The start of the school year is almost upon us, and the first day back is an important milestone to mark. I’ve collected seven simple first day of school ideas to capture all the joys of your kid's first day, because they’re only little once. Whether your child is staring first grade or Freshman year, it's never too late to start!
Interview your child.
One especially clever and sentimental Washington dad had the foresight to interview his daughter on the first day of school each year, eventually turning it into a sweet montage in time for her high school graduation. The beauty of this idea is that it didn’t require finding extra time on the morning of the first day of school, because he interviewed her after she had had her first day of school for the year. Make sure to ask about their day while it is still fresh in their mind, so you get clear answers that will edit together well over a decade from now!
Create or buy a personalized sign.
Personalized signs make for a sweet way to mark the back-to-school occasion, and you can easily make your own with a little chalkboard or letter board. I happen to have a piece of plywood painted with chalkboard paint that I could dig out at the last minute, but you could easily use a little whiteboard or even a piece of paper or cardboard. Alternatively, you could order a pretty chalkboard sign that you can fill in every year. While it may seem like a cute photo to post on social media, it might be better to share this photo with just friends and family, as the picture could contain details about your kid that you may not want to share widely.
Ask the same question.
One of the cutest things to keep track of as your child grows through school years is how their answers to the same question might change. For instance, every year on the first day of school consider asking your little ones what they want to be when they grow up. You can put the answer on a letter board, or simply buy a little notebook or scrapbook to keep those answers safe until the next year.
Take a photo at the same spot.
If you have terrible handwriting or always seem to forget to buy chalk, you could try taking a photo of your kid in the same setting or spot at the beginning of each school year. The front door is an obvious and simple choice, but you could also have them stand next to a tree in your front yard — and watch as the tree grows alongside your child over the years.
Send an email to your child.
I’d love to think that I could edit video interviews into a sweet montage by the time my child graduates, but if history is any indication, my use of technology will still probably be limited. I do, however, have a way with words, so I like to email my kids a letter on special occasions each year. My kids are too young for email addresses just yet, so I email them to myself and pop them into a folder with their names on them, so that I can forward them or even print them years from now. You could easily make this a back-to-school tradition, and capture your child’s likes and dislikes when they enter the next grade.
Skip the sign and chalk the ground.
If you have a reasonably clean driveway or patio, make your kid lie down for a horizontal photo shoot (like this). Your kindergartner will probably agree to participate in this type of commemoration of their first day of school, but how funny will it be when they’re 17 and that’s your annual tradition!?
Snap a pic of their school journey.
There’s something so nostalgic about looking back at photos of myself about to board the bright yellow school bus for the first day of a new school year. Your kids might not be taking a bus, maybe they are walking or catching a ride with a friend. No matter what the journey looks like, it'll be good to look back on it in later years and remember.
Have a special snack waiting
When your child gets home from their first day of school they are likely to be hungry. That first long day back can be exhausting, and they will be more than ready for a snack when they walk through the door. You could also snap a picture of them enjoying their snack and have a before-and-after their first day of school pictures to compare. Bonus - you might be able to get an answer beyond "fine" if you ask about their first while they are chowing down on their favorite snack.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2019 and updated in August 2023.