The end of summer comes with a host of emotions for parents and children: excitement, fear, stress and nerves. You worry about back-to-school shopping, new classmates and new routines.
It might sound counterintuitive, but throwing a back-to-school bash is one of the best ways for busy families to prepare for a new school year because it gets everyone to take a break and bask in the moment.
Throwing a back-to-school party is also a way to ease your kids’ anxieties about starting the school year. It shows change is something to be celebrated instead of feared. It marks the beginning of a new season.
Here’s how to throw the ultimate back-to-school bash.
1. Curate the guest list
When it comes to throwing the best back-to-school bash, the first step is determining whom to invite. However, guests lists can feel overwhelming. To keep it simple, start with the people who are physically close to you — your neighbors — and work your way out to play group members, family friends and classmates. Invite your friends too. Although the party is for the kids, it’s also important for you to relax, rejuvenate and hit the refresh button as you transition into a new season. Catching up with friends while the kids play is a way to do that.
Once you’ve determined the guest list, send the invitations. Keep things simple with electronic invites. Parents will appreciate the ease of being able to RSVP online and you can track who can attend.
2. Make a kid-friendly menu
Planning the menu can be one of the most stressful parts of hosting a party, but the back-to-school theme makes it easy. If you’re planning a daytime party, pack brown bag lunches with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the kids and encourage them to have a back-to-school picnic on blankets in the backyard. Add treats like cookies, chips and juice boxes to make it more exciting for the kids. For the parents, you can make brown bag lunches with sub sandwiches and mini bottles of wine.
If you’re throwing your party later in the evening, stick with barbecuing — hot dogs, hamburgers, veggie dogs, corn on the cob — for an easy and cost-effective menu. Make s’mores on the grill for dessert.
3. Keep the decorations simple
It’s tempting to spend hours scouring Pinterest for design inspiration, but kids won’t notice you bought dollar store balloons instead of making decorations by hand. Ditch the pressure from social media. Keep decorations simple and sweet with colorful balloons, a premade back-to-school banner, themed table cloths, bowls of apples and cups of new pencils. If you’re feeling crafty, try framing free back-to-school printables and placing them around the room.
4. Plan a handful of games
The key to throwing any kids party is to have a handful of organized games but to also leave time for free play. Kids are great at entertaining themselves when they’re with friends, so it’s important to not overdo it with activities. At the same time, you need one or two games up your sleeve in case there’s a lull in the festivities. One of the best and most inexpensive back-to-school party games is a school supply scavenger hunt. It’s similar to an Easter egg hunt, but instead of plastic eggs, kids search for erasers, pens, highlighters, sticky notes and folders. You can get creative with the items you include and where you hide them depending on the age group. Scavenger hunts are a great way to keep kids entertained and engaged. Another game for active kids is “Teacher Says.” It’s like Simon Says, but with a back-to-school twist.
5. Plan the perfect ending with party favors
No party is complete without party favors, but the cost of gifts can add up. The worst part is, a lot of goodies end up in the trash. Instead of assembling goodie bags, have the invitation ask every child to bring a fun back-to-school essential to the party. Set a $5 price limit for the parents and make sure the gifts are wrapped. As guests leave, they can choose a present to take home. There’s only one rule — you can’t select the gift you brought to the party. It’s a fun way to end the event and kids will love the element of surprise.