You’ve done the back-to-school shopping. New backpacks are filled with clean notebooks and sharpened pencils. New outfits and old favorites hang freshly laundered in the closet. And if you’re lucky then your kiddos are freshly showered too (who are we kidding, right?). You’ve prepared as best you can and now it’s time to send your kids back to school. Well, these first day of school activities can help with that.

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Whether you’re an emotional mess over sending your little one to preschool or kindergarten for the first time or you’re bursting with pride over your older child’s independence, the first day of school is special for everyone in the family. A new adventure awaits and these first day of school activities are the best way to celebrate it. Who knows, this might be the start of first day of school traditions! Read on for 13 first day of school activities that just might become your new traditions.

1. Start the day off with a special breakfast

Is there a certain breakfast meal your family loves? Start the school year off right with your kid’s favorite meal. Whip up those famous banana pancakes and enjoy them together.

2. Have a back-to-school dinner party

If you don’t have time for a large meal in the morning, celebrate at night! Make sometime special or pick up takeout from your favorite restaurant. Take turns talking about your day and encourage your child to share all the new things they learned at school.

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3. Decorate their door

While they sleep, decorate your child’s bedroom door. When they wake up, the balloons, streamers and signs you hang will help them get excited for their first day.

4. First day of school sign

Grab your phone or camera and snap away, mama! Grab your letter board and have your child pose next to a sign with their name and the grade they’re entering. One idea we love: take a picture of your child opening your front door. One day, you’ll have a dozen pictures of your child by that same door, ready to embark on their next adventure.

5. Give them a shirt to grow into

This one just gets us. Buy an adult-sized t-shirt and have it printed with your child’s high school graduation year. On the first day of school, have your little one put it on for a photo. When they’re just starting kindergarten, they’ll be swimming in it. But by the time they enter high school, you’ll see how it’s starting to fit. Compare all those photos to see how your child’s grown—and don’t forget to gift them the shirt for their senior year.

6. Back-to-school fashion show

If you have a budding fashionista on your hands, put on a back-to-school fashion show with their first day of school outfits in the morning! Let him try on all his new outfits and help your child pick the best one to start off the new year.

7. Bonding time for grownups

First day of school activities wouldn’t be complete without something for parents as well. After dropping off the kids, take a walk or grab a coffee with your partner. You can talk about all the emotions that are bubbling to the surface—or just enjoy the first kid-free moments you’ve had all summer.

8. Personalized stationery

This requires some advanced planning but we think it’s worth it. Help your child start the year off right with some personalized stationery. Maybe it’s pencils printed with your child’s first name or a planner emblazoned with their initials, but you can make the first day feel special by gifting them some personalized back-to-school supplies.

9. Write a lunchbox love note

Write a sweet note for your little one and stick it in their lunchbox. Your words just might make the difference in their day, mama.

10. Fill out a first day of school memory page

When your child gets home from their first day, ask them about it! Make a memory page with their teacher’s name and all the details they can remember from the day. Tuck it away and compare their answers to next year’s. Continue every year for memorable first day of school activities!

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11. Read a book

Books are a great way to calm those first day jitters. Let your child pick out their favorite bedtime story or maybe you’ll read books about the first day of school to help calm those nerves.

12. Family joke competition

Starting a new adventure can be both exciting and stressful. But it’s nothing a little laughter can’t fix. Divide into teams and tell each other jokes—school-themed of course!

13. Recreate a day

This is another one that might take some planning ahead, but it could easily become their favorite part of first day of school traditions. Ask your child what their favorite summer day was. What did you guys do? What activities did you play? Then recreate that day for them as a last hurrah to summer.

A version of this post was published August 2, 2021. It has been updated.