Episode 27: Creating Back to School Traditions Your Kids Will Remember

Aug 08, 2023

Hey Everyone! Welcome back to the Elevate Motherhood Podcast! Today we are talking about back to school! I know a lot of you are starting school soon so I hope you find this episode helpful! 

One of the best parts of our job as moms is to be the magic-makers and make things special for kids. Sometimes the littlest things we do form major childhood memories our kids will always have and I love thinking of ways to put even a tiny bit more effort into some things to make them even more special and back to school is a perfect occasion for that! 


A lot of moms have mixed thoughts and emotions around this time of year. If the summer is a time you get way more time with your child, a lot of us are sad to send our kids back. And the beginning of a new year seems like a marker of our children growing up, even if you home school or your kids are young babies and toddlers and not going to school yet, or you still get a lot of time day to day with your child, there’s a significance about back to school season that marks our children growing up, another year beginning, a fresh start. It's a fun and significant time! 


So today we are sharing ideas to fill this time with some new traditions that will be their childhood memories. 

I have been talking about back to school on my Instagram for a while and you guys have shared lots of practical ideas which I’ll share here too! I do like this Elevate Motherhood community to just be like a conversation with mom friends and we can listen and think “hey good idea! I hadn’t thought of that!” but the last thing I want is to make you guys feel like I’m adding things to your to-do list or your to-purchase list. Because that’s not the goal here!


So take what you love from this conversation and forget the rest!


I saw a few places on Pinterest where moms made a “school year’s eve” banner or sign and I was intrigued by this. I love any excuse to make something more fun. So I asked you guys on Instagram what your family’s back to school traditions are either for the night before or first day of school or anything surrounding back to school, and you guys had so many fun ideas!

Most of you who responded were doing ONE of these things so don’t feel like you need to ALL of them! Here are some ideas:

  • Have a special meal together as a family the night before school and pray over the school year
  • Drive to the school as a family and pray outside the school building together as a family the night before the first day
  • Give your child their “school supplies” in a fun way, either make it a special day where you go to the store and follow the school supplies list provided by the school, or if your school has pre-packaged supplies either make a big deal about picking those up and looking through them, or maybe your child gets to pick a new backpack or new lunchbox, you can just, you know, put your mom touch on it and make it a big deal. If you aren’t getting a new lunchbox or backpack and you’re reusing the ones from last year, you could still make it special by getting it out of the cabinet or closet, talking to your kids about it like “yay school is coming up! Let’s get everything ready? Do you remember what we need to take to school each day? Let’s get everything cleaned and set out so we are ready this year! I’m so excited!”
  • Picking out their “first day of school” clothes. Maybe you go shopping together for this, or shopping together with a grandparent for this each year, or just anything fun and special that you do each year will feel like a tradition. If you don’t go shopping at a store, you could still make it fun to pick out their first day of school outfit from their closet. Maybe a few days before school you look at their clothes together and ask them which outfit is their favorite and make sure it’s clean and set it out for the first day, just any extra little ideas to make it feel exciting to wear it on the first day. Or if you want to choose the outfit, either you let them choose from 2 options, or you let them choose between 2 pairs of shoes or pick their favorite bow out of a couple of options, things like that. You can still be the decider but let them feel like they had a part of picking out something special about it.
  • One thing my family did which my kids LOVED was create a countdown with a chain link so the kids can see each link represents a day until our vacation but you could also do it with back to school. The kids help you cut out some strips of paper, then you staple or tape them together and each day they get to remove one link from the chain and see that the event is getting closer. My kids loved this visual because sometimes time is hard for children to understand. I’ll post a link to this in the show notes for this episode.
  • I have also heard of people doing back to school interviews each year, either you have some questions you ask them each year or you video them answering the questions each year. These questions might be things like- what's your name, how old are you, what grade are you starting, what's something you're the most excited for, what's your favorite thing to do at school, favorite thing to eat for lunch, etc. 


One of my favorite parenting tips I’ve learned over the years is to simply explain things to your kids. So much of what we do as parents is with our children right next to us and we could either just like kind of ignore them or ask them to be quiet OR we could be explaining things to them and teaching them step-by-step. Explain WHY we purchase supplies for school, how it helps the teachers be able to do fun activities and how we can be a blessing by contribute to the classroom. Explaining how the administration at the school has been working hard to prepare for the students, before we even go back to school the teachers have been preparing their rooms, praying over the school year, making plans of how to teach the kids this year. How some people have been cleaning the school building, setting out the chairs, deciding which kids are in which teacher’s class. I think conversations like this may help our kids learn appreciation for authority and for people who serve within the school.

You can explain to your kids different scenarios at school, how to be a kind and friendly friend. How to look out for people who maybe don’t have a friend and how to be a friend. Or how to treat kids who may be different in some ways, to still be kind and ask them if they want to play, or to smile at them. That we make the right choice even if other kids don’t make the right choice. How we are a blessing to our teachers and we are good listeners and helpers.

You don’t have to overdo this all at once but little conversations like this sprinkled in when talking about school and preparing for school really go a long way to help kids feel prepared and confident.

I have seen little matching mama and me bracelets that the kid and the mom can wear while the kid is at school as a way of feeling connected even when apart. My mom always wrote us notes in our lunchboxes and I like to do that for my kids even though they can’t read yet. I made a little downloadable PDF with some colorful lunchbox notes that you can download for free if you go to courtneylundeen.com/lunchbox and you can print those off and laminate them. I made 3 versions you get all at once so you can choose the full color one and have it printed for a few dollars at a print store, or there are white background with color or white background black and white if those are easier print options for you! This is just a way to let it be easy as we like to say around here! For my kids who can’t read- I’m choosing one of the cards and telling them what it says and keeping that same one in there for a while so they will hopefully just think of me and know what the note says when they see it in their lunch. So head to courtneylundeen.com/lunchbox and get that free download if you want it!


Another big topic of discussion with you guys on Instagram was some type of treat AFTER the first day of school. When I was growing up my mom made all 3 of us little cakes and we got to put the icing and sprinkles on the cake and decorate it however we wanted and we thought it was the COOLEST thing in the world.

A lot of you said you do after school ice cream like going inside an ice cream shop, or after school snow cones, or smoothies, or just some type of treat. Someone said their family does after school snow cones on the first and last day of school. You don’t HAVE to do the same thing every year and you are free to change up your own traditions at any time but doing the same thing each year might form more of a memory for your kids to remember from their childhood.

Or several of you said you do a fun breakfast the first day of school, like even just eating their favorite things together at the table before the first day and maybe you do a family prayer over the school year at that time. I’d probably be cautious to feed my kids something too out of the ordinary or too sugary before the first day in case it causes an upset stomach or something, but you can still make it a special breakfast even with their usual foods. You guys know I love a themed breakfast you could like use special plates or disposable plates or make a little handmade sign that says back to school, just anything you do will make it feel special to them!  


Another thing we talked about was treating the teachers around the first day of school. Some people said they brought little gifts to the teachers at a meet the teacher night like maybe a gift card or special pens or post it notes or gum or a notebook, some things like that. Some people said they brought the teachers snacks on the first day of school, a gift card for dinner or a dinner delivery service on the first day of school, that is so thoughtful and generous if you’re able to do something like that! Even a card with an encouraging note and a prayer would be so thoughtful and not require spending extra money. I saw some cute and easy teacher gift ideas with catchy sayings on Pinterest that I’m going to link for you in the show notes (here)


One thing our little preschool does that I think is an amazing idea – each teacher fills out a little questionnaire that asks their birthday, their favorite coffee shop order, their favorite snacks, favorite places to receive a gift card, favorite sports teams to root for, stuff like that. It is so helpful throughout the year to know little things they would like and not just getting them 1,000 random candles and coffee mugs all year. So if your school doesn’t do that, maybe you could be the one to ask the teachers to fill it out and then you can make copies for all the parents in the class.


Another fun thing that it feels like most people do is take pictures before the first day of school. Maybe you have a sign you use each year that says what grade they are in. Or even if you don’t use a sign, maybe you take a picture by the front door of your house each year on the first day, or you take a picture outside the school building as they go back to school each year. Some people mentioned taking pictures with the teacher on back to school night or meet the teacher night so it’s just one less thing to remember on the first day of school. I thought that was a good idea.


Another thing you could do around the first of the school year is to declutter and reorganize your home or part of your home like maybe kids closets or the area where you store school bags and lunchboxes. Just taking a bit of extra time to think of a system that will let it be easier for you this year. Some ideas we have talked about are maybe each Sunday evening you or you with your kids pick out outfits for the week, maybe you use a hanging shoe organizer in their closet to set out the outfit for each day including underwear socks and bows so each morning the kid has a little independence going to get the outfit for that day and it’s one less decision you guys have to make each morning. Or if you have the space- maybe hanging up in one specific area are the 5 outfits for the week you have pre-chosen so each day they just grab one from that shelf and that’s what they can wear that day. I’m all about finding ways to foster independence for our kids and letting things be easy for the parents at the same time.


And what about all the bags for back to school- we can find a system that makes that part of our day easier too. So maybe the backpacks getting dumped on the floor or left in the car creates a stressful situation for you, so you can ask yourself- how can I let this be easier? Maybe there’s a specific spot you want your kids to hang their backpacks each day after school. So decide that and set that up for them and let them know the expectation. You just solved that problem for yourself and your family *once* for the entire year by thinking through a problem and creating a solution that works for your family. Or if the lunchboxes are always on the counter in the way and don’t really have a place to belong, maybe give them a place to belong. Maybe every night you empty the lunchboxes and set them in a particular spot in a cabinet or on a shelf so the following morning they are right where they are supposed to be and are ready to be filled up again. You just created a system that serves you and makes your life easier. I like to think of systems like this as not another set of rules or another thing I have to do, but when I do it I tell myself it’s an act of kindness for myself, doing something ahead of time that actually makes my life easier for myself in the future.

If you have a mudroom type area of your home, take advantage of it. Have that be the place the bags get hung after school. If you have soccer every Wednesday, maybe every Tuesday evening you or your child gather all the soccer stuff and hang it up next to the backpacks for easy grab and go the following day. I don’t have a mudroom at my home but we have a little coat closet near our back door and I have turned that into a makeshift mudroom. I don’t have any coats or anything hanging on the rod in that closet, I actually just put a bunch of strong command hooks on the walls of that closet and that’s where we keep backpacks and sports bags. I think it will make your whole school year easier if everything related to getting ready for school has an exact place where it belongs.

This will help foster independence as the kids get older to be in charge of putting their things where they belong, and it will help them find the things they need because everything is always right where it belongs. This frees up you as the mom from being responsible for always knowing where everything is as it is always in a different place because it doesn’t belong anywhere. If you love organization tips like this- in case you don’t know already, I created an online course in a room-by-room format where you can listen to and view tips for one space at a time. I created this course for moms with little kids because that’s the season I’m in and I know there is tons of information out there for organizing, but sometimes it doesn’t take into account function especially for families with little kids. So the goal of this course is to have a beautiful organized home, but more than that the goal is to have a home that serves your family and makes your life as a mom easier so you have more time to spend on the things and people who matter to you! So check that out if you haven’t yet- CourtneyLundeen.com! I always offer a money-back guarantee if you don’t love it, I’ll give you your money back! Podcast listeners have a special discount code PODCAST20 for 20% off!

 Another thing I like to do for back to school is make sure all of my kids belongings are labeled. I use StickerKid labels. I have used a few different brands and these are my favorite for the price and how they really don't come off unless you want to pull them off. The things I use labels for are - lunchbox, any kids-sized forks or spoons I send in their lunch, water bottle... I don't label ALL my kids regular clothes just the things they may take off at school like jackets, hats, shoes. I talked about StickerKid labels on my instagram and one of you commented back to me that you had purchased something I sold at Once Upon a Child and wondered what brand label I had used because my kids name was still on there after so many washes! So funny. And sorry that I didn't take it off before selling the clothes. I buy the small name labels which are (at the time I'm recording this) 60 for $15 and no-iron peel and stick clothing labels 80 for $20. I have a referral link if you click the link in the show notes you get 20% your entire purchase when you go to the website through my link so I'd love for you to use it if you are interested in getting some! (here's the link!) 

Coming soon will be a separate episode dedicated to organizing back to school papers and memorabilia. I almost included it here but there's enough details that I think it will be easier in it's own episode, so be looking for that!

And lastly for this episode- I’m sharing some of my back to school prayers for my kids so you can feel free to be praying some of these for your own kids too. I thought it would be easier to share as it's own episode so look for Episode #28 Prayers for Our Kids. You can listen to this as you pray for your kids for back to school or for any time! I'm publishing that episode at the same time as this one so it should already be there! I hope it is a blessing to you. 


Thanks for being here friends, until next time, let's Elevate Motherhood. 


-- Courtney

Elevate Motherhood Home Organization Master Class


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