The end of summer break doesn’t have to mean the end of a good time. Start the new school year with excitement and anticipation with these 10 ideas, activities, and games for the ultimate back-to-school bash! A fun party can encourage anxious kiddos to look forward to their first day of school.
Invite your child to join in on the planning—maybe they want to choose a theme or decide which kids activities to prepare. Invite their friends over—if you’ve had a family-centered summer of fun then they’ll enjoy seeing friends again. However you decide to throw your back-to-school bash, have fun with it and get everyone delighted to go back to school.
Back to school party ideas
1. Book-themed bash
This is a fun one to plan if you’ve got enthusiastic readers. Create a snack table and label snacks according to their favorite characters or places in the book. For example, you might have an activity where everyone makes “Max’s Wild Things”—grab some Rice Krispies treats and lay out smaller candies for the kiddos to decorate with and create their own impressions of wild things. Then let them burn off some energy by getting them up to act like wild things. If you’ve got superhero lovers, see what this dad came up with!
2. Breakfast bar
If your child loves breakfast food, then you can incorporate a make-your-own breakfast bar. Lay out M&Ms, chocolate chips, sprinkles or anything else they might want to put on pancakes or waffles.
3. Scavenger hunt
Grab school supplies—anything from erasers to pencils to mini rulers—and scatter them around the house and/or yard. Then divide kiddos into teams or you can have them go on their own and find as many supplies as they can. You can also give them all canvas pouches to put their treasure in! Whatever they find is theirs to keep. Corral them back inside at the end and to decorate their pouches.
4. Fashion show
Have all the kiddos bring 2-3 of their favorite back-to-school outfits. Anything they’ve recently purchased for the new year or even tried and true favorites that bring them comfort. Roll out a “red carpet”—felt from the fabric store, old sheets, table runners, or even wrapping paper! Give it that extra oomph with a disco ball or ask everyone to turn on the flashlights on their cell phones.
5. Photo booth
The first day of school is hectic enough without also having to make your child stand still for a perfect photo. Create a photo area at your back-to-school bash instead! Designate a wall for your back-to-school themed backdrop—with just tape and a few simple school-themed items from the dollar store, you’ll have a new wall. Or you might have the kids color and draw on a large piece of poster paper then hang that up for them to stand in front of. For extra giggles, grab some props like large sunglasses or giant pencils. You can schedule this activity right after the fashion show so kiddos can get pictures with their favorite looks.
6. Time capsule
This is a fun activity for all ages. Have your youngest party guests (and parents too!) write themselves a letter. For little ones who are practicing letters, they’ll see how far they’ve come from August to June. For older kids, they might write motivational goals. They can put their letters away until the end of the school year or they might want to look at them throughout the year for encouragement.
DIY bookmarks are fun, creative and something they’ll use over and over again. They can be made out of almost anything— popsicle sticks, cardboard cutouts or even thick poster paper, to name a few. Kids can use their imagination with how they choose to design them. They can even make extras to pass out on the first day of class!
8. Alphabet relay
This mama has come up with a game for little ones still learning their letters. Place two buckets across from each other—at a distance they can run to and from. Using foam letters, paper cutouts, or whatever else you have on hand, dump them all into one bucket. Then call out letters for them to find and run to place in the other bucket. You can make it more challenging by having them make the letter’s sound or even come up with a word before they run it over. Kids can take turns or you can create multiple smaller buckets for each player and see who fills theirs up the fastest and is the most accurate. They’ll have a blast running around and they’ll get some alphabet practice!
9. Marbled pencils
According to this mama, kids will love taking these cool pencils to school. You’ll need acrylic paints in different colors, a set of pencils, tape and a designated area in case the kiddos get dirty (who are we kidding? of course they will!) They’ll have so much fun designing colorful pencils they can use all year long.
10. Hand prints
Don’t put those paints away just yet! Have your kiddos choose their favorite colors and create hand prints. Put them on a dated piece of paper and if they can write their names, get their autographs too. Keep up with this tradition year after year and you’ll see how much they’ve grown. They’ll love getting paint on their hands and you’ll get a special keepsake of this memorable time.
A version of this post was published June 4, 2022. It has been updated.