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7 Back-to-School Rituals to Keep This Year

A mother and daughter sharing breakfast in a sunny kitchen, talking about the plan for the day.
PR Image Factory/Shutterstock

Back-to-school time is imminent for everyone from kindergarteners to college students. However, for most, this school year looks very different from any other. These simple rituals can help make the first day of school in 2020 feel normal—and even fun.

Every year, the back-to-school season brings a sense of excitement, possibility, and change. New friends, new supplies, and new clothes make the challenges of learning more approachable.

However, with most of this year’s learning happening at home, it might be hard to capture that new-school-year thrill.

Whether you’re a student returning to college, or a parent of school-age kids, these rituals will help make this challenging school year something to look forward to.

Pick a First-Day-of-School Outfit

When school is conducted remotely, it’s hard to convince yourself (or your kid) to change out of your pajamas for the first day. However, putting on a favorite outfit can help set a positive mindset for the start of the school year.

Even if you don’t buy anything new, spend some time in your closet and pick out clothes that make you feel confident and comfortable. If you have kids, let them experience the joy of deciding what to wear on their first day. After all, even if they pick something wacky, no one outside the house is going to see it!

Sure, you won’t be strapping on shoes and heading off to the school itself. But selecting a first-day outfit will help you capture some of that classic back-to-school magic. Don’t forget to snap a picture, too!

Make After-School Plans with Classmates

Scheduling a video chat with friends and classmates after the school day ends will provide the perfect opportunity to show off that outfit! Plus, it gives you or your kids something to look forward to.

If anyone is facing school-related fears or challenges, it’s likely some friends around the same age are, too. Take some time in the afternoon or evening to connect and chat about how the first day went. It won’t be quite the same as seeing each other at the lunch table, but it’ll be close.

Buy New School Supplies

A new school year calls for new stuff! Even if you just need the basics, like pens and notebooks, make it fun.

Shop for school supplies in your (or your kid’s) favorite colors. Splurge on some fun highlighters or that new tech item you’ve been eyeing.

Personalized items, like a planner with your child’s name on it, can really make school shopping feel special.

Set Up Personal Desks

A young girl sitting at a small desk in her bedroom, talking to her teacher by video conference.
Aleksandra Suzi/Shutterstock

In classrooms and college dorms, the desk area is crucial. It’s a personalized, individual space students can set up any way they want.

At home, you can capture this same feeling. Make sure each person has her own desk space and free rein to decorate it and make it her own.

You can use desktop shelves or drawer organizers to keep things tidy, so everything necessary for the day is within reach.

Pack a Backpack

Even if no one’s actually going to school, a trusty backpack is a great way to keep books, supplies, and papers organized. Consider either keeping last year’s backpacks, or even buying new ones for a boost of school-supply excitement. Backpacks also neatly keep school stuff out of sight (and out of mind) during weekends and holidays.

A backpack or laptop bag is also a great way to teach your child the “put it away for the day” technique of separating work time from personal time.

We’re pretty confident most kids will have no problem joyfully ending the school day to play. Still, clearing off their desks and putting school supplies in their bags will make room for fun activities.

Eat a Healthy Breakfast

Many mornings, breakfast might be a rushed and hectic affair. However, on the first day of school, it’s nice to make the time for a proper, healthy breakfast. Plus, with no commute necessary to get to school, finding the time should be a bit easier this year. In fact, this might open the door to a totally new morning routine.

You can prep your ingredients and make a breakfast plan ahead of time, so whipping it up the morning-of will be simple. With a complete meal beforehand, tackling that first day back at school will be a little easier.

Prepare Beloved Snacks

While breakfast and lunch are both important, midday snacks can also help you maintain energy and focus. Snack time is also part of the school routine for small children, so having a structured time for it will bring a sense of familiarity to the day.

The good news is, at home, you’re not limited to whatever’s in the vending machines or at the campus stores. Make a grocery run or online order ahead of time and pick up a few favorite snacks for everyone in your home. You can even make healthy snacks at home to get ready for the first week of school.


In 2020, normalcy might feel like a distant memory, especially when it comes to navigating the school year. However, these simple, fun rituals will help you keep the best parts of the back-to-school season alive!

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a freelance and creative writer from the Pacific Northwest, and an MFA student at the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop. She specializes in lifestyle writing and creative nonfiction. Read Full Bio »

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