Back to School Rituals

Back to School Rituals

Next week, Toby and Anton are heading back to school. They are excited, but it’s also (of course) a little nervewracking. As Dr. Seuss put it, “How did it get so late so soon?” In these last days of vacation, we have a few family rituals to help ease them into the fall…

Avoiding stores. Needless to say, the shopping crush this time of year is no joke. So, we turn to the trusty Internet for as much as possible. In particular, our back-to-school supplies for breakfasts and packed lunches, as well as crayons, notebooks and pencils, come from Boxed, the awesome and affordable bulk delivery service. (See below for why we love shopping at Boxed).

It ain’t over ’til it’s over. Window displays are already Halloween-themed, but summer officially lasts until September 22nd. We try to soak up the end of the season by having picnic dinners at the park and letting the boys stay up later than usual (the best part of summer as a kid).

Scout out the playground. Lately, when I get home from work, the boys and I have been heading to the playground at Toby’s new school. That way, on the first day, he’ll hopefully feel comfortable in the space and know the drill at recess.

Easy haircuts. I used to put off each boy’s trim until the nanosecond before school started, but because of heightened emotions, it tended to end in tears. (Plus, it’s nice to have cuts grow out a little before the first day.) Now we schedule haircuts a week or so before.

Back-to-school books. At bedtime, we’ve been reading an old favorite, Berenstain Bears Go Back to School, and talking about how the brother and sister bears are both nervous and excited for the first day. (An emotion that Toby has dubbed, “Nerve-cited.”)

Celebratory cake. For each of the boys, we bring out a cake the night before the first day of school. When we turn out the lights and the boys blow out the candles, it always feels like the exact moment they’re finally ready for a new year.

Back to School Rituals

Bonus for all readers: As our partners for this post, Boxed is offering 20% off your first order, as well as free delivery, with the code CUPOFJO, good until September 30th. (Maximum discount $50.) A few things we love about Boxed:

  • Boxed has a huge inventory, which includes our go-to grocery brands as well as their own great line of household goods, Prince & Spring. (Much of it is available in bulk sizes, too, if you like, so you won’t run out as often.)
  • It’s incredibly convenient to shop online (or from their app). That way, you don’t have to lug bags home or battle lines in stores.
  • Fast delivery: Most orders arrive within one or two days. And shipping is free on most orders.
  • Because of the wholesale prices, we save money every time we use Boxed. Also, unlike other wholesale stores, there’s no membership fee.

Back to School Rituals

Stocking up the pantry with our back-to-school haul from Boxed.

Back to School Rituals

Of course, the boys also love to play with the giant delivery box itself.

Back to School Rituals

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Anton was a bunny sleeping in the box (I brought him pretend carrots).

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Thank you so much, Boxed!

P.S. An ode to rituals.

(Photos by Ana Schechter for Cup of Jo. This post is sponsored by Boxed, a great start-up that makes life easier.)

  1. When I was 7 and on the way to the hospital to have my adenoids removed, I told my mom I was nervous and excited. She told me the word for that feeling is “anxious.” I think of that when I’m feeling anxious from time to time and it makes me smile :-)

  2. Completely unrelated, (although Bunny Anton is super kuwaii!), do you remember who made/ where you got the awesome mustachioed face mug from (showing in your pantry photo)? It’s the greatest!

  3. Deborah Smith says...

    I tried to send this before but my phone battery died, and I’m not sure it if went through. If this is a repeat, I apologize! Here goes: My youngest starts a new school this week. The fact that he is 23 makes it easier than when he got on the Kindergarten bus, but it is still bittersweet. He is spending a year in Berlin, perfecting his language skills and working on his graduate studies in literature and philosophy. It was comforting that some of the back-to-school rituals – buying new jeans and underwear, getting a haircut, seeing the dentist – were the same. These activities eased the anxiety about the unknown. Plus, I was a participant in his plans by filling his suitcase with freshly ironed shirts. My advice to parents who are feeling anxious about sending their children off to new experiences: They will be fine, especially if you let let them know you will be waiting to hear about their adventures when they get home. That is the best ritual.

  4. Kelly says...

    For my Canadian friends I love well.ca free shipping over $25

    • Amy says...

      Agreed, although it’s now free shipping over $29 :) Sometimes the prices at Amazon.ca are better; sometimes Well.ca.

  5. Cynthia says...

    My girls loved big boxes when they were little. We’re remodeling the upstairs bathroom, and seeing the bathtub box brought back memories. They’d play with those big boxes outdoors until they disintegrated. The back to school cake is a good idea!

  6. Goodness, I was such a nerd about back to school every year when I was young. I would pore over the September issue of Seventeen, put on a different face mask every night, and set the alarm for 6 for the entire week prior just to get accustomed to waking up early.

  7. Gillian says...

    Happy back to school!!
    Where is that blanket from? I love it!

  8. Tamsin says...

    My baby Hattie starts nursery next week,, she will be 9 months old, so small but also such a big, cute, crawling little ball of mischief. We have bought her a doll as a starting-nursery gift. Fingers crossed my little pickle settles in fast and that your boys get stuck in to the next year of school quickly too! xoxoxo

  9. Lauren E. says...

    I remember being flat out terrified to go to school on the first day of kindergarten. And I think over the years my anxiety lessened only slightly! Would I find my classrooms? Would I be able to open my locker? What if I didn’t know anyone in my lunch period? To this day I have anxiety dreams where I can’t find my homeroom or I realize it’s the day of the final and I haven’t been to a single class all semester.

    So glad Toby is nerve-cited! This gal was just plain nervous :)

  10. oh my god, nerve-cited (heart eyes, heart eyes, heart eyes for Toby)
    :)

  11. Sasha says...

    I love the cake to celebrate back to school. I love a cake to celebrate anything.

    When my girls were small we celebrated loads of obscure holidays, just because it’s fun (st Nicholas day, may day, old befana day). And we even made up one, half birthdays. On a person’s half birthday (6 months after birthday), we’d have a little party, where she got to give the presents (like an UN-birthday, or opposite), and we’d have a treat, which couldn’t be cake. Silly, but these little rituals are what makes every family special, and such happy memories.

  12. I am in love with the idea of starting a back to school ritual involving cake. But then again, I’ll go ahead and accept any ritual involving cake.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha same.

    • Sasha says...

      Yes!!!

  13. shopgirl says...

    So sweet, and such easy, simple advices!
    Happy beginning of the school!

  14. Clara says...

    I say this every time but I cannot handle how cute Anton is!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      aww, thank you!

  15. Lovely post. It made me want to have kids sooner :)

  16. Jessica says...

    I love Toby’s term “nerve-cited!” That applies to so many situations in life – even as an adult. Smart guy! :)

  17. Elizabeth Spence says...

    I actually purchased shoe measuring boards so I can avoid even shoes stores with kids ?

  18. Le Smurf says...

    Long time reader, not married and I don’t have kids or any of these school rituals etc, (someday maybe) but I CAN’T COPE with the cuteness of your kiddos. Nerve-cited! Good god!
    How sweet they are, you are a lucky lady Joanna and if you don’t mind me saying, your husband is a FOX! :)
    Xo

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      awww thank you! hahaha so nice of you :)

  19. You have amazing photos, what camera do you use? :)

  20. Your son is so cute. When he grows up he very handsome

  21. The PTA at my kid’s middle school has a great service: they get the list of supplies from each teacher and you can order it all through them, far cheaper than in the stores. Plus you get the right thing. You just show up on the day the PTA gets its delivery, and pick it up.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is a BRILLIANT idea. i always wonder why each parent is battling the stores getting one pack of pencils, two green folders, one box of zip lock bags, etc….. it seems so inefficient!

    • Trish O says...

      Our PTO does this too. There are companies that help. Yes, it works well, but none of the joy I had as a child picking out school supplies. I miss that. It was such fun.

    • Amy says...

      Yup, our PAC partners with a local office supply store to offer this. Because they’re giving the store so much business, the store kicks back $3 from each order to the PAC (and I’m pretty sure it saves me money on top of a whole lot of time hunting down the right size of glue stick!!).

  22. Lisa says...

    I buy everything on Amazon and have only heard of Boxed on your site. How is it different/better? Or convince me to switch:)

    • Rachel says...

      Hi Lisa. I usually use Amazon too, but I just checked out Boxed and found some good deals in the clearance section. Plus 20% off?? And they don’t charge tax? I gave it a try. I got several big orders of things I know we’ll use (freezer bags, a spice we use frequently, etc.) I don’t know if I’ll ever use them again (especially if shipping is expensive since I’m a Prime member), but I saved $12 this once, so why not! Maybe they’re better for finding things on sale?

  23. Liz says...

    Dear Toby, I am often nerve cited but didn’t know there was a word for that feeling. You are a magnificent wordsmith. Good luck in school this year.

  24. Brianna says...

    Lucky kiddos! I don’t remember having any sort of back to school tradition, except my mom taking a million first day of school photos (and she made me take a photo right up through grad school). I’m not having kids but if I were, I’d definitely be planning fun traditions to make the transition easier.

  25. Lorraine says...

    Waaay back in the day, our back to school ritual was “ice cream lunch.” Our two kids could eat all the ice cream they could handle, provided they ordered one thing at a time, ie banana split followed by chocolate fudge sundae etc. didn’t take long before they needed some fries to alternate with the sweet, but they remember it to this day and they are nothin their forties!

    • Lena says...

      Love that!

  26. Susan M. says...

    Love this! Anton as bunny in box! Your cake idea is so good. We also celebrate random times through the school year — such as this Friday, we’ll probably have cupcakes to celebrate the beginning of the long weekend. We’re loving 2 back to school books: School’s First Day of School and The Day My Mom Came to Kindergarten. These books read during these first days of back to school (in Florida school started a while ago already) are deflating the nerves a little. Side note: I can’t remember using any kind of backpack when I was in preschool and early elementary. We just carried a lunch bag or box. Now there is all this gear! Or is it just me, or bc I’m Canadian? :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thanks for these book recs!

      for kindergarten, toby had a “communication folder,” where we could write notes to his teacher, and he had homework/poetry/etc folders. i totally wasn’t into homework for five year olds, but luckily he didn’t seem to mind it :)

  27. Sarah says...

    I may or may not have become WEEPY when I read ‘(An emotion that Toby has dubbed, “Nerve-cited.)’- how is it possible that he’s grown up enough to make such a funny portmanteau? Wasn’t he just two years old and playing with his wooden cars?? I don’t know you at all but I feel like such a part of your family, and I don’t want them to grow up so fast! Oh, Toby!

    • Meghan says...

      Agree! Wasn’t Toby brand new like a minute ago?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, you guys are making me tear up. :)

  28. Trish says...

    Does anyone know if there is a service like this available in Canada?

    • Dalia says...

      Well.ca

    • Anna says...

      Seconding well.ca. We just recently started using it and it has made life so much easier. They have a really impressive inventory and you can sign up to have certain things delivered monthly.

    • lily says...

      Coming down to ask this. Thank you! Checking out well.ca now

  29. Playground visits idea – Great idea?! (You sure have some cutie kiddos there!)

  30. Danielle K says...

    We joined Boxed after one of your previous posts and have never looked back. Boxed is the BEST! Total life saver. Thank you!

  31. Annelise says...

    These rituals are so sweet- I don’t have any children but am always taking notes for the future from your posts.

    • Karen says...

      I thought I was the only one, haha!!

  32. I loved the Bernstein bears as a kid and I remember reading that exact book. Nothing made we feel better quite like new school supplies tucked into my brand new backpack though. ? ?

  33. Anna says...

    Anton’s shirt is adorable!

  34. Angela says...

    We always have a celebratory dinner after the first day of School – I usually make some special dessert too! Celebrating the success of the first day! When it was Kindergarten the kids got to pick the menu – whatever they wanted to eat and have for dessert too ! Now that they are all in school, I pick crowd pleasers! Fun tradition !

    • catalina says...

      Angela, here’s what happened when I suggested a celebration to mark the end of the 1st day at school: my 14 1/2year-old son looked at me (he’s mostly still adorable, sweet and fun, but still a teenager) and told me flatly that “back to school” wasn’t something to celebrate!!
      I’ll still make a chocolate cake and I bet he’ll eat it anyway, :)!

    • Trish O says...

      Catalina,

      My 14 1/2 year old son told me the same thing. He also said NO to me posting pictures of him on Facebook etc as he wants to control his own social media. So no first day of high school pictures up from me.

  35. Sara says...

    I really, really hope you read this…..
    I really hope you check out “the kissing hand”
    Children’s book. It’s a must for the night before school (and a few days before and after)
    Also, my kids get a new pair of pjs after the first day of school that I picked out special for them. They look forward to it and run into the house to see. They usually put them on and lounge and tell me all about the first day.

    • Sara says...

      We also have a set of books we read each summer. One that I think u would especially love is “the sea serpent and me”

    • Leslie says...

      Really fun idea! My kids don’t like cake but love jammies and I never buy them.. We are sleep in underwear and t shirt people so this would be a perfect excuse to get them the fun pjs they want! Plus when the pajama day at school rolls around I won’t have to scramble they will already be good to go. Thanks so much

    • MissEm says...

      I love the pjs idea!

    • Jessica says...

      We love The Kissing Hand too!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      love this, thank you!!!

  36. Elisabeth says...

    Nerve-cited! It makes perfect sense — hope Toby doesn’t mind if I steal it. (I’m a therapist.)

  37. This sounds like such a great idea! Back to school shopping can be so so stressful! Especially when I have 2 littles running around making shopping trips a game of “where did your sister go?!?”

    xoxo http://www.tochofcurl.com

    • Char says...

      This is hilarious. My husband and I (and literally anyone I have ever asked) also remember it being Berenstein not Berenstain. We’ve had huge conversations about it, and have even combed through used book stores looking for the fabled Berenstein editions.

    • Jessica says...

      Whoa. me too.

    • Oh my goodness yes! I totally remember Berenstein!

    • Lisa says...

      It was always Berenstein. End of story.

    • I just found this and it totally freaked me out! #Berenstein4life

    • Leah says...

      oh my god, YES!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, YES! we, too, were confused about berenstAIN when we were writing the post. so funny.

    • Ginger says...

      Ahhh!!! I’m freaking out! Forwarded this to my sister and husband who are also freaking out! Whaaaaaat?! Totally a believer.

    • Rachel says...

      Oh man. I’m SO glad I’m not the only one who also thought, “Isn’t it supposed to be spelt without an ‘a’?” :)

  38. Laura says...

    When I was 7 and on the way to the hospital to have my adenoids removed, I told my mom I was nervous and excited. She told me the word for that feeling is “anxious.” I think of that when I’m feeling anxious from time to time and it makes me smile :-)

  39. Lena says...

    I love that you have a cake ritual! I feel like from a very young age it would help kids to see school and education as something exciting to celebrate rather than a “ugh MOM I hate school!” kinda thing :)

  40. Rae says...

    Completely unrelated, (although Bunny Anton is super kuwaii!), do you remember who made/ where you got the awesome mustachioed face mug from (showing in your pantry photo)? It’s the greatest!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      it was from etsy!

  41. emmedeegee says...

    They carry Polar Seltzer!!!! I love that stuff.

  42. I get my son’s haircut a week or so before. The biggest time consumer is him picking out a backpack. Last year we went to maybe 6 stores?! This year I found one at Ross that he had liked and wanted last year but I refused to pay $45 plus for a backpack so I brought that home. He said he didn’t want it but it made him pick out one sooner/faster. We had it for the last month sitting in the closet in his room with a new lunchbag (he hates school lunches). He usually gets a new pair of shoes. And sometimes a new outfit but he was not into that this year. :(

  43. Sandhya says...

    I love Anton’s shirt!! Would you mind sharing where it’s from?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      for sure! it’s from winter water factory. i love them. sometimes my husband says our boys look like they’re right out of their catalog :)

    • Sandhya says...

      Thank you!! what a fabulous web site.

  44. Anton sleeping in the box is the cutest thing ever! My back to school rituals are essential for me and this includes: writing out all of my classes/obligations in my planner, buying books and clothes, and going out with girlfriends the night before :)

    xx, Hannah

    http://www.missharwell.com