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No matter how much we moms and dads are ready (excited really!) for our children to go back to school, the transition from carefree summer days to structured lessons, homework, and getting up early every morning, may not be such a welcome one for the kids.

What better way to get them in the spirit for heading back to the classroom, and excited about seeing their friends again, than to throw a little celebration?

You can also feel good about this party as you coordinate an effort to fill backpacks for kids in need, all the while providing a little “lesson” about doing good and giving-back.

Invites:

  • Be sure to include instructions for your guests about the “backpack give back”. Ask each guest to bring one new (or gently used) backpack and assign them each one school supply item to donate in multiples of the number of guests you have. For example, if you have ten guests coming, have one guest bring ten boxes of crayons, another bring ten rulers, and yet another bring ten packs of glue sticks, and so on.
  • Write your party details on a paper lunch sack. Place a red apple or home-baked cookies inside and hand-deliver.
  • Or write your invitation out on 4”x6” lined notecards and attach to rulers with colorful ribbon.
  • Mini chalkboards with a chalk-written invite would also be fun.

Décor:

  • Choose primary colors (red, yellow and blue) as a visual theme for your party. For older kids, use the school spirit colors for your décor.
  • Fill a big bowl with shiny red apples and place in the center of the table.
  • Use traditional classroom items and cluster them around the party space – piles of books, vases of rulers, globes, crayons, and composition books all work nicely to set the tone.
  • Maps hung on the walls can be a fun way to get the kids back in study mode as they locate their town, or maybe share the various places they have been over summer break.
  • Taped together, maps also work great as table coverings. Or roll out butcher paper onto your tables (use black butcher paper for a chalk-board look.) Sprinkle with crayons, chalk or markers for drawing.

Activities:

  • Fill back packs assembly-line style. Include the kids in this activity and don’t forget to assign someone to take the finished products to a local donation collection site. This might be a fun “field trip” for the younger kids, or maybe high-schoolers can earn service hours for this project.
  • Purchase inexpensive, re-usable vinyl or cloth lunch sacks and have the kids personalize them – put out permanent markers, stickers, feathers, gems, fabric paint, and stamps for decorating.
  • Set up school yard themed games such as four square, dodgeball and Simon says.
  • For older middle school or high school aged kids, make it an evening party and play movies on an outdoor screen. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Grease, Napoleon Dynamite, or one of the Harry Potter films would all be great choices.

Food:

  • Set up a buffet cafeteria style and serve a school lunch menu – chicken nuggets, pizza, sandwich rolls, or salad bar. Look for colorful lunch mess-trays at the dollar store.
  • Or line up individually packed lunches in paper lunch bags. Fill with sandwiches – cut out in fun fall-themed cookie-cutter shapes like leaves, school busses and apples – add some chips, a juice box and fruit leather.
  • Set out big bowls of alphabet cookies or animal crackers for dessert. Or serve up homemade apple cake. Here’s my recipe for apple cake they will love!
  • To eke out a little last bit of summer fun atmosphere, set up blankets on the lawn for picnic-style dining.

Favors:

  • Send kids home with their decorated re-usable lunch sacks stuffed with an apple from the table and (to give them a head start in filling their own backpacks) any extra school supplies you used for décor.
  • For mom (or dad) – a first day of school emergency kit. Fill a brown lunch sack with bag of tea, a small scented candle, a chocolate treat and a hand-written note from their child expressing one thing they love about their parent(s). Don’t forget to toss in an individual pack of tissues! ;-)
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