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Who else loves the back to school rush? As a kid I got absolutely giddy picking out new notebooks and pens, going shopping with my mom, and laying out an outfit for my first day to school. Being on the other side now, it’s bittersweet – especially because Eva is on her way to preschool! Putting all of the ‘My baby is growing up!’ feelings aside, the start of a new school year is pretty fun, and I want to make it exciting and memorable – not scary – for my kids.
Creating a back to school tradition as a family is great for a lot of reasons. It marks the end of summer and helps you to practice gratitude for all of the new memories made together in the past few months, gives you a chance to prepare your child mentally for school, and hash out the first day jitters. It’s a great time to discuss goals for the school year and talk about your expectations. Most of all, it’s an excuse to celebrate together as a family.
This was our first year doing a back to school dinner, and it was so much fun. I’m going to share with you all that we did – the decor, food, and our family theme, to hopefully inspire you to host your own!
Our kids are little, so we opted for simple, fun eats.
Campbell’s alphabet soup (a total novelty, and a food that they hadn’t tried before. They thought the floating letters were so much fun.)
Fruits and vegetables with the first letters of the alphabet: Apples, Blueberries, Carrots. We had them go on a ‘plate scavenger hunt’ to find which food started with which letter. Total hit!
An easy caramel dip for apples: mix together cream cheese and brown sugar until you get a creamy consistency and tangy, caramel-y flavor.
Alphabet cookies from Trader Joe’s on our place cards – everyone got to eat them as a special treat after dinner.
The Set Up:
Nothing fancy, just a little special!
Use red paper plates (or any red plates you already own!), and add a construction paper stem and leaf to make them into apples.
Word strips as place cards so everyone had a seat just like at a proper dinner party.
I used a kraft paper table runner and decorated it with our theme for the year. You could also put yours on a chalk board or make a poster and have it at the table to discuss while you eat.
A few days before our dinner, I had the girls watch the new Cinderella movie starring Lily James. Aside from being a cute princess movie, it had a great message: courage and kindness will bring you far. I loved it so much that I made a quote from the movie our BTS theme: ‘Have Courage & Be Kind’.
You can make your theme anything short and sweet that will be meaningful to your kids. I want our theme to be something that becomes an inner dialogue to my girls when they are at a cross roads, so being short and understandable is important. We can discuss what it means at the dinner, and ways they can show courage and kindness. You can circle back to your theme throughout the year at family dinners as a way to check in: how did you show courage today? How were you kind today? Did you see anyone else being courageous or kind today?
During our dinner, we discussed what our theme meant and read some scriptures and short books relating to it. We talked about our goals – mom and dad, too. You can post your goals up if that will be motivational for your family, or just discuss how you can support each other.
Setting expectations is so important to me as a parent, and a BTS dinner is the perfect setting to outline what you want to see from your kids. Part of our expectations are built into our theme, but other ones may need more spelling out. Do you expect your kids to participate in many activities? What kind of effort do you want them to put into school work? Curfew? Dating? Social media use? Screen time? Or, if your kids are little like mine – should they be getting their bag ready before school? Should they dress themselves? Talking through your expectations saves a lot of drama on the first few days back to school.
There so many great themes and mottos to choose from. I picked one based on something my girls already love – princesses! If your kids are competitive, artistic, or love to explore, really lean into that with your theme. Make it memorable by having it be short and sweet – you can dive deeper with books and discussion.
I put together a few images with themes that I think would be great for back to school. You can click, download and print any of these images to use at home. By the way, I created all of these using the Canva app – one of my favorite tools for making printables and graphics!
I hope this inspires you to start a back to school tradition with your family! Let me know what you do to celebrate the beginning of the school year – and I’d love to know your theme of the year!