Fun Back to School Traditions (That Aren't Buying Things)

by - Wednesday, August 15, 2018

It's August, so there has been tons of talk about Back to School shopping and getting those last few things your kids need for the year. This month (or July for parents who really need non-Target hobbies) becomes a whole month of school shopping. Back to school seems to only mean it is shopping time, but this time of year has so many other great things going for it! A fresh start! New friends! The glorious return of an actual routine! Why do we let this constant need to accumulate stuff take over everything else?

We get it, you need to outfit your kid with stuff (we even made you a list to do it, but what if you make your back to school a time to remember? But I also think that equating celebrating with stuff is really damaging to our kids. Our world is literally overflowing with stuff, and they are going to spend their adulthoods trying to solve all of the problems our overconsumption has started. So I want to raise my kids a different way, focusing on fun, traditions, and experiences instead of on stuff. You can do it too!

 Here are my best ideas-

from September Ninth

1. Decorate for the Year

We decorate for holidays, why not treat back to school like a holiday and have some visual fanfare? Because teachers also use Pinterest, there are freaking TONS of decoration ideas on Pinterest.

It doesn't have to be anything overblown or expensive- the important part is to have the tradition, and to treat it all as fun! Have one back to school craft made every year. You could have paper chains, and add links every year, so the house is overtaken with paper that much more every year. Make a fun crayon wreath to hang or turn your kids' school pictures into a banner you hang. So many options!

2. Have a "Last Day of Summer" Party

I love this idea. The last day before you go back to school, have friends over, eat popsicles, and play in a sprinkler. Just do all of those summery things one last time before you dive into classes. You could have a big barbeque or show an outdoor movie or have a big picnic and go for a hike. A pool party! Jumping on the trampoline! Throw a mini-fair in your backyard! Eat watermelon. Do a summer olympics with tons of silly events. Have a big bonfire and make s'mores with all sorts of candy bars.

Whatever summer means to you, do it with a little extra, and make it a fun tradition for your kids and their friends. I love this idea so much.

3. A Big Back to School Breakfast

Whether you are naturally early risers (bless you) or run out the door at the last minute kinds of people, you can kick the school year off with a special breakfast that makes it fun. My Mother in Law starts the school year off with blueberry mini muffins that are a big favorite. You could do something epic like a huge waffle bar with tons of options, or you can bake your own special muffin to grab while running out the door.

Make it out of the ordinary and fun, while still staying sane about it.

4. A Creative Send Off or Return

My dad woke us up on our birthday with a "birthday polka" on his tuba. I think you could wake your kid up on their first day of school with everything from a tuba to their favorite song and a dance number. You can be silly, crazy, or fun, but put all of that nervous energy into a fun morning!

Also fun? Have a fun welcome for them when they get back. Do a crazy dinner or have music blasting when they walk in the door. Do something surprising when they get home that night!

5. Interview Those Kiddos

I love the pictures of kids on the first and last day of school. Too cute! But that only shows one of the ways your kid will have grown and changed in the course of the year. So I also love the interviews which will give you cute answers and keep all that info you think you would remember forever, but it actually slips through your fingers over time.

This doesn't mean you need to go buy anything! If you want to do this, you can find tons of printable interviews on Pinterest. This is my favorite one I could find (but there are TONS to choose from).

6. Have a Final Summer Adventure

Maybe a party isn't your style. Instead, why not go on a final summer roadtrip (with an unknown to them destination?) for the last weekend before school starts. If you are kicking yourself that you didn't do more this summer or that you are sad you don't have more time to hang out with your kids, going on one last summer adventure could be the perfect way to kick off the school year.

For that matter, throwing up a tent and having an adventure in your backyard would still be memorable and fun for your kids. If they are little, they just want to spend time with you! If they are older, this seems like the perfect level of pleasant trauma. But have some quality time together either way.

7. Write 180 Letters of Encouragement

Your kid(s) have 180 days of learning ahead of them. What if you made a big old collection of quotes, doodles, and encouragement? You could put it in their lunchbox, on their door every morning, even put them in a book! There are lots of ways to approach this, but you can really set the stage for positivity and for treating each day like it matters.

You could also do this project together, so sibling could be making things to encourage each other as well. Plus, then you get to split the work load.

8. Decorate Your School Stuff

When I grew up, we got new backpacks and lunchboxes every year, which usually had our favorite characters (or Lisa Frank designs... damn that lady was talented) on them. You needed a new lunchbox every year, because you had obviously moved on from Ninja Turtles or unicorns.

In retrospect, this is freaking crazypants! Don't do this!

Instead, we are buying one backpack and lunch box to last many years. But that doesn't mean you can't make it fun. You could buy a few small patches to add to your kids backpack to reflect what they are into now. Or get cool stickers to put on their notebooks or binders. I don't want to buy big things with characters on them, but getting a few decoration items is plenty, and we get to spend time together decorating for the new year.

9. Write Them a Letter for Graduation

I love all of those sentimental first birthday gifts where everyone writes a sweet note for when the baby turns 18. I missed that boat, and maybe you did too, but what if you wrote your child a letter every day on their first and last day of school, and then you hand that gift over for their graduation?

You could even combine it with the interview, so it's a combo of how they saw themselves and how you see them each year. Simple, not super time-consuming, and they will treasure it later. Probably.

10. Start a School Year Bucket List

You see tons of summer bucket lists floating around for summer, but it seems like we let the teachers set all our school year goals. This year, sit down with your students and talk about what they want to accomplish this year. It doesn't all have to be "Honor Roll" and A's- how about trying all the meals on the cafeteria menu? Or picking someone unexpected first in gym class? Go to a band show? Or starting to play an instrument? Going on 10 hikes together? Going out to breakfast before school once a month? Learning to make spaghetti?

Your kid can set goals for their time at school and you can set goals for the rest of the time. Once you get into the year, it can be easy to fall into survival mode, but setting some fun goals for the rest of the year can help you keep the bigger vision in mind once things get busy.

Back to School Traditions your kids will love

Happy school year everyone! I hope the start, and all the days after it are productive and fun for your family!

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  1. LOVE that last day of summer idea. I actually would love to throw one of those with my friends!!

  2. Getting ready for back to school is a big event in itself - covering the books, labelling stationery etc. So we start a week before getting ready and "celebrating"



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