Back-to-school family traditions can help jump-start a new school year

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Every August brings a backpack of mixed emotions for my family as the leisurely days of summer come to an end and we look forward to the steady routine a new school year brings.

Like most families, we spend the last few days of summer busy with back-to-school shopping, fresh haircuts and meet-the-teacher events. Before we know it, it’s the night before the first day of school. Anticipation (and butterflies) show up, and the morning scramble begins.

To make the transition to a new year and grade a little easier, we observe two family traditions that help wrap-up summer and jump-start the school year.

A family dinner and shared summer memories tucked into a jar kick off the back-to-school season.

Last day of summer dinner and memory jar

While the kiddos arrange their backpacks and lay out their first-day-of-school outfits, my husband and I prepare a fun family dinner. What makes this meal special (aside from including appetizers and dessert) is that we share it on a fully decorated tablescape — nice dishes and glasses included.

After the plates are cleared and our bellies are full, we sit at the table and open our Summer Memory Jar. Throughout the summer, whenever something funny or exciting happens, a family member writes it down on a strip of paper and stuffs it into this decorated mason jar. The belly laughs produced while reading and remembering months of silly summer situations are the highlight of the evening.

First week of school treat bags

Another tradition awaits our kiddos in the car after school pick-ups during the first week. Their treat bags include small gifts intended to lift their spirits after long days of learning new class rules and procedures. The gifts range from special after-school snacks or Gatorade to a nice shirt, an accessory for upcoming school pictures, a new book or a fun school supply — such as the slap-wrist ruler I found for Lucy and the erasable ink pens I bought for Jack.


Calendar Editor Liz Petroff is the mother of Jack (10) and Lucy (8).