I’ve been thinking about family traditions a lot lately. I love having them and I love creating them. Just knowing that our traditions are creating warm memories of a fun and loving family for our boys makes me feel like I’m getting something right as a mother. So here are some of our more successful back to school party ideas.
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I started doing this two years ago and it was so much fun we decided to keep having this every year. The weekend before school starts, we host a back to school party. It’s not a big or fancy affair, but it is a genuine gathering of our neighbors and a few of our favorite friends that we don’t get to see often enough. Right now, all the children range from preschool to 2nd grade.
I set up lots of fun things for the kids to play with outdoors, balls, sports equipment, trucks, and a play fire station. For us, it’s still hot when we throw our back to school party, so we also make sure to include plenty of water fun for cooling off – “baby” pools, water squirters, sprinklers, and the like. This year we added water balloons! I’m not sure who had more fun with them – the children or the adults!
Food is super simple – we make an insane amount of hotdogs and hamburgers for the children – who usually eat at least twice because they are so busy. And then for the adults, we grill chicken or pork chops and ask that everyone bring a side dish. Adults can bring whatever they like to drink – but we always try to provide at least one adult beverage that’s special or particularly fun. This year I found one that fit the bill perfectly: Sangria. I giggled when I called it “So Long Summer” Sangria!
We finish off the back to school party with sparklers, watermelon and homemade popsicles for children and adults alike. We also always make sure to snap photos of the children grouped by upcoming grade. It’s one of the only parties we throw that is completely relaxed and laid back. I don’t do too much of the hostess thing for our back to school party and I encourage our friends to easily mingle and help themselves to whatever they need.
With close friends, I find that we all feel more relaxed if we just settle in and enjoy each other’s company. It’s an easy transition to say goodbye to summer and hello to a new school year. If you don’t do anything else before your children go back to school, do this. Even if school has already started for you, celebrate the first weeks of school with neighbors and good friends. Each new school year is such a milestone – and our children will cherish the memories of their accomplishments being celebrated.
On the first day of school, we get the usual pictures of each boy holding a sign showing which year of school he is starting. But I also love taking photos of new shoes at the beginning of the year and then the same shoes at the end of the year. It”s a fun way to document the changes over the year. It’s also an annual ritual to get each boy a new backpack each year.
Another thing I do – both at birthdays and the beginning of school is an “interview.” Each boys gets asked the same questions each year – favorite tv show? best friend? favorite color? favorite toy? favorite thing to do with mommy? favorite thing mommy does for you? – you get the gist. It’s already been so much fun to look back over the last couple of years of interview answers. Right now, they are just on scraps of paper; I need to pull them together to hold onto.
My older son’s school always starts with a half day. So when I pick him up, he chooses where he wants to go for lunch to celebrate. It’s usually a family owned hotdog diner where he loves the corndogs and always gets a milkshake as a special treat. My younger son’s school is always a half day so we do the same for him when his school starts. He usually chooses pizza (although he likes our homemade pizzas better)!
Finally, at pickup, the car is filled with chatter about all the great things that happened at school and which friends they were happy to reunite with. Dinner the night of their first day is their choice. We all come together to listen to stories and ask lots of questions. I always ask each boy one thing that they want to accomplish during the school year and they set their personal goals. My boys are still young, but we’re lucky – they really enjoy school. Once they are settled, they seem quite content to be back into the more rigid school year routine.
Each new school year brings with it more maturity and independence for each of my boys. It tugs at my heartstrings just a little bit. But I continue to be impressed with who I see them growing up to be. And I’m thankful that their school and our family traditions play a role in teaching them to grow into good men.