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50 Easy First Day of School Ideas and Activities

50 Easy First Day of School Ideas and Activities


Back to school season is here again! There are some easy ways parents can make the first day of school memorable, without a lot of effort. These are 50 quick and fun ideas that families can use to make the first day of school special!

Young girl holding a back to school interview page on a clipboard

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This post was originally published on Sep 15, 2017 and has been updated and republished with a new date.

Make the First Day of School Memorable

Are you ready to welcome the new school year back in the classroom? The beginning of the school year can bring on first day jitters, from preschoolers to high schoolers.

I want to create special memories for my kids. But I also don’t want to pile more onto my overflowing plate with anything too complicated or time consuming.

It’s important to keep routines and make the first days of school an exciting time for your students. These first day of school ideas are traditions that children look forward to year after year!

This article shares some simple back to school ideas, including a free printable “first day” certificate, a special party, simple craft and a back to school interview.

My students’ entire 2020 school year was conducted at home

Fun Activities to Jumpstart a Great School Year

The ideas in this post are simple and easy ways to make the first day of school memorable, whatever that looks like for you.

We’re all already feeling overwhelmed. So these quick tips are intended to be special – without stretching you too thin. Choose a first day of school activity that works best for you!

I’ve included sweet ideas to make kids feel loved and excited about their first day “back” to school. This includes a free printable first day certificate, back to school interview and tips for easy ways to celebrate.

These are some of the best first day of school activities – a great way to honor your new students!

Budgeting for back to school? Check out these practical tips for assessing what you really need to buy for school with advice on using what you already have.
First day of kindergarten!

Are Your Kids Excited About School?

It’s back to school season! And either your kid is on-board and excited – or they’re not. Some of your children might be looking forward to the first day of school, thrilled to see friends again.

Some kids, on the other hand, might be a bit nervous. The past few years have been hard. And different. Let’s agree – It was all “oh-so-weird”!

Getting back into a class routine might be tricky for many children. I think a lot of kids also just have way too much fun in the summer and don’t want it to end! Right with you there, buddy…

From the First Day Kickoff to the Last Day of School

For my four kids, I want to make sure that the first day of school is something really memorable and special for them.

While the teens get themselves motivated, my younger children need a little encouragement. I created these fun and easy ways to make the first day of school memorable. These are particularly sweet for very young children (though secretly, my teens get a kick out of them too!) 

READ MORE: Do you have younger siblings at home? Get the tips on what to do with preschoolers.

Choose a First Day of School Outfit

My two younger kids often have hand-me-downs from their older siblings. But we usually let them choose a new first day of school ensemble. Shopping for a new outfit and a pair of shoes is one of their favorite first day of school traditions.

There’s no need to spend a fortune on clothing. Check out these tips for choosing back to school clothes on a budget.

A Special Wake-Up and Morning Routine

I’ll be honest. On most days, I wake up my kids by either snapping on the overhead light or opening the window to let in the sunshine!

But on the first day of school (and maybe even for the entire first week), I’ll wake them in a special way. Here are a few ideas to try with your kids to start the morning on the right side of the bed:

  • Take a picture of them sleeping first. There’s nothing cuter than a sleeping kiddo!
Make the first day of school extra special, from breakfast to an after-school decoration and free printables! #MomentsShineWithWindex #ad
  • For my music-loving kindergartner, I put his favorite dance song on the Echo Dot Kids Edition before waking him gently. He happily jumped out of bed when he heard the music.
  • If your kid resists parents waking him up, try a kid-friendly alarm clock. Try the Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock. It has a colorful nightlight, with natural sounds and adjustable lighting.

Long ago when my eldest son was in kindergarten I’d wake him up with finger puppet characters. Seriously. For some reason he’d get mad if I tried waking him up myself. But if Madame Queen the finger puppet awoke him by bopping him on the head he thought it was hilarious!

Hey, you do what you can to keep the morning routine from completely melting down from the start, right?

Breakfast To Start the Day Off Right

My kids would eat these fluffy pancakes morning, noon, and night. I know that pancakes or waffles would be their request for the first day of school breakfast.

If you have the time to make a special breakfast (at least on the first day), definitely try to make it happen. 

  • Take a breakfast request a few days before the first day so you can make sure to have all the ingredients on hand.
  • If morning time is tight, consider preparing as much as possible the night before. I tend to make waffles or pancakes in batches and freeze them. Then I can just pop in the toaster to reheat in the morning.
  • Even if you only have time for cold cereal, make the meal more well-rounded by adding fresh fruit like bananas, blueberries or sliced strawberries.

First Day Photo Op

I’ll admit it, I’m a photo-taking-social-media-sharing-mama! I love to take a cute first day photo and share it for everyone to see.

Going back to school is a major event! Taking a picture of your child is an important activity that makes the first day of school memorable for your kids.

  • Document each step in the morning process, from waking up your student, breakfast, choosing their outfit, their backpack and lunch box, to catching the school bus.
  • Take your first day of school photo in the same place each year. It’s awesome to see the growth of your kiddos!
  • Get inside the new classroom and take a photo of your child sitting at their desk. Learning from home this year? Take a photo of their homeschool area!

READ MORE: Looking for stress-free school mornings? I share my secrets for a streamlined morning routine that will have everyone up, on-time and excited to start their school day.

Ideas for making the first day of school extra special, from breakfast to an after-school decoration and free printables! #MomentsShineWithWindex #ad

Back to School Gift to Give

Having a gift to give out on the first day can help kids get excited for returning to the classroom again!

  • Send children to school with a handwritten note and a gift card for the teacher. It’s a perfect way to contribute to a growing classroom library or for restocking supplies throughout the year.
  • Ease the first day of school jitters with these cool back to school bookmarks! Kids can make them for friends and teachers using the directions on this article for crafting handmade bookmarks.

Lunch Box Surprises

One of my kid’s favorite things is getting a lunch box surprise. Packing a surprise into a child’s lunchbox is super easy to do throughout the year, whenever your kids need a boost.

A lunch box treat is also a perfect way to make a meaningful connection with your kid during the day. These are a few school time lunch ideas:

  • Write an encouraging note on a piece of paper or sticky note to place inside the lunch box. Whether a positive note for elementary school kids or a silly joke for middle school students, your kids will enjoy it.
  • Pack a favorite food that you don’t offer very often. Choose popular lunch snacks or a special treat that will put a smile on your child’s face.

READ MORE: Healthy Lunch Ideas for Kids Going Back to School

Rubbermaid LunchBlox containers filled with lunch foods for a kid

Back to School Party

If you have extra time on the first day, try this awesome back to school breakfast party.

There are tons of tips in the post with ideas on what to serve, decorations and how to create this party as a community gathering for multiple families.

  • Plan this breakfast on the weekend before school.
  • Serve up a kid-friendly meal with easy brunch recipes.
  • Make it a pot luck and invite friends and family to join in the party.
  • Create a wish list of things of bulk items from the school supply list that each family or group can contribute. Have your students “shop” for school supplies at the breakfast table.
School supplies on tabletop

Welcome Kids Home After School

When my kids come home from their first day, they’re always overflowing with things to share. They want to tell me all about so-and-so in their class, a strict new teacher or what they did at recess.

With so many kids returning back to the classroom, a sincere welcome home is definitely in order!

One of the most creative first day of school activities is to surprise your kid when they least expect it.

Several years ago I surprised my kids with a special “welcome home” window that celebrates the first day of school. In particular, I knew my 5-year old would love the decorations and fanfare for his first day of kinder!

Make the first day of school extra special, from breakfast to an after-school decoration and free printables! #MomentsShineWithWindex #ad

No need to buy anything fancy. You probably have something you can use to create a back to school décor using whatever leftover party supplies on hand.

Once the window was clean and prepped, I was able to decorate it from the outside with a temporary Glass Pen Marker. Colorful crepe paper announces the first day of school!

The whole thing went together in just a few minutes and the impact was great. Check out the happy face on my kindergartner! And the middle schoolers thought it was pretty cool, too. 

Make the first day of school extra special, from breakfast to an after-school decoration and free printables! #MomentsShineWithWindex #ad

First Day of School Memento – FREE PRINTABLE

I’ve created this first day of school certificate printable that will make the first day of school memorable. My son proudly held his “award” for completing his first day of kindergarten so I could take a picture. 

Simply write in the name of your student and the date presented. After you take a photo of your student with their award, stow it for safekeeping in a school memory folder. I have a 3-ring binder for each child that holds awards and certificates.

Make the first day of school extra special, from breakfast to an after-school decoration and free printables! #MomentsShineWithWindex #ad

More Ideas for Creating a First Day of School Tradition

School Certificates and Awards

Choose a dedicated space in your home for storage of a school memories time capsule. Use a 3-ring binder for paper awards or certificates, along with favorite art drawings. Purchase a decorative cardboard storage box to hold larger items.

First Day of School Sign

One of the most popular ways to commemorate the new year is with a sign. Use a bulletin board, printable paper, or chalkboard that displays your child’s name, grade level, and aspirations.

Friday Traditions

Celebrate the end of the school week by doing something special every Friday during the year.

Get a doughnut before school on Friday morning or a frozen yogurt after school. Set aside an allotted time for video games in the afternoon. Make Friday night a family game night.

Take a spirited picture of your kid as they wait at the bus stop or get out of the car. My daughter’s favorite is the weekly “jump photo”!

Ice Cream Party

The first day of school is often one of the hottest times of the year! Our family personally has a back to school ice cream dessert after dinner on the first day of school.

Personalize with Name Tags

Get a head start on the year by organizing and tracking all your kids’ school essentials. We use Name Bubbles on everything!

Add these personalized labels to kid’s tote bags, jackets, water bottles, hats and lunch containers. Name Bubbles customized labels stick and don’t come off, even through washing! 

Name Bubbles has great designs that are appropriate for all ages, even older students.

Name Bubbles labels on school folders

Back to School Interview – FREE PRINTABLE

Your child’s first day back at school is a momentous occasion! Use this back to school questionnaire as a keepsake from these special days.

It’s an ideal way to document changes over the years and is a fun way to make the first day of school memorable!

first day of school interview

Looking for more free printables? From unicorns to race cars you’re sure to find a themed behavior chart your kids will love.

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