You can make going back to school fun for your kids while also preparing them for the year ahead. From preschool to high school, there are back-to-school activities that are simple and effective for getting your child ready for the new school year.
We've found things you can do that build excitement, settle apprehension, and help give your child the skills they need for a successful academic year.
Back-to-School Activities for Preschoolers
This is the big, bittersweet milestone you've probably been thinking about since you brought them home from the hospital. Getting ready to go to preschool may feel like uncharted territory, as much for you as for your child.
The main objective in preparing your child for preschool is to find a balance of social skill building, literacy-based, and math-centered activities. These skills, paired with your emotional support, will set your child up for a successful first year in their academic journey. Try things like:
- Taking your preschooler to library programs before school starts to build social skills and a love of reading
- Playing 'I Spy' for school-themed objects in your daily life - everything from buses to backpacks can be counted or spark conversation
- Setting timers and transitioning between different activities (outdoor play, snack, art activities) to help kids prepare for preschool
We've broken down more preschool prep activities that can help ready your child and bring some much needed comfort and confidence to your own heart too.
Back-to-School Activities for Elementary School Students
By this time, your child may still be adjusting to exactly what happens at the end of each summer. As you're helping them gear up and get excited about going back to school, you can also help get your elementary school child ready for the continuation of their social skills and education. These back-to-school activities are simple, but they'll help build confidence and security for your child as they go back to their school routine.
Make a Lunch Menu Together
The lunch table can be an unexpected place to encounter new experiences during the school day. Your child might find a lot of comfort in the meal you've packed for them. Help them have a bit of control over their school lunches each week by building out a lunch menu together.
You can talk through preferences and write them down, display them on a chalk or dry erase board, or even use photos of menu items so your child can build their meal each evening before you pack their lunchbox.
Watch Educational YouTube Videos
Screen time can work to your advantage in many ways, including getting your child ready for back to school. Depending on your child's interests and age, you can find a YouTube channel or selection of videos to capture their attention and challenge their mind.
Little Fox - Kids Stories and Songs is a fun way to educate children of many ages about animals.
Nat Geo Kids offers videos on animals, nature, and science.
The Smithsonian Channel has a long list of interactive videos for historical and scientific education and fun facts.
ABC Mouse has a ton of fun videos for toddlers and young children on their YouTube channel.
Art for Kids Hub helps your child channel some creativity as they learn.
Make a Back-to-School Countdown Calendar
You know those advent calendars full of candy that your child eagerly awaits every holiday season? You can apply the same principle and excitement to the school year with a countdown calendar made specifically for back to school season.
14 small to medium paper bags
A sharpie marker
14 clothes pins or bag clips (you can also use fun tape here as well)
A basket or bin
Use your sharpie to label each bag 1-14.
Fill each bag with an exciting treat or surprise. You might use candy, fun school supplies, small toys, or small parts that make up one big toy.
Secure the bags with your pins and place them in the basket.
Have your child open one bag each morning during the two weeks before school starts.
You can use items that help your child practice number, color, shape, or letter recognition inside your count down calendar bags.
Have a Mock Interview
Telling other students and teachers about themselves is going to come up more than once in the first couple of days of a new school year. Your child will likely take part in games and conversations where they share basic details and unique information about themselves. A mock interview is an opportunity for fun pretend play with your child, and it helps them find their voice and learn how to work through personal questions.
Learn Through Family Game Night
Board and card games are a great way to engage your child's mind and social skills. Try some weekly game nights during the summer or in the weeks before going back to school. These fun family nights can help prepare them for many things they'll encounter in school work and when interacting with friends and teachers.
Some classic games that might help prepare your child for back to school, depending on their age, are:
Create a Space for Displaying School Work
Your child is going to bring home tons of artwork, tests, and other school work throughout the year. Work together to find a place in your home to display their most beautiful crafts and the grades they work the hardest for. You can do something simple like find a space on your refrigerator with new magnets or use a cork board with push pins in their bedroom.
We love these clever frames for displaying artwork and test papers. You can display everything aesthetically, without damaging your walls. Plus, each frame can hold a thick stack of papers as you add to the collection throughout the year.
Decorate Their Backpack
A personalized backpack helps your child express their creativity and their personality throughout the school year. It may also help them feel comfortable in the midst of back to school nervousness. Help them make their new backpack feel uniquely theirs with iron-on patches, pins and buttons, fabric paint, and novelty key rings.
Make a Morning Routine Checklist
Mornings during the school year look a bit different than summer mornings - we get it, your routine gets a wake up call too. So, as you're planning your own routine refresh, let your child do the same. Talk about all the things you need to do each morning to start the day and get out the door on time. Then display the checklist in the hallway, by your front door, or in your child's room.
Help Them Make School Business Cards
That's right, school business cards. This is a fun way to give your child a confidence boost and help them understand some things about themselves at the start of a new school year. A kid-friendly business card helps them introduce themselves - especially if your child is shy - and feel a bit like a grown up handing off a fancy business card to their classmates or bus buddies.
Try sticking to just your child's first name and some vague facts about their interests. Avoid sharing information about where you live, contact information, or personal details about your child. Kids misplace things often, so you don't want to put private or personal information in the hands of a child who may not be as careful as you would prefer.
Back-to-School Activities for Middle Schoolers
Middle school can feel like an entirely different world, for kids and parents alike. There are higher expectations in the academic areas and your child's social life is kicking into high gear. We've found subtle ways you can help your middle school child prepare for the academic and social expectations of their new school year.
Life got complicated after starting middle school, didn't it? Get ahead of the teenage angst and encourage your middle schooler to keep a journal. Gift one to them or let them pick one out and reassure them that it's a private place for their thoughts and their eyes only. If your child needs some help getting started, we've rounded up some clever journal prompts for you.
Prompt journals are also a great tool for encouraging your child to write their feelings and experiences in a thoughtful way.
Designate & Decorate a Study Space
Middle school academics are a big shift in expectation and workload. Your child will likely spend more time on studying and essay writing at this stage. They may grow tired of the kitchen counter or dining table during long study sessions, so a designated study space that feels curated just for them might encourage a successful academic year. Help them choose a space, pick out necessities and decor, and make the space their own.
Help Them Preserve Summer Memories
Remember when photo albums were a thing? We do too, and they can still be a wonderful way to preserve memories of summers gone by. Grab an empty album, prints of your favorite summer memories (let your child help you select these) and some scrapbooking items if you want to make this activity more crafty.
As you're putting the album together, encourage conversation about the things that were the most fun or what sort of summer memories your child might look forward to experiencing again next year.
You can also make digital albums and have them printed and shipped to your home. This is a great idea if your child is tech savvy and enjoys any opportunity to get creative during screen time.
Make a School Year Bucket List
You may have blown through your summer bucket list right away or still have a few items to check off, but the excitement it produced in your child was probably well worth all the effort. You can recreate that same excitement around the school year. Sit down with your child and write out a bucket list for the school year.
The number of list items might depend on how often you plan to cross those items off. Calculate this based on whether or not you want to do weekly or monthly activities throughout the year. Then add the items to your list and set a goal of checking them all off before summer vacation.
Write your child's bucket list items on a small pieces of paper and place them in a jar. Whenever you're ready to do one of the activities, just draw a piece of paper to make the outcome a surprise.
Make a Word-of-the-Year Craft
Middle school is a time of character building as your child faces new challenges in and out of class time. With the start of the new school year, you can challenge your preteen to select a word for the academic year and create a craft together that helps them see it often.
Here are a few word suggestions if your middle schooler is having a hard time coming up with one on their own:
Once your child decides on a word, it's time to decide on a craft that will display that word for them as a constant reminder throughout the year. We love these ideas:
Etch the word on a tumbler or water bottle.
Print and frame the word with its definition.
Websites like Canva help you create products with your word of choice on everything from a coffee mug to a tote bag.
Back-to-School Activities for High School Students
Your high schooler already knows how this whole back to school thing goes. They probably don't need much assistance in either the social sphere or the learning sphere of their academic experience. But there are still a few things you can do to show your support and set your high school student up for another year of growing that much closer to adulthood.
Help Them Set Goals for the Year
Academic or life goals may not be on your teen's mind just yet, but they will be eventually. Set them up for success and teach them some goal setting strategies.
Ask them what they want their life to look like in five years.
Create five or so sub-goals from what they envision that need to be accomplished before that five-year mark. This could be "graduate high school," "take AP classes," or even "get a driver's license."
Work backwards from each of those sub-goals to create steps they will need to take to accomplish the goals they have. If the goal is "graduate high school" then the steps may include: finish junior year, get tutoring for chemistry, and schedule a meeting with the guidance counselor.
Check once a month (or as often as you like) over a lunch or dinner out together.
Build a Capsule School Wardrobe
Choosing clothes before school every day can slow down your routine or cause a bit of anxiety for your teen. If they're open to it, take them shopping for back to school clothes and help them build a capsule wardrobe with pieces that all work together and suit their personal style.
Host a Back to School Bash
Is there anything your teen would enjoy more than one final party before the school year starts? If you host the bash yourself, you get to ensure everyone has a safe celebration as you kick off the new school year. Let your teen help plan the event and choose some of the details to encourage their independence in the year ahead.
Make Their First Day Back a Special One
You may prepare for the back to school season a few days or weeks ahead of the actual return date. But the actual first day of the school year comes with a lot of emotions and expectations from your child. Send them off with all your support and a few special details that make the day feel like an inspiring occasion.
Make the day before the first day feel extra special with their favorite meals, activities, and time with their favorite people.
Send them to bed a little early the night before so they are well rested and eager for the day ahead.
Make a special breakfast on the morning of the first day. This can be a simple addition to something they regularly eat or a special breakfast usually reserved for holidays and birthdays.
Drive them to school yourself, even if the rest of the year will consist of bus rides and carpools.
Designate a special time after school they can look forward to. Plan to chat at a coffee shop, grab some ice cream, or walk through the park. This way they know they will have quality time with you after school to talk about their day.
Prepare for Their Best Year Yet
There are so many reasons to get excited about going back to school. There are countless memories to be made and so much knowledge to gain. With the right preparations, and your unconditional love and support, your child's school year is sure to be a positive experience.