Simple & Easy Back to School Traditions

Simple, cheap & easy back to school traditions that you can throw together in a pinch.

School is starting in just a few short weeks… can you believe summer is about OVER? I'm thinking through my little back to school traditions and wanted to share them with you, in case you want to try them as well!

But first…a little soap box standing.

As I see all sorts of pomp and circumstance floating around the web this time of year, and many a mom eating ice cream out of the carton while scrolling through Pinterest and Facebook feeling like utter mother failures. I want to issue an important reminder! (and reality check):


You are enough! You are cool and fun and clever! You don't have to do anything for back to school, there is no law! And you certainly don't have to go crazy or spend much (or anything at all) to provide memories and traditions for your kids. I (sadly) have people tell me, “you're such a fun mom, I wish I was more like that.” It kills me every time because…well…I'm really not that unique. I didn't go to “fun school” or anything (well, I didn't graduate, anyway…). I guess I'm just forced to make things “fun” because I want to make memories (YOLO, after all), but also because the dollars aren't going to do it for me!

I've learned you could do something expensive or something free (or cheap) for your kids. Whether they love it or not isn't determined by the amount of MONEY you spent on it, but by the amount of ENERGY, THOUGHT, and EXCITEMENT that goes into it. It could be a plain paper bag, and if you're excited about it, your kid will be too.

That being said, here are a few things we like to do before school starts to get the kids really excited for the first day, and creating memories at the same time.

First up is my favorite…

First day of school “watch how they grow” photo:

simple back to school traditions that make you a cool mom (but don't break the bank)

The concept is simple…(and yes, I'm using pictures from the last two years to illustrate. You're not just seeing things.)

Every year on the 1st day of school my kids will wear the same shirt. The final picture will be of them wearing the shirt on their graduation day. My plan is to have a big photo wall for each of my kids, and hang the pictures in order so we can see the progression over the next 15 years! Aaaawwww…

simple back to school traditions that make you a cool mom (but don't break the bank)

All I did was buy a $4 plain T-Shirt (size L…I have no idea how big he will be) from Joann Fabrics. I used a 40% off coupon. I bought some iron-on transfers from Walmart. I simply printed the text in Word, printed it on my computer, ironed it on, and good to go! Super easy. Super fun. Super proud of myself because I normally do nothing like this. Fist bump.

Can I get a holla'!

Super easy back-to-school tradition! Take a photo of your child wearing the same shirt on the first day of school every year, ending with their graduation day. From

And then, of course, we will take the ever-so-popular:

Typical first day of school pic:

Super easy back-to-school tradition! Take a photo of your child wearing the same shirt on the first day of school every year, ending with their graduation day. From

Er…did I say typical? Well, you know what I mean.

Next tradition:

Father's Blessing:

(I don't have a picture for this, doh!) Each year, the night before school we all gather as a family and Bubba says a blessing (or, individual prayer) about/to each child who is headed to school. He speaks from the heart and what we believe to be inspiration from God and gives them blessings for the year – courage, strength to overcome hard things, the ability to make friends, whatever comes to his heart. It's really sweet. We record it and the kids are able to play back the blessing throughout the year if they have a hard time, or need to remember how much God (and their daddy) loves them.

In our church there is a formal protocol to how this is done, but you could take the concept and make it your own!

Back to School Breakfast Table:

simple back to school traditions that make you a cool mom (but don't break the bank)

Again, this started as a last-minute thought but is now a tradition! At midnight the night before the first day of school I frantically ran around my house, scrounging up celebratory-eque items. I put down some fun fabric (makeshift table cloth), confetti/tinsel, stale parade candy from July, and I quickly made a sign on the computer that I taped to a picture frame because I was too lazy to take the picture out. I propped their shirts and bags at the table, blew up some balloons and hung some streamers I had in my party bin and BAM! Fun breakfast table! To me it “wasn't much”, but to them it started the day off on the right foot.

The last little tradition we do is:

Welcome Back Bags:

simple back to school traditions that make you a cool mom (but don't break the bank)

This came about really by accident last year (because I had to run to the store because my son literally had no shoes without holes, and I didn't know my daughter needed a school uniform…#momfail), but I plan to do it again, it was so fun!

While the kids are in school I have a special outing with the little kids who AREN'T in school yet (and are sad that the big kids are having all the fun). We head to the Dollar Store or Target dollar bins and pick out some trinkets and goodies for the kids, and some for the non-schooled children too, of course. We put them in a gift bag on the decorated table as a  “welcome home from school!” surprise. Last year we bought lots of things because the Dollar Spot was only $0.33 instead of $1 that day, but otherwise I'd probably only pick out 3 things per kid (or so).

Fancy? No. Necessary? No. But is it a fun way to get your kids excited about getting back to school? Absolutely!

Be sure to check out my Back to School Pinterest Board for TONS of additional ideas (including teacher gift ideas!)

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  1. Hey Jordan,

    I think this little tradition would be really fun to do for each first day of school. My little girl starts kindergarten this year so maybe this will fun to start up with her. Maybe it’ll help her get excited about school and not so nerve racking like it feels every year. Thanks for sharing this, Jordan.

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