Throw a neighborhood back-to-school bash!

The summer vacation is winding down and the excitement of a new school year begins. For some children this time brings joy, while others may experience a bit of anxiety. Hosting a back-to-school party filled with games and giggles will ease worries and give excited children somewhere to place their energy.

INVITATIONS
Make your own invitations with red apples cut from card stock paper. Or, hand-deliver a real apple with a note tied to the stem.

DECORATIONS
Fill the party area with yellow school bus partyware, real apples, stacks of books, pencils, etc. You'll find a variety of back-to-school items at your local teacher store or on-line.

PARTY GAMES AND ACTIVITIES
Here's a list of back-to-school game ideas for a variety of ages, to help you get your own creative juices flowing:

Pencil box game
Fill a pencil box with school items like scissors, pencil, crayons, etc. Show the children the filled box. Leave the room and remove one item. When you return, have the children guess what is missing. Replace the missing item and play again. They can take turns removing the items for the game as well.

Show and tell
Invite your guests to bring pictures (photos or magazine cut-outs) of their favorite summertime activities, a recent family vacation, etc. Set aside time for "show and tell," so everyone can learn what one another did over the summer.

Certificates of summer
Before the party, create your own certificates or buy blank awards at a local craft store. (Be sure they have a space to write what the award is for, as well as an area to write the child's name.) After everyone has had a chance to share their stories of summer, hold an anonymous vote for special awards. Some ideas: who had the most fun, traveled the farthest, got the best tan (or least tan), grew the most, got the best hair cut, changed the most (and least), had the funniest experience, etc. Collect the votes, fill out the certificates and have an awards ceremony.

Apple prints
Cut apples in half from top to bottom. Pour red paint in a cookie sheet and press the apples onto paper. Don't forget to write names.

Make a smock
Most primary classes ask student to bring a smock to school. Provide large men's shirts and dye crayons from the craft store to label and decorate each shirt. The die crayons are easy to work with, especially if you have a helper to iron the iron sets the dye.

Sack lunch treats
Of course you'll need to serve a brown bag lunch for back to school! Use apple, school bus or alphabet cookie cutters to transform an ordinary PB&J sandwich. Add fruit slices, cookies and juice. Serve in a brown bag with a napkin.

Party favors
Each child can be given a box of crayons, pencils or stickers as a thank you gift.

Extra activity
If your party consists of the children from the neighborhood, take a walk to familiarize them with the location of the bus stop. Of course this activity is for younger kids!