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11 Adorable Ideas to Make Your Child’s First Day of School Extra Special

New school year, new opportunity to be a model parent—right? We rounded up some of the most adorable ways to send your little one back to school full of love this year.

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Turn their lunch into art

You’re going to be making school lunches five days a week for 10 months, so it may be unrealistic to cut animal-shaped sandwiches each and every time. That’s why doing it the first day is just the right level of excitement to set a positive tone for the entire new school year. Talia Klein Perez has been making ultra-cute first day bento boxes for her daughter, Sophie, since she was just two years old and starting a nursery program. Her bento boxes were such a hit she actually started making them for other families near where she lives too. Here are more adorable school lunch ideas.

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Make special signs and take lots of pictures

“For every first day of school or camp we make or have someone make signs,” shares mom of four, Felissa Benjamin Allard. Make sure to include noteworthy points like dates, ages, the grade your child is entering, and all their most current favorites like foods, sports, toys, and hobbies.

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Go for matching, inexpensive accessories

“I opted for matching bracelets as a first day surprise,” shares veteran mom, Kara Black. “A little part of home that can go to school with them—and we bought extra for backup in case one gets lost.” This adorable fashionable idea reminds kids all day that there is love waiting for them at home. Here’s how to help your kids excel in school this year.

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Balloons are always a fun idea

“After the success of filling Barnaby’s room with his favorite colored balloons for starting a fun new camp, I am going to do it for first day of Kindergarten,” tells Cassin Donn Duncan, a New York City mom to a bright, balloon-loving little boy.

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Get a chalkboard and use it year after year

If the idea of buying a new printed sign for each life event is overwhelming or too expensive, grab yourself a chalkboard and some colorful chalk. One creative mom, Dana Tretola, updates hers to reflect the current year and life goals for her family. Chalkboards can also get kids drawing, and it turns out that doodling makes you smarter.

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Or you can just watch them grow, little by little

That chalkboard idea wasn’t quite enough for Dana Tretola, so she decided to take her first-day-of-school parenting to the next level and buy shirts that displayed the anticipated high school graduation year. Every first day her son wears his, and little by little he makes his way into actually fitting the shirt appropriately. This idea is not only cost-effective, but perennially adorable, and worthy of unlimited photos for grandparents and Facebook.

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Make a pizza party

Kids love pizza, and that’s exactly why mom blogger Esti Berkowitz makes the whole first day of school experience a pizza party. “We go out for pizza and whoever keeps their fresh, new school shirts clean will get pizza again that Friday.” What a brilliant way to get kids excited for their first day and encourage neat-eating habits. Consider making your own pizza at home as a fun family activity—here’s a guide to making pizza art.

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Try a back-to-school dinner party

Instead of the same old hum-drum meal you normally have planned, have your kids choose and help prepare their special pre-first day meal. Get them excited about fractions, adding, subtracting, and reading by working through recipes with you. They’ll be excited about their meals, brush up on much-needed school year skills, and actually eat without complaining for a change. Win, win, win! Have a picky eater? Try making one of these recipes that even picky eaters will love.

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Make a runway in your hallway

Create a fun, back-to-school fashion show with all the new outfits you purchased for the upcoming year. Do hair, accessorize, and get excited for the week ahead by creating chic, age-appropriate ensembles with your child’s approval and help.

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Be a magical fairy

We all know how the Tooth Fairy works, but there’s no reason that very same fairy (you) can’t become a magical first-day-of-school fairy too. Encourage your kids to write kind, generous notes to the First Day Fairy and tuck them under their pillows before heading to sleep. When they wake up on the first day of school they may find a new set of colored pencils, a fun-shaped eraser, or some other academically oriented fun gift to set the day off right. These school supplies can actually make your child healthier.

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Write love notes

Leave little “I love you” post it notes in their lunch boxes, in their pencil cases, and at the bottom of their backpacks. Gentle, thoughtful reassurance during the day is always welcome, and even if your child can’t read yet, a note that simply has a heart drawn on it will go a long way. Check out the amazing unconventional ways people have said “I love you.