Back to School Family Dinner Ideas (Theme Ideas, What to Eat, How to Format Your Night)

back to school dinner ideas for families

Does your family do a special back to school dinner before school starts each year? These are a few of the things we do for our back to school dinner, plus some ideas for a fun theme for your back to school dinner!


Are you doing a special back to school dinner this year?

Every year we do a special back to school dinner, usually the night before school starts. It’s a fun way to celebrate our last day of summer and also talk about goals, set expectations for the year, talk about our theme for the year, and more.

I asked on Instagram the other day if any of you do these kinds of special dinners, and many of you said you did not but loved the idea.

So I want to share what we do, some ideas for doing yours, and also some fun theme ideas you suggested.


Why should you do a back to school dinner?

I love any reason to celebrate, and this is a really simple and fun one that makes going back to school feel less scary and hard and big, and more of an exciting milestone.

My parents didn’t do anything like this when I was a kid, and I never knew the difference. So don’t feel any pressure to do one. But remember, this kind of dinner doesn’t have to be fancy or time intensive — you can make it as simple or extravagant as you’d like.


What do you eat at back to school dinner?

If you’re doing a back to school theme for the evening, you can incorporate your theme into the meal itself. You could go all out and do all sorts of cool dishes.

But I usually don’t.

I like to make one of the boys’ favorite meals instead. We do a big charcuterie tray with meats and cheese and dried fruit, or we do chicken roll ups, or we BBQ and do burgers and hot dogs. We’ve also just done a regular old dinner and then added decorations to make it feel special.

There are no rules — do whatever is right for you and your family!

Here are a few fun ideas for back to school dinner meals or desserts:

  • Take your kids out for sushi!
  • Go out to a special restaurant to make it feel out of the ordinary
  • Do an indoor picnic and serve finger foods
  • Kids choice of dinner
  • Ice cream bar with fun toppings (and a regular dinner)
  • Make your own individual pizzas
  • Have a BBQ with ribs, steaks, or burgers and hot dogs
  • Make a nacho bar with chips and cheese and toppings
  • Throw a fiesta with Mexican food and decorations
  • Have breakfast for dinner
  • Make milkshakes


What kind of things do you do at back to school dinner?

Obviously we eat dinner.

These are some other things we do during the evening:

  • Talk about our theme for the year. We usually choose a scripture or a quote and base our theme around that. I’ll talk more below about that.
  • Introduce our new Family Economy charts for the year (they’re different during the summer)
  • Talk about expectations for the year (being a good friend, being respectful to teachers and others, completing assignments, helping around the house even with school work, etc)
  • Have Philip give father’s blessings to each of the boys. These are special religious blessings given by a father to his children to offer comfort, strength, and guidance. They can be given at any time, but the beginning of the school year is a special time to do them.

Other fun ideas for the evening:

  • measure each child’s height for the beginning of the year and compare at the end of the year
  • have each child fill out a questionnaire
  • Have parents write notes to their children and children to each other
  • Parents can share memories of when they were that grade in school
  • choose a new game to play as a family for the last night of summer


Theme ideas for back to school dinners

A theme for your evening is 100% not necessary. And a theme for your school year is also not necessary. But I like to do it because it helps me know what I want to talk about with the boys, it helps me decide on (minimal) decorations, and it helps our family find a focus for the upcoming months.

We typically choose a scripture or a short quote for our theme.

  • “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” – Dumbledore
  • “Kindness begins with me”
  • What matters most is in the inside (onion disguised to look like a caramel apple)
  • “Decisions determine destiny.” – Thomas S. Monson
  • “By small and simple things are great things brought to pass.” Alma 37:6
  • Beatitudes – Gordon B. Hinckley (bee theme, have your children talk about what they want to “bee” this school year)
  • “Color the world with happiness” – rainbow theme
  • Be somebody who makes everybody feel like a somebody.
  • “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
  • School theme with pencils and ruler and apple decorations
  • “Be Prepared”
  • Be a builder (talk about building your standards on a strong foundation — could be a construction truck theme!)

These are just a few simple ideas to get the creativity flowing. You could literally take any scripture, any quote, or any idea and run with it!




  1. Heather Benac says:

    I love this suggestion and look forward to doing it with my own children when they’re school age. One small thing is that I’m not able to pin your blog posts anymore. Seems to be an issue just on your site and I’d like to save them for future reference. Just a heads up.

    • merrickwhite says:

      Yes, we’re having the same issue on our end. Not sure what the issue is, but our tech team is working on it! Sorry in the mean time!

  2. […] a new elective, standing up for what is right or befriending someone new.  Merrick recently did a whole post about this & gave some great suggestions & ideas to try.  It’s such a great way to […]

  3. Abby Gardner says:

    It is so great that so many people care about their children so hard. And it is also that they don`t underestimate things like children`s desire or not to eat food, their mood, etc. A few days ago I have found, this is a really good survey, which showed unexpected results. Music survey of 19th century has shown that it really has an impact on people`s and children`s mood, I think parents should read it)

  4. […] I shared a bunch of details about our back to school dinners here […]

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