Starting a new school year and gearing up for rigorous studies and hectic schedules can be anxiety-inducing for children and the entire family.

To ease the transition from summertime to school, experts and experienced parents recommend starting your own back-to-school traditions, creating excitement about the return to school.

These traditions are as easy as a special before-school meal, a memorable trip for school supplies, or reading a particular book before bedtime after the first day at school.

Dr. Suzanne Hales, a licensed professional counselor who founded Counseling and Consulting Associates of North Texas in McKinney, explains that “back-to-school traditions are rituals, and any shared ritual is an experience that grounds and strengthens families.They provide an overall sense of belonging and establish the building blocks of trust,” she says.

“Entering a new school, a new grade or having a new teacher can cause anxiety for a child, and having back-to-school traditions are an excellent way to help Children relieve stress while celebrating the time of year and having fun at the same time,” Hales says.

Commemorating the return to school allows children to get excited and motivated for the new school year. If you’re considering creating traditions for your family, read on to learn simple, inexpensive ideas and activities.

Fun First-Day-of-School Festivities

Mindy Harper of McKinney wanted to establish some fun school traditions with her two sons as they began their school years, so she began creating a special breakfast on the first day of school.

“My kids are carbohydrate freaks, so we bake and freeze waffles the weekend before the first day of school,” Harper says. “On the big morning, we defrost the waffles and then go to town, really getting outrageous with our toppings, including the syrup, sprinkles, chocolate chips, maybe some fruit and, of course, whipped cream.”

She laughs and continues, “Of course, we make a gigantic mess right before school, but my kiddos love it! We started it when my oldest son was going into first grade, and my kids are always very excited about it.”

Harper also kicks the year off by purchasing a grade-appropriate book for each of her children. “When my son was entering kindergarten, I surprised him by purchasing ‘Sammy the Seal’ by Dan Hoff, tying the book thematically with the grade level,” she says. “He returned home, and we read it that night before bed.

“We’ve continued the tradition each year, and I enjoyed building a small, personal library for each of them,” Harper says. “It’s also been fun reminiscing at books from years’ past.”

Other first-day traditions include taking a photograph of your kids in the same spot each year before the new school year and indulging in fun, festive after-school snacks while recalling the happenings and goings-on of the big day.

Blessing of the Backpacks

Area churches have their own traditions to mark the important milestone as well.

At Trinity Presbyterian Church in McKinney, for example, a special “blessing of the backpacks” is held every year on the Sunday immediately before school starts.

Holly Baker, a former teacher and the current Children’s Ministry Director at Trinity, says the tradition began because the beginning of school is so important for both children and parents.

“The Sunday before McKinney ISD starts, we invite all ages of children, from preschool to college, to come forward and hear a special message,” Baker says.

“We then distribute special laminated Bible verses for each person to place on their backpacks, lunch bags, messenger bags – whatever they wish," she says. "This happens in front of the entire congregation, and this past year, we had almost 175 participants. It’s a very special day for all of us.”

McKinney Area Leaps Into Learning

Public and private schools throughout the McKinney area promote back-to-school excitement with special events in the days leading up to the start of school.

At Baker Elementary, a Prosper ISD school in McKinney, students leap into the new school year with a host of fun activities to rally the children and their parents for an enjoyable year of learning.

Jen Sanchez, co-president with Debra Smith of the Parent Teacher Organization, says that at Baker Elementary, “we are all about how to make school fun for kids while accomplishing their academic goals, so we plan a huge number of activities and events throughout the year.”

The school year kicks off with “Pops and Flops,” an activity designed for the kids to meet their teacher and have some fun with the principal.

“Kids are allowed to wear flip flops and they all congregate around our rock star principal with popsicles,” Sanchez says. “This event truly helps take away the mystery and stress kids might be feeling the first day of school. Everyone really looks forward to it!”

Baker, like many North Texas schools, designs lively activities all year long to fuel kids’ enthusiasm and school spirit.

The ongoing events are organized by PTO volunteers and school staff – and families are encouraged to take part in the activities to stay connected to the school and send children the message that education is important.

“It’s our job to be the cheerleaders of the school, being consistent, reliable and supportive,” Sanchez says of the PTO. “Baker is a team environment, And truly, our kids and staff work so very hard. We really like to reward them with regular opportunities to have fun and feel appreciated.”

Gifts for Teachers

Another fun back-to-school tradition encourages children to thank their teachers on the first day, starting the year off positively and with gratitude.

“I have several friends who are teachers, and they tell me going back to school can be hard for them as well, so I like to make sure the teachers know how thankful we are for them,” says Harper, a creative mom and interior designer.

“I format custom note cards for each teacher, and they always love it," Harper says. "They usually send a thank you note home with my son that very day. It definitely starts the year off right.”

Whatever the tradition, back-to-school rituals help calm children’s nerves, excite their spirits and provide opportunities for gratitude, ensuring they value the importance of education and remain excited about school all year long.


About the author: Carolyn Cameron is a local marketer and frequent writer for McKinney Magazine. She is always learning, whether it’s through her three boys (twins entering sixth and a son in fourth grade) or through the inspirations and experiences of life.