Back to School Traditions

Summer’s end brings big changes, and traditions are a fun way to ease the transition back to school. Here are a few of our favorites.

Backpack Fairy:

The littlest learners love it when the Backpack Fairy pays a visit. She arrives via the flying magic school bus in the middle of the night, filling backpacks left open by the front door with little trinkets (pencil grips and erasers, lip gloss, sunglasses, tickets redeemable for the Kansas City Zoo or a Deanna Rose outing). Her colorful notes, shrouded in a dusting of magical glitter, always assure kids that she has paired them with the perfect teacher for their advancing careers and that they have all the skills they need to carry them into a challenging new year.

Count Down:

A week or two before school begins, fill a jar with cookies or create a paper chain to count down the last days of summer.

Last Supper of Summer:

Plan a special meal—a picnic, backyard barbecue or dinner at your family’s favorite restaurant—the night before school begins. Bring along some board games or, if you’re outdoors, a pitcher of giant bubbles (mix together 1 gal. warm water, 1 c. Joy Ultra dish soap and 1/3 c. glycerin).

First Day Photo Shoot:

In the soft, sun-speckled light of morning, it’s time to snap those forget-me-not first day photos. Don’t miss these fun photo ops and props:

  • Cut out huge poster board numbers of your child’s new grade level.
  • Have your children line up in a row and show this year’s grade level on their fingers.
  • Decorate the rim of a chalkboard with apples and have your child write his grade level, signature and what he wants to be when he grows up.
  • Snap a photo of your kids from behind, showing off their backpacks and spindly little legs sprouting from beneath.

Smart Cookies:

Welcome your smart cookies home from the first day with the same special treat every year. These chocolate no-bakes come highly recommended:

No-Bake “Smart Cookies”

  • 1 stick butter, melted (do not substitute margarine)
  • 2 c. sugar
  • ½ c. cocoa
  • ½ c. milk
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 c. peanut butter
  • 2-3 c. oatmeal

Mix the first four ingredients; heat to a boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add vanilla and peanut butter; mix until peanut butter melts. Add oatmeal. As the mixture thickens slightly, place spoonfuls on wax paper and cool.

Smarty Pants:

Stuff your kids’ pockets with Smarties candies and an encouraging note for a special “smarty pants” surprise. Or, scatter Smarties around the kids’ rooms to make them extra “smart” and as a sweet incentive to wake up early.

Make New Friends:

Encourage kids to meet new classmates. Offer your kids a quarter for each new friend they meet on the first day and ask them to recall the color of their eyes (encouraging eye contact) and one unique thing about them.

Pop the Pretense:

The night before school begins provides a perfect opportunity to talk with kids about friendships. Use this balloon-popping lesson to open up a dialogue about meeting new classmates. 

On small slips of paper, write 3-5 descriptions of what pretend classmates appear to be like on the outside, and accompanying descriptions of what is actually going on inside them. Stuff each “classmate” balloon with the description of the person from the “inside,” fill the balloons with air, then draw faces on them with permanent marker. Leave the “outside” descriptions next to each balloon.

Have your kids read the “outside” descriptions, asking them what they think about each person. Next, pop the balloon and find out what the person is really like on the inside, asking more questions and discussing how this changes their initial impression.

For example:
Outside: Junie is a shy girl who doesn’t have a lot of friends. Sometimes, because she’s so quiet, people think Junie is rude. Junie doesn’t have anyone to play with at recess, and nobody picks her to be on the team in gym class.
Inside: Sometimes, Junie feels invisible. Junie would love to have a friend to play with; it just takes time for her to warm up to people. Once Junie opens up, though, she is the most loyal friend anyone could have. She may seem rude because she’s quiet, but Junie actually cares a lot about other people. She just doesn’t always know how to tell them.

Wendy Connelly lives in Overland Park. Her kids highly anticipate the beloved Backpack Fairy’s visit on the eve before school each year.

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