A back-to-school party can get kids excited for reading, writing and 'rithmetic

July 31, 2013 9:50:39 AM

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


Elmer's glue, check. Backpack, check. Hand sanitizer, check. Yes, it's that time of year, when the rustle and hustle of parents armed with school supply lists and uniform specifications crowd the stores, and kids can't wait to see friends they waved goodbye to in May.  


In homes with school-age children, the countdown is on. In one week, summer is officially over and the academic year begins. And those of us old enough to remember when school didn't crank up until after Labor Day just shake our heads. 


For most kids, excitement (tinged with a few jitters) is running high. For others, not so much. But families can set the tone and add a positive vibe with a celebration to usher in those "dear old Golden Rule days." 


Anticipation is widespread in the Knight household in East Columbus. Five-year-old Cami Knight begins kindergarten Aug. 7 at Sale International Studies Elementary School. Her older brothers, Ethan and Joseph, will start a new adventure, too, when they attend their first day at Columbus Middle School.  


Their parents know "making a big deal" of going back to school can heighten the enthusiasm and get everyone in the mood. 


"I'm probably the one the least happy about school starting," Angie Knight said with a wry and resigned grin. "I'm going to miss them, but I'm really glad they're looking forward to it, and we want to encourage that." 


Cami and her siblings are fortunate to live on a street with quite a few classmates, so a neighborhood back-to-school send-off is a natural. To satisfy pint-size but hearty appetites, some turkey and apple roll-ups or kabobs should do the job. For a sweet, mini cupcakes kids decorate with crayons and sprinkles, or a fun popcorn mix fill the bill. 


Get creative with the alphabet, with snack stations that spell yummy. Make small signs, like "F is for fruit" at a table filled with individual fruit cups, or "J is for Jello" at another. 




Hands on 


There are any number of fun activities to spark the imagination of children headed back to the classroom. At your celebration, pull out the craft supplies and let kids make their own time capsules to mark the year's start. You can use shoeboxes or small cardboard boxes, with students' names in glitter, markers and paint. Encourage the children to fill it with pictures of who they want to be -- police officer? fireman? dancer? astronaut? -- a list of their friends, a copy of their handprint, a short story they wrote and a sample of their handwriting. Little minds will think of other items they want to include. At the end of the year, they can bring their capsules back out and marvel at how much they've grown and changed. 


How about a school supply scavenger hunt? All it takes is a fair-sized backyard and a trip to the dollar store. Hide supplies like pencils, binders, rulers and such around the yard, making sure the hiding places aren't too obvious. Next, make a few clue cards that cleverly describe where each thing is hidden and have the kids work in teams to retrieve them. 


Looking for a really simple craft? Purchase inexpensive pencil cases and let children personalize them with markers and stickers you supply. 




Go healthy 


Like all parents, the Knights want their children to benefit from good nutrition, while enjoying what they eat. One idea is to start a family food album, where parents and youngsters keep track of foods that provide good nourishment and ones that have little or no nutritional value. Have children cut photos of food and nutrition labels out to put in their album. They'll learn about healthier eating and have fun with the craft project, too. 


Endorse the healthy choices when packing lunches and in after-school snacks. Let the children help, and the lesson has a better chance of sticking. 


There are so many ways to make the countdown to school fun, a family "event" focusing on the all the good things ahead.  


"I can't wait -- I'm going to make new friends!" exclaimed Cami, biting into an apple-peanut butter "sandwich" and telling everyone what she looks forward to most about her first days of kindergarten.  


Capture that excitement and send them off with a celebration that stays with them when school bells ring.  






Makes 1 serving 




1-2 tablespoons cream cheese, low-fat 


1 96 percent fat free tortilla (8 inch) 


2 slices turkey breast, deli sliced 


1/4 cup fresh baby spinach 


1/2 medium-sized apple, cut into thin strips 




  • Spread cream cheese on one side of tortilla. Place turkey slices evenly over tortilla, then add spinach leaves and sliced apple. Roll tortilla tightly, tucking ingredients as you roll. Slice wrap in half diagonally and serve. 


    (Source: boarshead.com) 






    Makes 12 




    2 slices turkey breast, sliced 1/4-inch thick 


    2 slices cheddar cheese, sliced 1/4-inch thick 


    12 grapes, white seedless 


    Toothpicks, long (or pretzel sticks) 




  • Cut turkey and cheese into cubes. Place a cube of turkey on a toothpick, followed by a cube of cheese and then a grape. Repeat with remaining items. Arrange on a plate and serve.  


    (Source: boarshead.com) 








    10 tablespoons peanut butter  


    1 Granny Smith apple, cored and cut into 10 rings, each about 1/4 inch thick  


    5 tablespoons granola 


    2 tablespoons raisins  




  • Spread 2 tablespoons peanut butter onto half of the apple rings. Sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon granola and a few raisins. Cover each with one of the remaining apple rings to form sandwiches. Makes 5 apple sandwiches.  


    (Source: williams-sonoma.com) 






    Total time: 30 minutes 


    Makes 2 1/2 quarts 




    8 cups popped popcorn 


    2 tablespoons cinnamon-sugar 


    1 tablespoon baking cocoa 


    1 cup honey bear-shaped crackers 


    1 cup broken thin pretzel sticks 


    1/2 cup milk chocolate M&M's 




  • Place popcorn in a large bowl. Combine cinnamon-sugar and cocoa; sprinkle over popcorn and toss to coat. Stir in graham snacks, pretzels and M&M's. Store in an airtight container.  


    (Source: tasteofhome.com)

    Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.