Whatever their age or stage, help your kids get back into the rhythm of a new year of learning as a family with these simple and fun activities teachers love to do on the first day of school.

By Fiona Tapp
July 21, 2020
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On the first day of school, teachers of all grades usually kick things off with special games, crafts, or activities to ensure that kids go home pumped about being back in the classroom. Even though the classroom part will be missing for many students returning to school this year, there are still plenty of ways to get kids excited about a return to structured learning after summer break.

Many first-day-of-school activities teachers swear by work just as well for home schooled kids or to supplement what's being done in a classroom. From making a time capsule to setting goals, here are some fun ideas for every grade that parents can do at home for a memorable day no matter where the learning will be starting.

Kindergarten

Read together. Much of the first day of kindergarten is spent getting children comfortable in a new environment. The youngest learners in school need to feel welcomed in a warm and friendly space with lots of opportunities to play and get to know new friends. At home, it's important to chat with your child about any worries they may have and to present school as an exciting and fun adventure. Be sure to read lots of stories about the first day of school and carefully explain the schedule of the day, especially if it differs from their home or preschool daily activities.

Practice conversation starters. Have your little one practice introducing themselves to make meeting new friends a little easier. They should practice saying their name and age clearly as well as some other conversation starters such as "Do you want to play?" or "What's your favorite color?"

First Grade

Write the "class" rules. On the first day of school in first grade, many teachers like to get children involved in writing the class rules. This helps to give kids ownership and a sense of responsibility for their new learning space and gels the class together as a group. You can help at home by talking about some of your house rules and why they matter.

Make a name tag. Writing and recognizing their own name is an important first-grade skill. Kids will need to find their name on their work, cubby, and on lists for teams and groups. Practice at home by helping them to make and decorate a name card for their backpack or even their bedroom door. Make it bright and colorful and even break out the glitter if you dare!

Second Grade

Make an "All About Me" book. Children of this age are just beginning to consider the needs of others and are still pretty egocentric in their outlook. Teachers often use this self-interest to help them to connect with others through shared hobbies and by developing their conversation skills. You can help at home by having them complete an "all about me" activity. They can make a mini flip book describing their interests, their favorite things, their family, and what makes them happy. They can share their books in a video call with friends or present them in class.

Draw a self-portrait. Artistic kids might also like to try their hand at a self-portrait, provide them with art supplies, and a mirror to interpret their likeness. Children can sometimes be very self-critical of their talents so be sure to share lots of self-portrait examples especially those that are not based on realism. Picasso's portraits are especially well received by kids.

Third Grade

Snap a picture or make a video. Lots of parents like to take photographs on the first and last day of school to commemorate the year. Look back on past September photo shoots with your child and talk about how much they have changed. Techy third graders might like to try a new spin on this old tradition by creating a mini video, a stop motion animation, or a TikTok dance to immortalize their first day of third grade.

Get into a new groove early. To get kids excited about the school year ahead and to ease those first few early morning starts begin your new school routine at least a week before school starts. Get kids up, dressed, prepare breakfast and lunches, and then give them a few brainteasers, quizzes, or challenges to get their brains working after the lazy days of summer.

Fourth Grade

Create a time capsule. A popular back to school activity is creating a time capsule. You can copy this idea at home by helping your child to gather together a variety of items that represent them and their interests right now. Include a sample of writing, a drawing, perhaps a small toy, and the answers to some simple questions like what their favorite TV show or musician is. You can open the time capsule on the last day of school and see how far they have come.

Fifth Grade

Share with your teacher. You can help a shy or introverted child to connect with their new teacher by helping them to write a "Things I Want My Teacher To Know" card. They can write down their interests, important things about their home life, or their aspirations to bond with their new teacher in a low-stress way.

Middle School

Upgrade their gear and look. Back to school shopping is a special part of returning to school after the long summer break. Kids who are beginning to discover their unique personalities often use new clothes, accessories, stationery and a backpack to communicate their individual style. Help your big kid to get excited about this stage of their life with a new haircut or clothing style or simply help them express themselves with a new pencil case or pair of shoes.

You can also get crafty together by personalizing their new gear with name tags, embellishments or even getting messy with tie-dye or fabric paints!

High School

Set SMART goals. Goal setting is hugely popular with high school teachers because teenagers develop, mature and change so much in one year. It's an excellent opportunity to really focus their efforts on exactly what they hope to achieve in different areas during the school year.

Help at home by encouraging your teen to set SMART goals for the year ahead. They must be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-based

Make a resolution. Older students can also start to be more self-reflective about their academic record and their past behavior. Encourage them to use this time to make new (school) year resolutions, making promises to themselves about the things they might wish to change and the good habits they want to implement.

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