Back-to-School Planning

Making back-to-school time a blast instead of a bummer

Average rating of 0/5. (0 Ratings)
My rating
  • I love it!
  • I like it a lot!
  • I like it.
  • Just okay.
  • Not for me.

Rise-and-Shine Breakfast

If that first back-to-school morning looms as a rude awakening, do like the Kingsford neighborhood of Tampa, Florida, and throw a week of summer's-end breakfast parties. The rotating 7 a.m. get-togethers ease summer slugabeds (and their parents!) back into the rise-and-shine routines of fall. As Kingsford mom Kate Sorsby puts it, "After eighty days of sleeping until eight, changing gears is hard. This gets us all moving again, so it's a smoother transition."

The week before school starts, Kate's kids, Justine, age 9, and Billy, 7, gather every morning in a neighbor's driveway with 30 or so of their pals to catch up and chow down. ("I think the biggest motivator is the doughnuts!" Kate confesses.) Daytime attire is optional. "They're so darned cute -- all these little kids in their Power Ranger jammies and Cinderella nightgowns!" Kate says. "It's almost like the whole neighborhood had a sleepover." After the kids finish their juice and parents polish off their coffee, the neighbors part ways -- at least until the next morning. "They're not exactly cheering for the summer to end," Kate says. "But this is a pretty nice wake-up call."

Party Pointers

  • Send invitations electronically.
    The Kingston neighborhood started an e-mail distribution list to invite neighbors and coordinate the volunteer hosts for each day.
  • Mark the host house. Tie a balloon to the mailbox or, like they do in Kingston, hang a banner on the garage. That way folks driving by can stop for a cup of coffee, even if they're just on their way to work.
  • Keep it simple. "It's not a gourmet affair," Kate says, laughing. Bagels and doughnuts, juice and coffee. Everything should be low-key, grab-and-go fare. Many parents bring their own mugs, but cups and plates are otherwise disposable.
  • Set up the night before. The host family can arrange a table, a trash can, and even a coffeemaker set to brew in their garage. Don't worry about chairs for everyone: guests can bring folding chairs or a blanket, or simply sit on the driveway or lawn.

"What I Did Last Summer?" Pencil Box

Stock up on plastic pencil boxes, then invite the bunch to decorate them with summer souvenirs brought from home. "We glue photographs, commemorative postcards, and even a 'kiss from mommy' (I kissed a sticky note!) to a piece of card stock cut to fit inside the box's lid," says Becky Pearson of The Dalles, Oregon. "When the kids return to school, they can recall all their summer fun every time they pull out their supplies."

Back to top

Meet-and-Greet Treat Party

We're not talking bribery here (never!). We're just saying that something yummy sure sweetens the back-to-school deal. Throw a make-your-own-treat party for your child's class the day before school starts, and give the kids a chance to mingle, meet their teachers, and enjoy their just desserts. For Lewiston, California, kids Spenser and Harrison Buck, ages 7 and 5, this means a poolside party starring what mom Chris Bennor describes as "my famous cupcake bar," with loads of frosting and candy toppings. "Everyone would be devastated if I didn't have it," she says. Chris invites students, staff, and teachers, and the 30 or so guests meet and greet over hamburgers and hot dogs until Chris brings out "The Tray" and the real fun starts. "Spenser loves having the kids over," Chris explains. "He's a social butterfly. But Harrison? I'm thinking I have the future Willie Wonka here. His real passion is the candy."

Party Pointers

  • Stay in touch. Chris circulates a sign-up sheet at the end of the year (when she finds out her kids' next class assignments), and then uses the list of numbers to coordinate summer playdates and the pool party. "I copy it for all the parents," she explains. "And then I try to scope out if any new kids have moved into the neighborhood so that I can invite them too."
  • Track down the teachers. New teachers are a key piece of the back-to-school puzzle, and a party offers a relaxed, informal opportunity to connect with them.
  • Stock plenty of goodies. Chris bakes loads of cupcakes from a mix and offers bowls of frosting and baby M&M's, gummy bears, chocolate rocks, and other candies that she gets from the bulk bins at her discount supermarket.
  • Keep it casual. "Don't stress about everything being perfect," Chris advises. "Lots of people don't entertain because of that, but people just love going to a party!" If you can, keep it outside, where mess will be minimal and cleanup a snap; plus, you won't even have to vacuum.

Extra Fun: By the Numbers

Celebrate your child's new grade level by making it the theme of your party, suggests Julee Morrison of Taylorsville, Utah, mom of six kids ages 2 to 18. "At the start of third grade, for example, we picked out things with the number three: tricycle races, a three-legged race, trios of party favors (pencils and erasers), even a tres leches cake (a Latin American cream cake) with a number candle. This year my oldest son -- a graduating senior -- had twelve friends over to watch twelve movies (they were here all weekend)! And we've been doing this since he had one friend over for one cupcake."

Back to top

After-School Snack Shop

Over the years, we've heard from many families who love setting up a breakfast buffet at the school bus stop on the first morning of school. But we couldn't resist giving this classic idea a twist. To cheer your young scholars' successful completion of Day 1, why not consider an after-school bus-stop bash instead? With the start-of-the-year butterflies behind them, the end of the first day is the perfect time for kids to kick back. Simply set up a snack table to greet bus-riders as they arrive at the neighborhood stop. Since the weather's still summery, stock your celebration station with such treats as icy drinks and fruit. After recharging with a bite to eat, the kids can turn to sidewalk chalk and lawn games, including Wiffle ball or Frisbee. This is a great chance to get rowdy after a day spent getting reacquainted with desks and books. Meanwhile, neighborhood parents have a chance to reconnect and debrief one another about summer travels, their children's new teachers, and their weekly schedules. With a yummy snack and a cool drink in hand, everyone can toast the auspicious beginning of another action-packed academic year.

Party Pointers

  • Coordinate with other parents. Whoever lives closest to the bus stop might want to host (this can be as simple as opening a card table in the driveway), and other folks can bring cups, ice-filled coolers, drinks, and snacks.
  • Record the milestone. After the kids get off the bus, snap a photo of them holding a "First Day" sign with the year on it (you can take "Last Day" pictures at your year's end party!).
  • Include younger siblings. A bus-stop celebration is a great way to get all those little brothers and sisters excited about the ride they'll be taking one day.
  • Keep it brief. A short but sweet celebration means you can start getting right back into your school-year routine: homework, dinner, and a reasonable bedtime.

Good Deed: School Supplies For All

Ask each parent to bring along a package of new school supplies, then get the kids to fill some school bags for the Give a Kid a Backpack Foundation. "This helps remind our children that going into a well-stocked classroom every day is a privilege they're fortunate to have," says Victoria Franzese of New York City, whose family has made contributing to this organization a back-to-school tradition.

Back to top

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, profile photo and other personal information you make public on Facebook (e.g., school, work, current city, age) will appear with your comment. Learn More.
Most Popular on Facebook