Back in June on the last day of school before summer break, my kids and I recapped the year while we were in the morning car line. We talked about the fun and not-so-fun moments and how much they’d grown and… Aw, man! I realized that I’d forgotten to mark their heights on the door trim back when the year started—one of our yearly school traditions, well, until now.
As the school years pass, there are things we can do with our kids not only to celebrate their growth but also to make memories, create teaching moments, and mark that unique point in time. I like to think of it as a school year bucket list that you repeat and enjoy in a different way as your kids get bigger. So here are 10 school traditions parents should try to do with their kids every year (and it’s never too late to start!).
1. Sign them out for lunch.
Ask the boss for an extended break and sign your son or daughter out for a special lunch with Mom. If you have more than one child and can take them for lunch on separate days, that’s even better. Your child will gladly forgo a smushed PB&J or cafeteria pizza for one-on-one time with you.
2. Go to a school sporting event or performance together.
Going to your school’s flag football game or theater production is a great way to boost school spirit, make friends, and have a fun night out together. If you know what school your child will be attending next, check out an event there to start to build excitement.
3. Talk about what they want to be when they grow up and do some research.
Your child’s career aspirations might go from garbage man to zookeeper to teacher to YouTuber to private detective. Record it every year and help your child learn what a day in the life of that profession would be like.
4. Celebrate their report cards.
My sons’ report cards come electronically and I have to say, it’s just not the same as the ones we got on paper. Taking my report cards to Burger King for a freebie was always one of my favorite school traditions as a kid. Now, we still should find something redeeming on their report cards—a C that was raised to a B, all A’s in conduct—and celebrate. There are only so many years when your kids get to show you a report card, so use it as a chance to recognize their hard work.
5. Record their favorites.
Each year take note of your kids’ favorite songs, TV shows, and books. This is a great way to record how their personalities have changed, recall pop culture, and embarrass your child. Remember when your favorite song was “Baby Shark?”
6. Read a book of their choice together.
Let them pick a book or two each school year and read with them. If you have teens, you could agree to read a chapter or two per week and then talk about it over coffee on a Sunday afternoon. It will be like your own personal mother-child book club!
7. Surprise them with a mental health day.
I was never allowed to miss school as a kid and I’ve carried that rigidity into parenthood. I don’t like the idea of my kids playing hooky when there are plenty of holidays and random days off. But even I have to admit that getting dressed for school and then turning the opposite direction to head to the beach, a theme park, or a day at the outlet mall would be totally awesome.
8. Volunteer or chaperone a school event.
COVID got in the way of this last year, but volunteering in the classroom or at an event like a fundraiser or a dance will make your kids feel like you’re invested in their school. As much as our kids say they’re embarrassed when we’re around their classmates, they secretly love that we care enough to show up.
As much as our kids say they’re embarrassed when we’re around their classmates, they secretly love that we care enough to show up.
9. Come up with a school year slogan.
Every day as my kids get out of the car, I kiss them on the forehead, look them in the eyes and say, “Be who you were created to be.” They finish the quote with, “And I’ll set the world on fire!” You and your kids can have a verse from scripture or a phrase that reinforces your love for them, your family identity, or a character trait you want to see grow in them.
10. Have a letter-writing session.
Take one afternoon each school year to write letters. Write one to each of your children reminding them what you love about them and how you’ve seen them grow over the past year. The kids write a letter to themselves to set goals and share what they love about being this age.
If your school has an All Pro Dad chapter, encourage your husband to attend at least one chapter meeting. It’s a great way for him to invest time in your kids and show them he loves them. Click here to find a chapter or learn how to start one at your child’s school.
What would you add to this school year bucket list? What school traditions do you have with your kids?