12 ways to make the first day of school special


School runMost Utah County children are headed back to school this week. It doesn’t take much money or time to make your child’s first day special. Just a love note here or a school-bus-shaped Twinkie there is all it takes to score high marks in fun.

“Twas the night before …”

1. Eat a final feast

Paper banners, mini chalkboards, “apple” plates made from red paper plates and green felt stems: It’s time to bring your “A” decorating game for a quick family back-to-school bash. Or, if you can’t stand the mess and chaos of cooking at home, hit up your family’s favorite restaurant and simply focus on one last summer night together.

2. Have a back-to-school fashion show

Strut away those first-day-of-school fashion jitters by gathering the family and having your kids model their new school clothes. Include music, confetti and a makeshift “wind” machine (think small household fan). At the end of the show, have everyone keep out a first-day of outfit to make morning prep time go more smoothly.

3. Nail it

Use this tutorial on the Pretty Polishes blog to paint your daughter’s nails to look like No. 2 pencils. The design is surprisingly cute.

4. Kiss their hands

Read Audrey Penn’s 1993 classic “The Kissing Hand” about a raccoon who finds a special way to remember his mom at school. You can make matching hand tattoos for you and your child with marker, or make “Kissing Hand” cookies together. For the latter, fashion sugar cookies in the shape of a hand, and bake with a Hershey Kiss as shown here.

The Big Day:

5. Make a balloon avalanche

Buy a long, clear plastic table cloth and painters tape to secure a “wall” of balloons to your child’s door. Using painter’s tape won’t take paint off the door frame, and your children can wake up to a room full of balloons. Find directions here.

6. Serve a “school spirit” breakfast

Use fruit or pancake batter to fashion food into the shape of your child’s school’s mascot.

7. Punch up your pictures

Chalkboards, sidewalk chalk, pictures within pictures: If you need some inspiration, the blog Blissfully Domestic has some fun ideas to add some panache to your obligatory first-day of school pictures.

8. Send in a small “good luck” present for the teacher 

Why not start the year off right by showing your child’s teacher that you appreciate him or her? You could send in a small goodie bag with Box Tops for Education you’ve collected over the summer or an apple and a quick note of encouragement.

9. Write lunch box love notes 

Write on sticky notes to remind your children that you love them as they open their lunches. You could include a small treat with the notes as well.

Make a fun after-school snack for when the kids get home like these buses. (Photo courtesy

Make a fun after-school snack for when the kids get home like these buses. (Photo courtesy Stop Lookin’, Get Cookin’)

10. Party like its 11:59

Go to lunch with your girlfriends. Wander the aisles of Target like the ladies on this WhatsUpMoms YouTube channel video. Just make sure to mark the Most Wonderful Day of the Year with an actual parents-only celebration.

11. Snack it to them

Use Twinkies, M&Ms and frosting to make and afternoon snack shaped like mini school buses, as shown on the blog Stop Lookin’, Get Cookin’. Or go old-school (get it?) with this classic recipe for the World’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookies on Food.com.

12. Talk the peak and the pit 

Start a fun family tradition to keep through the entire year by asking your kids to tell about their best and worst moment of the days. Celebrate and accentuate the positive, but use those “worst” examples throughout the year as a way to keep tabs on anything that may be bothering your child.


Elyssa Andrus has worked as a journalist for 14 years, most recently as the lifestyle editor at the Daily Herald newspaper in Provo. She is a contributor to the KSL-TV show "Studio 5" and is co-author of the book "Happy Homemaking" (Cedar Fort, 2012) with Natalie Hollingshead. She lives with her husband and four young children in Utah Valley.

One Comment

  1. AvatarJeanette B Reply

    It has become tradition that I decorate the house with balloons, crepe paper, and a welcome home banner; I also bake them cupcakes. I rarely make cupcakes, so it’s kind of a big deal for them.

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