Whether your kids will be learning virtually – or heading to the classroom this fall, “back-to-school” will be different for everyone. COVID-19 has changed the way we approach school, and it’s more important than ever to make the transition special for kids. Try these ideas for a memorable – and positive – start to the school year.

Say farewell to summer with their choice of a funday out. Take a special hike, go on a picnic or have a water games day in your yard. Or, consider a visit to the zoo or water park, or go zip lining.

Create a countdown calendar for the days leading up to the first week of school with different activities. Each day, do something different to spend quality time together – set up a water park in the backyard, ask about their best summer memory, make dinner together.

Make an annual time capsule with photos from the year, handwriting samples and drawings. Wrap and store it somewhere special, to be opened at the beginning of the next school year. Stephanie at nolongertwobutone.blogspot.com shows you how.

Do a back-to-school interview. Record items like height, weight, grade, favorite color, friends, favorite foods and movies. Don’t forget to write down what they want to be when they grow up! Keep the interviews in a notebook, and enjoy reading over them each year.

Plan a special breakfast for the first day of school. Make your kids’ favorite foods; you can even decorate the table.

Go shopping for a new backpack and fresh school supplies. Be sure to stop for lunch or ice cream afterward! Staying home? Shop online and make a special dessert together.

Make it a time of gratitude. While you’re back-to-school shopping, pick up extra school supplies to donate to children in need.

Make a coupon book of rewards–takeout pizza for dinner, a trip for ice cream, movie night – to be redeemed after a good grade or other accomplishment at school.

Create a surprise package of supplies: pencils and pens in fun colors, silly note pads, etc. Gift wrapping makes them more fun! Fill a pencil pouch with cute little trinkets, a letter of encouragement, fun erasers, hand sanitizer and other small and useful items.

Plan a special dinner, whether it’s your kids’ favorite homemade dish or takeout from a restaurant. Dress up for the occasion and break out the decorations and balloons!

Use liquid chalk markers or acrylic paint to write back-to-school messages on windows. Buy yard signs or make them yourself. A fun idea: spell out a “good luck” message by writing individual letters on paper plates. Attach wood dowels to anchor each plate in the ground.

Decorate the night before school starts. Use balloons, streamers or even signs – “Fifth Grade or Bust!” or “On my way to fourth grade!”

Have a photoshoot. Search online for cute photo props and signs your child can pose with on the first day of school – we love the chalkboard-themed ones! Each year, take a photo of your child in the same spot with the signs, so you can look back at how they’ve grown.

After the first day of school, plan to bake a fun treat to celebrate the start of school. What about a “You’re a smart cookie” cookie cake?

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