25 Fun Back to School Traditions

Do you have kids heading back to school soon?

My four children are starting in the next few weeks and when I asked on Instagram for suggestions for fun back to school traditions, they poured in! So many fun ways to celebrate this yearly milestone.

(And if you have no interest in back to school traditions, you’ll be glad to know that multiple people responded to the question “what back to school traditions do you have?” with answers like “None. Just go to school.”)

Here are some of my favorite ideas for back to school traditions!

back to school traditions

25 Fun Back to School Traditions

  • Back to School Dinner. This was by FAR the most popular suggestion. People do it all kinds of fun different ways, from having dessert first to serving all Trader Joe’s appetizers, having a school lunch style meal with chicken nuggets and juice boxes, pancakes for dinner or having the table set with a school tablescape including pencils, books, etc.
  • Overnight cinnamon rolls for the first day breakfast. This is a fun special first day of school tradition that’s not too time consuming because you can prep the night before (or you could do cinnamon rolls from a can to make it extra easy.
  • Pancakes on the first day shaped in grade number. I love this special idea! Another parent said they do them in the shape of their graduation year.
  • Breakfast at a restaurant on the first day of school If you don’t have an early start to the school day, this is really fun! The woman who submitted this said, “A treat because we never go out for breakfast. We now continue that tradition with our three grandkids.” I love that it’s gone on that long!
  • Dry run the morning before, then go for doughnuts. It’s genius to do a dry run so you make sure everyone knows where their backpacks are, what time you need to get up (and that alarms are set properly!), and what time you need to get out the door. And doughnuts afterward makes it really fun!
  • A special treat after the first day of school. This was another wildly popular suggestion with treats ranging from root beer floats to shave ice to homemade cookies.
  • Sonic drinks at first Friday pickup. If the first day of school feels too crazy, it’s nice to celebrate the end of the first week with a fun treat together.
  • Watch a school themed movie together. Pop some popcorn and queue up the movie – suggested movies included Matilda or Wonder.
  • A Lunch and Movie Date together. One teacher said, “My son and I had a lunch and movie date the day before my teacher work days started.” What a fun way to end the summer!
  • Back To School Sundae Sunday. This came up multiple times – on the Sunday before the first day of school families or neighborhoods hosted a Sunday night ice cream sundae party with all the toppings.
  • First day of school soundtrack. I love the idea of waking up your kids on the first day with a fun song or soundtrack – one parent suggested the song Back to School Again from the Grease 2 soundtrack.
  • A “Happy New Year” confetti countdown before bedtime on the night before school. This is a delightful idea to make it feel festive and exciting!
  • Read The Kissing Hand together. If you have a child nervous about starting school, this sweet book is a great way to talk about those nerves.
  • School Supplies scavenger hunt. This is such a fun suggestion – my kids LOVE a scavenger hunt and I know this would be a big hit at our house.
  • Mini cupcakes in the first school lunch. That first day of lunch is so exciting and opening up your lunch box to find a mini cupcake would be a delightful surprise.
  • Milkshakes the night before school starts. Whether you go out for them or make them at home, this is a nice way to soak up the last moment of summer together before the big first day of school!
  • First day of school photos. This was another favorite back to school traditions. Some families do a fashion show with the first day of school outfits or have kids hold a sign with their current grade or have them wear the same shirt with the “Class of X” on it each year. One family shared that they write each child’s name on teh driveway with chalk and have the child lay down with it. Another family said they do it the night before because the morning of is too harried.
  • Make cookies for teachers. This is a fun way to burn off some nervous energy the day before school and a nice way to start off the first day of school!
  • A first day of school cake. One mom says she makes a funfetti cake every year for the first day of school. Another parent said, “I bought a class of xxxx cake topper on Etsy and every year bake a cake and take his picture with it. At his high school grad party, I’ll display the pics and use the topper on his cake!”
  • Special dinner out after meet the teacher night. Many schools have a meet the teacher night sometime in the week or two before school starts and it can be a great night to go out for a celebratory dinner afterward or do a fun dinner at home.
  • Back to school one-on-one dates. One parent said, “We do individual dates where the kids picks the activity. We look forward to this every year.” This is a great way to spend a little individual time with your child before they go back to school and also talk about the year ahead and any excitement or nerves they may feel.
  • A recent wallet size picture of the family. This is so sweet – I love this idea of tucking a family photo in their notebook or backpack so they know they’re loved and part of the family as they go off to school.
  • Back to School shopping. This was another super popular suggestion. Some families make it a one-on-one date, and some have specific things they buy each year like a back-to-school outfit, a special shirt, new backpacks, or lunch boxes or a new pair of shoes.
  • Fill a backpack with school supplies for kids in need. It can be easy to forget in the fun of back to school traditions that some kids don’t even have the basics – this is a great way to help your community or school and help your child recognize the needs of others around them.
  • Choosing a theme for the year. Many families said they introduce this at their back to school dinner or on the weekend before school starts. It’s a great way to focus on what you want to accomplish or how you want to act in the year ahead and get everyone on board.

first day of school traditions

One other response I loved: “We also have a lot of traditional first week emotional breakdowns.” That first week back is a big change for kids and families and knowing that there will be a lot of feelings and exhausting helps you manage it as it happens!

Any other fun first day of school traditions or back to school activities? I’d love to hear!


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  1. Love this list. Our neighborhood hosts a back to school breakfast for all the kids in someone’s garage/driveway. We all contribute the food, take a photo or two, and then the neighbor who has a small old school bus drives kids to school. (And parents usually meet them at the school:) )

    1. My three college kids send me first day of school selfies which is so fun to receive. They know me well! They start the same week as our high schooler so we can share her picture with them.

  2. I love all of these ideas! I think I’m going to do the treat after school this year since everyone has early dismissal on the first day of school.

  3. We have a tradition of going out for ice cream after school on the first day of school and the last day of school

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