Welcome Back to School Activities
Autumn has arrived and it’s time to head back to school. Kids might have mixed feelings about going back to school: some will be sad to say goodbye to their summer vacation and others will be ecstatic to see their friends every day. Check out these fun activity ideas parents and teachers can use to help both reluctant and eager students transition back to school.
Back to School Ideas for Students
Here are some ideas that parents can use to ensure their kids have a fabulous first day of school!
Digital Cards. Whether it’s for your child, niece, or nephew, a thoughtful digital Back to School card will let kids know that you’re excited for them to start a new school year.
Parents can also send online cards to their child’s teacher. Children can pick their favorite digital card to send to their new teacher and craft their own personalized message. Add a digital gift card to any greeting card for an extra special treat for students and teachers.
Gifts. Presents always manage to drum up excitement amongst kids! Parents can fill a reusable bag with something their child loves (think sidewalk chalk, Legos, bubbles, jump ropes) and school-related items such as fun markers, notebooks, and stickers. Include a nice note congratulating your child about their first day!
Crafts. Get your kids ready for school with these creative back to school projects.
- Friendship bracelets. Get some of your child’s friends together and have them make bracelets. If you really want to encourage school spirit, purchase string that matches your child’s school colors! Kids will enjoy making their own special bracelet and wearing them with their friends on the first day of school.
- Book covers. Let kids cover their textbooks and personalize them. Children can pick out fun gift wrap to cover their books or decorate paper bag covers with markers, stickers, and stamps. Feeling super crafty? Have kids pick out a favorite fabric and help them sew a book cover!
- Countdown calendar. “How many days 'til school starts?” Parents have heard this question countless times. An easy way to answer this question and get kids excited for school is to print out or draw a simple 30-day calendar so they can count down the days until school starts. Children can decorate the calendar and mark each passing day with a fun sticker and earn a fun “prize” the night before school starts.
Group Video. Celebrate the start of a new school year with well wishes for your child from loved ones. A group video from Memento lets you easily compile video clips of family and friends sending their congrats or words of encouragement for kids who might be less than thrilled about the return to school. Here's an example from Baldy Mesa Elementary School where teachers and staff created a group video to welcome students back:
A group video allows parents to create a personalized digital keepsake for their child and is an especially meaningful way to mark big milestones such as the first day of high school or kindergarten. Most importantly, students will appreciate the thoughtful messages and support from those nearest and dearest to them.
Back to school party. A festive way to get kids enthusiastic about the school year is to host a party.
Some fun Back to School theme ideas for parties include an Arts & Crafts celebration with plenty of age-appropriate supplies on hand; a Book-Exchange where each child brings a favorite book to swap; a School Supply Scavenger Hunt where kids use clues to search for a few fun school items; and a Class Photo party with a DIY school-themed backdrop for individual and group pictures. Parents can easily invite their child’s friends and gather RSVPs with a digital Back to School invitation that can be sent from their phones!
Back to School Ideas for Teachers
Teachers know that some students can get the first-day jitters no matter what their age. It’s important that educators create a welcoming environment and plan for activities that go beyond just the first day. First week of school activities should be inclusive, fun, and cooperative. Check out the back to school activity ideas below broken down by grade level to help get you started.
First Day of School Activities: Preschool & Elementary
Younger children love to get their hands dirty and creative juices flowing. Here are a few fun activities for preschool and elementary school students:
- Draw Your Feelings. Ask children to draw or paint a picture about how they’re feeling about the school year. Are they excited to make new friends? Are they nervous to be in a new school or grade? Will they miss seeing their parents all the time? Kids can share their pictures if they’d like to once the activity is over.
- Find a Friend. This game lets kids get to know each other in a fun, interactive way. Students are each given a sheet of paper with phrases like “who has a blue backpack,” “who likes pizza,” and “who went swimming this summer.” Kids need to find one classmate who matches each description and write their names down. Once everyone has filled out their sheets, students can share what they learned about each other.
- Scavenger Hunt. Hand out a list of clues to each student that refer to common items in your classroom. Kids can work in groups to solve the clues and then search to find where the items are located. This is the perfect way to get kids to work together to become familiar with and more comfortable in the classroom.
First Day of School Activities: Middle School
While still technically kids, middle school students are at the age where they are introspective and trying to find themselves. First day of school activities middle schoolers will love include:
- Letter to Yourself. This is a favorite activity amongst teachers and students. Have students write a letter to their future selves. Encourage students to write about their goals for the year, activities they’re excited about, who their best friend is, and what their favorite songs, TV shows, and movies are. At the end of the year, return the letters to students so they can see how much they’ve learned and grown!
- Would you rather? This is a fun and easy game that lets students interact and get to know their classmates a bit. Teachers ask silly (or serious) questions to get students thinking and talking. Would you rather be a famous singer or actor? Would you rather have no teeth or no hair? Would you rather be able to fly or be invisible? Students can move to one side of the room if they pick the first option and the other side if they prefer the second option.
- First Day Survey. Ask students to fill out a quick survey asking them a few questions about themselves. Include questions about how they prefer to learn (individual work, group work, etc.); what their favorite activities outside of school are; what makes a great teacher; what they’re most excited about this year; anything they’re concerned or nervous about; and what their best quality is.
First Day of School Activities: High School
Although high schoolers are experts at this thing called school, they still might be stressed or worried about the upcoming year. Some fun back to school ideas for this age group include:
- Digital cards. Right before the first day, send an online Welcome Back to School card to let them know you’re excited to start the year together. It’s the perfect way to introduce yourself and--if the student chooses to reply--get a conversation going!
- Anonymous Quiz. Hand out a piece of paper to each student and give them a “quiz” about the upcoming year. Note that their answers will be anonymous and ask them to write down what they’re most excited about this year, what they’re nervous about, and what they hope to accomplish. Once everyone has answered the questions, collect and shuffle the quizzes, then read a few answers outloud. Students will be surprised and reassured that their classmates likely have a lot of similar feelings and worries about the school year!
- Teacher Test. Students are always curious--and sometimes nervous--about what their teachers are like. A fun way to let students get to know you is to give them a quick, multiple-choice test about yourself. Teachers can include questions about their favorite hobbies and foods, pets, or other interesting facts about themselves. Be sure to include some silly wrong answers! Once each student has completed the test, you can go over the correct answers with everyone and discuss anything they were surprised to learn about.
Whether a student is a tot or a teen, going back to school can be an exciting time. If parents and teachers keep in mind that students want to feel supported and encouraged, they can help ensure a smooth transition back and start the year off on the right foot!