Back to school was a big deal for my oldest this year; he changed schools, had to ride the bus for the first time and has a whole new style of learning to get used to. I took the opportunity to celebrate his first day success with a little extra fun. Any excuse to make special family moments with our simple party formula!
So, it all began…
…back when big brother turned three. We’d been in Italy a couple of weeks and knew next to no one, when he turned four we’d been in America just a matter of days. At that age he’d been to enough birthday parties to wonder how he was going to celebrate and I felt sad that he was missing out on sharing his special days with his extended family and friends. I decided that we’d celebrate regardless, with all of the trimmings, even if there was just his mom and dad to sing Happy Birthday and eat cake.
The ‘Party for Three’, now ‘Party for Four’, was born.
Birthdays in our house now always involve a full on birthday dinner with themed decorations and cake even if there’s going to be a larger party afterwards. The birthday boy or girl gets to choose the menu and we all help with the preparation. The theme changes but the guest list is always the same! It’s a way to make each family member feel special – the little extra effort rather the size of the event or its price tag being the sign we care.
The same principle got extended to our first Christmas away from ‘home’. Tree, turkey and trimmings even if there was only three people to share it in an undecorated house. Next we adopted Thanksgiving – what else are you going to do on a day when everything is shut and everyone else is celebrating with their own families?
And these days we’ll use any excuse for a party!
Not that we need an excuse to celebrate big brother over coming his butterflies and making it home from his new school happy. Not to mention, as a Mum, I’m also celebrating the start of the school and the blessed arrival of a little time and space for me – even if it is only to vacuum with one less child following behind me!
So what did our “First Day of School Party” involve?
Brightening the Room on a Budget!
Little brother and I took a trip to Target’s Dollar Spot (I’m sure Dollar Tree and Pound Land have similar) and bought two sets of on theme gel clings and a selection of teacher class room decorations. I picked up flowers in a grocery store and was also talked into the balloons. Let’s face it, little brother is right, what is a party without balloons?
Using What You Have to Top Up the Table!
Whilst I cleaned down the table, I sent little brother to gather up school themed toys. He came back with his Melissa and Doug school bus (UK). Equally we could have used puzzle pieces, alphabet stickers, wooden numbers, a jumbo pen or crayon set in mason jars but I guess the morning’s adventure waving the neighborhood children off was still fresh in mind! I helped him find our mini chalkboard and colors. We then put everything out together. He loves to put up gel clings, they’d keep him busy day after day. Yes. I may have straightened things out a little while he was napping but he was so happy to have helped make something nice for brother.
Sometimes we grab a cheap, disposable table cloth to hide the ‘temporary’ table and to add more color or fun paper plates and cups but I am trying to avoid buying single use plastics or other items that we won’t get any further use from. Everything we decorated with for this party can be played with or used again which really adds to the fun and ease of the event.
Keeping the Food Simple
Dinner itself is best kept straight forward, it just needs to be what the family loves. Cheeseburgers are big brother’s current favorite and we’d made The Pioneer Women’s dipped s’mores together the day before. They didn’t look fancy by our hand but they certainly tasted good!
A pre-prepared menu meant I could spend time with the special guest right when he got home rather than losing an afternoon to the kitchen. This wasn’t a party about gourmet food or sophisticated décor, the idea is purely to add a little joy to the day. None of the preparations took more than an hour in total and the look of surprise on the returnee’s face was completely worth that effort. And of course, we had a great time sharing a fun family meal in the brightened room and talking about the school day…
How did you, or will, you be celebrating the start of school? I’d love to hear your special family traditions…