29 Back-to-School Activities for Busy Parents

Do the words “back to school” make your kids run and hide?

Want to make the transition smooth and simple, and maybe even fun?

We can help. There are many things you can do to reintroduce your kids to the routine of the school year.

My Kids’ Adventures searched the Internet to find things busy parents can do to plan for the upcoming school year. In this article we’ll share our favorites.

Do your kids dread going back to school? Make the transition smooth, simple, and fun with these back to school activities, crafts and recipes to do together.

Why Plan Back-to-School Activities?

It’s difficult for parents, as well as kids, to make the transition from the laid-back summer months to the schedule of the school year. It feels like we just settled into the summer routine of camp, playdates and later bedtimes, and now we have to go back to homework, the headaches of carpooling and all those after-school activities.

Whether you need to prepare your child for kindergarten or any new school year, there are lots of fun and creative ways to ease into it together.

First of all, set up a back-to-school countdown calendar, like Cheryl Najafi shared on her blog Cheryl Style.

countdown calendar

A back-to-school calendar’s easy to construct, and will get everyone excited about school!

Make a calendar with envelopes that hold treats and incentives. Do the countdown for the two weeks leading up to the first day of school. Your kids will anticipate a surprise each day, which will build enthusiasm, while easing any back-to-school anxiety your kiddos may have.

Here are more things you can do to help with the transition.

#1: Get Organized

There are plenty of personalized school supplies you and your young students can make together. For starters, make an organizational binder and fresh book covers to start the year off on the right foot.

Personalized School Binder

Mique shares on Thirty Handmade Days how to make a personalized binder with your kids. Make one binder for each child, so all items for the school year will be in one place.

decorated school binder

Have each child make one so that all of his or her important things can be in the binder.

The printables include different cover pages, grade pages for the spine and a survey for each grade with a place for a photo. What a fun tool to use to track and look at each year.

Print a 2014 calendar, and check back later in the year to download and add the calendar for 2015.

Book Covers

When you personalize a book cover, you let your personality shine.

Check out Courtney Cerruti’s DIY: Back-to-School Book Covers on the Creativebug blog. Use a paper grocery bag to make three different kinds of covers: chalkboard, polka dot and bubble wrap. And this is just the beginning.

diy book cover

Decorate book covers with your kids prior to the new school year.

Once you have the foundations of book covering down pat, tap into your creativity. Anything goes! Also, use these techniques to create special giftwrap for a book.

Denim Notebook Cover

Older kids may enjoy taking the book cover craft up a notch. Cover a notebook in an old pair of blue jeans like this one on Planet Forward. Use just the pockets or cover with denim first. Then decorate with stickers, paint, whatever you choose.

blue jean notebook cover

Cover a notebook with denim pockets and decorate any way you’d like.

Kids can keep this notebook for their favorite subject or use it as a journal—pockets for pens and pencils included.

Wrap up your basic supplies with this no-sew pencil case from Inner Child Fun and backpack tags from Lolly Jane. Add some fresh pencils, paper and whatever else is on your child’s supply list, and you’re good to go.

#2: Get Crafty

Whether or not your kids get long homework assignments, they should have a place set aside for schoolwork. Have them do some fun back-to-school crafts to make the space their own.

Door Signs

Here are two different school signs you can make with your child.

The popsicle stick pencil from Happy Home Fairy is an easy craft to help young kids to get in the spirit of going to school.

pencil sign

Popsicle sticks and basic craft supplies make up the adorable pencil sign.

The original intent of this one is décor or a teacher craft, but also works as an “I’m doing homework” sign to put on your child’s door.

The two-sided homework before play sign from Amanda Formaro, Crafts by Amanda, is too cute. Get a sign that’s a t-shirt or other relevant shape from your local craft store and decorate.

homework door signs

This sign will tell your kids’ friends when they’re busy studying or available to play.

Put these on your kids’ door or your front door, as Amanda does, if your neighborhood kids drop by frequently.

Homework Boxes

The homework survival kit from Boy Mama Teacher Mama is simple to make. Take old water bottles, cut them in half, cover and connect.

homework survival kit

A homework survival kit puts all supplies in one place.

Be sure to download the free printable as another way to personalize. And spice it up with some pencil buddies.

If you have older kids, take a look at this homework box that Simply Fabulous Living suggests you use to keep all their dedicated school supplies in one place.

These crafts will get everyone excited for the school year, and may even make homework a little more fun.

#3: Get Creative in the Kitchen

Whether it’s a healthy breakfast, a fun lunch or scrumptious snacks, nourish your favorite students.

Breakfast

Six Sisters’ Stuff has come up with 30 back-to-school breakfast ideas that are sure to get your kids out of bed with plenty of time to get ready for school.

30 breakfast ideas

Some of these are ooey-gooey and just plain delicious!

For some make-ahead options, check out these 10 breakfast options from Health.com. They’re delicious, kid-friendly and fast!

Lunch

Very Culinary has 30 clever lunchbox recipes sure to put a smile on your kid’s face. There are some snacks and desserts mixed in there too.

Since presentation is also important, take a look at the creative lunchbox ideas from So Creative Things.

decorated sandwich bags

Just drawing on a plastic lunch bag makes a sandwich less ordinary.

Some of the ideas are silly, others are funny and still there are some that look almost too cute to eat.

Snacks

Tiffany shares 30 days of afternoon snacks: no repeats on her Peanut Blossom blog. From fruits and veggies to bars and breads, there’s something for everyone.

snacks

There’s a wide variety of snack ideas on the Peanut Blossom blog.

So many snacks, so little time. Also check out the 10 best after-school snacks from Everyday Health and 22 healthy homemade kid snacks from Modern Parents Messy Kids.

#4: Get Excited About Lunch

There are many ways to personalize your child’s lunch.

Lunchboxes

For the super-crafty parent, Skip to My Lou blog has a make-your-own lunch bag pattern and tutorial from Amber, Crazy Little Projects.

homemade lunch bag

Crafty families can make their own lunch bags.

Choose the fabrics that best suit your child and work side by side to put it together.

Want to make sure your sandwich never gets squished? Turn a milk jug into a lunchbox. Natalie on Crème de la Craft shares easy instructions for this project.

milk jug lunchbox

Turn a milk jug into a lunchbox.

Start saving your milk jugs, and create a milk jug lunchbox for each member of the family.

Lunch Notes

Another way to ease into the school year is to send a thoughtful note for your kids to find at lunchtime.

A little special paint will turn a lunchbox into a mobile chalkboard. Jennifer at Scissors & Spatulas did this with her son’s Thomas the Tank Engine lunchbox.

chalk lunch box

Write a different note every day after you apply a little chalkboard paint to your child’s lunchbox.

For love notes on the go, download these printables from Jamey at Dabbles & Babbles.

love notes

Dabbles & Babbles has downloadable love notes on the go.

Of course, you can always jot something special on a piece of paper and stick it in your child’s lunchbox or write a note directly on a paper napkin. The message is what’s important! The fact that it’s pretty or cool is just a bonus.

#5: Get Sentimental

The best way to get your kids excited about the new school year is to start a back-to-school tradition.

Family Mementos

There are items you can make as a family to ease the transition and remind your little one of you.

Want something simple? Make pocket hearts to send with your child to school. It’s an easy craft and you’ll be in your child’s pocket as support all day.

pocket hearts

Make pocket hearts, so your kids can take you to school.

Tracey Stewart shares on Moomah the Magazine how to make a very special family necklace with your kids.

family necklace

Make a family necklace for your kids to look at if they get lonely throughout the day.

All you need is yarn, tags and family photos. This is something you can update every year, even when your child is too grown up to take it to school.

Family Traditions

There are many things you can do to start a new tradition as a family.

Take a first day of school photo every year. The Outlaw Mom has instructions for how to make a special sign to go with each grade’s picture. The first and final day of school interviews, below, can be tucked away in a special place to be cherished for years to come.

sign with picture

Take a special picture each year and make a sign to go with it.

Amy from Positively Splendid recommends you commemorate the milestones of each year by doing a fun interview the first and last days of school.

first and final day of school

Place kid interview questionnaires into a nice notebook, and add to it with new ones each year.

There are interview printables on the site from kindergarten to 12th grade. They include a place to document your child’s growth, as well as a photo for posterity. Make this even more fun by adding a self-portrait drawn by the child and some of his or her best stories and assignments from the school year.

An alternative to the interview is to make a time capsule with your child, as Michelle McInerney, MollyMoo, suggests. She provides ideas for items you can include and some important ‘favorite’ questions to ask. Note: You can also put those interview questions into the time capsule.

time capsule

Create a time capsule tradition to mark the first day of school.

Fill a small shoebox, old coffee jar, biscuit tin or container with mementos. When the time capsule is filled, decorate the outside with your child’s name, date and adornments like stickers, beads or pictures.

Create a time capsule for each child or make a combo for the whole family, including parents! Make and “hide” your time capsule at the beginning of the school year. Then look through it before the next year starts. See how much your child has grown and changed in the year.

Some Final Thoughts

However you commemorate the new school year, make it a special time for the whole family. Plan ahead and start some new traditions. That way, you’ll make a seamless transition into a successful new school year.

What do you think? How do you get ready for the new school year? What are your favorite back-to-school family traditions? We’d love to hear from you. Please share your comments or photos in the box below.

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About the Author, Jennifer Ballard

Jennifer Ballard is the associate editor for My Kids’ Adventures where her past experience as a Cubmaster, birthday party entrepreneur, marketing writer and mom of two boys fits together and finds relevance. Other posts by »


  • http://smartkids101.com/ Aubrey Hunt

    Love it. This is a great collection of ideas! I especially love the “homework before play” sign… that’s totally clever. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/kristinammerman/ KJ Ammerman

    I love the “before” and “after” questions. I just happened to interview my kids and some of the things they say are hilarious!

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Jennifer Ballard

    That’s true, KJ–you never know what’s going to pop out of their mouths. It’s fun to write them down so you can have a smile later.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Jennifer Ballard

    Thanks, Aubrey. I thought that was a really clever idea, too. It’s so hard for the kids to say “no” when their friends come knocking.

  • http://smartkids101.com/ Aubrey Hunt

    Right?! :)

  • http://www.fineartmom.com/ Crystal Foth

    Adorable ideas Jennifer! I love it. My favorite are love notes in the lunch box. I put a note in my daughter’s lunch every day.

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