure date

School is a special place, the first day of school is a special occasion, so a manicure may be called for. Just because the salons are closed doesn’t mean you can’t have your own mini-spa day at home!

2.  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! Many independent book stores are open for pick-up. Contact them to get some recommendations and support a local independent business.

Tips for taking toddlers to Disneyland. and a giant bunch of balloons
We can’t celebrate at Disneyland this year, but we can still have balloons!

3.  Decorate with Balloons 

Nothing says “celebration” quite like balloons. Get the house ready while the kids are sleeping. You may opt to tie balloons onto the back of your child’s desk chair, around each door knob, or limit the balloons to one room of the house.

4.  Make a Wish

Start the morning with a candle in your child’s breakfast. A new school year is a sign your child is older just like a birthday celebration. So start the day with a muffin, waffle, or fruit cup with a lit candle and an enthusiastic, “Make a wish!”.

5.  Take a “first-day” photo 

If your child is a willing participant, take a yearly photo in his/her first-day-of-school clothes. If a yearly photo is one of your usual family tradition’s, don’t skip it this year. Your child may not be going to campus; however, continuing with the tradition sends the message that this school year is just as important.

Back to School Tips from LA Moms
a traditional first day of school picture, with kids and their new backpacks

6.  Take advantage of lunch at home

Since your child is participating in distance-learning, take advantage and have a special first-day of lunch. No need to limit yourself to lunch-box-friendly food. Order in food or ask your child(ren) for lunch requests.

7.  Make a Time Capsule 

It doesn’t have to be fancy. An empty paper towel roll works wonderfully. Create a simple questionnaire for your child (depending on your child’s age, they can answer and you can record their answers). Ask children to list their favorites — book, song, color, movie, television show, class subject. Ask them to write down a hope for the school year. On the back of the paper, have kids trace their handprint. Roll the paper up, put it inside the paper towel roll, and wrap the roll in tissue paper (like a giant Tootsie Roll). Open the time capsules at the end of the school year. Children will be amazed to see how their answers have both changed and stayed the same — and how much their hands have grown!

8.  Paint Your Children’s Feet 

Younger children, especially, will enjoy this activity. Since Los Angeles Unified School District classes start on a Tuesday, this is a fun one to do on the Monday before. Set up a painting area (outside may be best or else inside with newspapers protecting the floor), and be sure to mix some hand-soap into the paint (the paint will wipe off much easier that way, from both skin and clothes. Paint your child’s right foot onto a white sheet of paper leaving space for your child to write (or dictate to you) one way that he/she will make sure to start the school year off on the “right foot.” For example, “I will read each night at home. I will always remember to write my name on my papers. I will ask a question when I’m confused.” 

healthy snacks
healthy snacks (photo by S’Well from Unsplash)

9.  Plan a Special After-School Treat 

Maybe you can’t take your child out for an after-school treat, but you can certainly have one at home. Think fun and festive, something you wouldn’t normally have for an after-school snack. A few suggestions – build your own sundaes and build your own smoothies.

10.  Estimate with Smarties 

Fill a clear container with a number of Smarties candies. Ask your child to estimate how many packages of Smarties are in the container. (For younger children, talk about the idea of making a “reasonable guess.” Count them out and compare the actual number of candies to the estimates (try to get other people to participate – siblings, grandparents over FaceTime, etc.) Then, don’t forget to give your smartie a roll of Smarties to enjoy!

11.  Celebrate With Dinner 

Plan a special family dinner for the first night of school. Use your fancy dishes and linen napkins. Or, make it a pizza night. And don’t forget about dessert!

12. Give an Unexpected Present 

Let your child wake up on the morning of the first day of school to find a gift waiting at the breakfast table. Even better if it’s school-supply-related – think special lead pencils, a new sketch book, dry erase markers in a whole rainbow of colors. 

Wendy Kennar is a mother, writer, and former teacher who has lived her entire life in the same Los Angeles zip code. You can read more from Wendy at where she writes about books, boys, and bodies (living with an invisible disability).

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