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First day of school pictures have always been a rite of passage of sorts, something that happens every year, without fail. Everyone has one from when they were little, wearing a big backpack and dressed in their crispest new shorts while perched on the porch or waiting at the bus stop.
Nowadays, though, first day of school pictures have turned into impressive photoshoots involving matching sibling outfits, customized chalkboards, oversized frames painstakingly made by parents, and even whimsical gag accessories for pets, moms or the siblings left behind.
Everyone wants the cutest picture, whether it’s for their own frame or to post on social media, and they’re willing to go the extra mile to get there. That’s why we’ve put together a list of 16 amazing and adorable first day of school photo accessories to help you really nail that look.
These are the little touches that will really take that snapshot and make it into a work of art.
1. A fun way to take photos
If you’re gearing up for a photoshoot, there’s one essential you’ll need right at the start: a camera. You can swipe up and snap away with your smart phone, but we recommend picking up an instant camera that can not only take adorable shots, but allow your student to actually take the photos with them as they go to school. When we tested, we found the Fujifilm Instax Mini to be the best instant camera on the market. It prints on command, it’s got a variety of features, and we even found it to be a great choice for kids.
2. A first day of school chalkboard
Here’s an item everyone’s seen: The premade first day of school chalkboard. Amazon users love the one from Chalk Stix, which includes a chalk marker and can be easily wiped clean for use again and again, as your kid ages up through the grades. Just fill in the adorable details about your little darling, snap a pic, and you’re good to go. If you really want to go wild, you can even add a set of eight Chalktastic markers to your cart, for that rainbow look. If you’re feeling something a little more rustic, there’s always this option from QVC, which could easily lend itself to one of those “one new photo every day” videos at the end of the year.
3. Felt letter board
Not confident in your penmanship? Opt for the felt letter board that has 4.8 stars on Amazon with almost 8,000 reviews. It comes in 22 different colors from plain black to rainbow, and includes 300 letters, numbers, and symbols, lest you ever fear running out of E’s. It’s a great option for parents of more than one kid, too: Just pull out the year and name, throw new ones in, and you’re good to go for a second pic.
4. First Day Of School pennants
Pennants are very on trend right now, so we love the idea of using them for first day of school pictures. There are a number of solid options out there, from a six-pennant year by year paper bundle from Maisonette or a more collegiate-looking set of “first day of school” and “last day of school” pennants from The Tot. If your kids are finally going back to the classroom after a year or more of virtual school, Maisonette also has a set of three pennants emblazoned with phrases like “IRL,” “Finally!,” and “And We’re Back,” because every little victory is worth celebrating.
5. Matching jammies for First Day of School Eve
If you’re interested in even more first day of school photos, might we suggest posing for and snapping one for first day of school eve? Or even first day of school breakfast? You can outfit the whole family in Hanna Anderssen’s apple-print jammies, which come in womens, kids, and baby sizes. You can get long-sleeved options for chilly nights, shorties for summer, and even footie pajamas for babies. Prices vary depending on the number of people you’re shopping for and the number of pieces you want, but Hanna Anderssen quality is always great, and buyers always rave about their jammies.
6. A dry-erase message board
If you’re nervous about the whole “chalk standing out on a blackboard” look of the message boards—or if you want something you can use again and again, even after the first day of school, consider a dry-erase board. Melissa And Doug makes a nice one that’s also magnetic, should you want to throw a few of the included letters on there. If you’re looking to insert some witty phrase into your kid’s mouth, there’s always a speech bubble dry-erase board. Amazon users love this one from Fat Brain Toys, which lights up and includes a marker.
7. A is for apple apparel
You can’t go wrong with adorable apple-strewn apparel for any first day of school picture. Nothing says “I’m ready to meet my new teacher” like a big red apple. Fortunately, a lot of brands are hip to that fact and ready to hook your kid up with some pretty sharp looks. If your kid’s a bit of a preppie,
Etsy seller BellaBeanKelly has a nifty little polo with an apple logo for just $30.
BellaBeanKelly also offers a cute traditional blue gingham dress with a big white color and big red apple, which could make for some very cute sibling pictures for boy-girl twins or just boy-girl siblings.
Carter’s has three different apple options for girls: a jersey dress, a long-sleeved tee with the phrase “the future is ours” inside an apple, and another long-sleeved tee with a smiling apple that reads “learn and grow.” Hanna Anderssen has a whole slate of apple shirts, pajamas, and apparel, but on-site reviewers really love their classic skater dress, which both has pockets and is great for kiddo-driven spins.
8. Interchangeable first day of school pencil frame
Another option you could use year after year, this adorable little pencil frame comes with pieces that make it work for both first day of school pictures and last day of school snaps. The sign is made in West Virginia by a craftsperson who paints each one, which is a nice little touch.
9. Family back to school bracelets
On that same family tip, we love the idea of moms getting in on the first day of school photo action. Common outfits and accessories are always cute, so we love this set of parent-kid back-to-school bracelets on Amazon, which come with a card that reads “I’ll wear the big one and think of you. The small one is yours so you’ll think of me too.”
It’s a great way to remind your little one that they’re always with you, even when they’re not, and a great close-up detail to feature in a first day of school photo together. Amazon users say it works especially well for nervous kiddos, with one noting, “My son was scared to go back to school this year. He’s only 4. I gave him one bracelet and I took the other, telling him that if he’s scared or misses me, he can look at his bracelet and know that mommie loves him. He was ok with going the first day because of it. He was holding his hand on it when he got on the bus.”
10. A personalized kindergarten tee
Got a little one going into preschool or kindergarten? Etsy users love this back-to-school number, which comes in a variety of colors and sizes and is adorably personalized. Each shirt is hand-stamped and features hand-cut felt letters, which make it really feel like a keepsake piece. As one Etsy user noted in their review, “This shirt is even better in person. When I opened my package I almost cried looking at how precious this shirt was.”
11. A whole personalized back to school outfit
If you want to take personalized apparel to the next level, there’s always this cute Etsy number, which features a personalized phrase on a t-shirt (“S Is For Sophia,” for instance) and a handmade and fully-lined alphabet skirt. (You can buy the skirt on its own as well, if you’d like.) As one Etsy buyer noted in their review, it’s “perfect for the first day of school.”
12. Pencil powered style
Just like apples, pencils are a tried and true trope for back-to-school photos—and back-to-school apparel. Your kid will be looking sharp (pun intended) in their first day of school picture if they nab a pencil dress from StudioLittleMiss on Etsy. Buyers love it, hailing the quality and saying they’re “absolutely in LOVE with this little dress.” Accessorize it with this glittery pencil bow, which Etsy buyers say is perfectly sized and “has the perfect amount of sparkle and cuteness.” If junior’s more of a sock person than a sparkle person, there’s always this set of pencil knee socks, which could really help bring their first day of school look to a whole other level.
13. A Grow With Me handprint shirt
It’s always cute to see how much a kid has changed from year to year, and a great way to do that is with a keepsake handprint shirt. This Etsy favorite has your kid’s graduation class on the front—It’s 2034 for kids entering kindergarten this fall, if you want to feel old—and spots on the back for a handprint every year. Watch as your kid’s hands go from tiny little things that can only hold onto your pinky as they cross the street to big paws perfect for catching footballs or typing faster than you ever could. Plus, since you reuse the shirt year after year, you get to see how your kid grows into it, and little kids wearing big shirts are always super adorable. Etsy buyers note that, while the shirt goes from Pre-K to 12th grade, the maker is happy to add in additional preschool years for interested parties.
14. A grade-specific t-shirt
Let’s face it: Your kid has worked hard to get where they are, and you have, too. Celebrate that moment with a t-shirt that announces their place in school and looks sharp while doing it. We love this “Hello Kindergarten” number on Etsy for the little ones, and this trendy tie-dyed “Watch Out Third Grade!” glitter tee for slightly older kids. You can even pick from nine different tie-dye styles for the latter, which is totally far out, man.
15. A pencil banner
If you’re looking to create a little depth in your shot, we love the idea of using this reusable banner, which features oversized pencils and pink felt balls, which work perfectly with the pink pencil erasers. The pencils are made of glitter cardstock, and each banner comes ready to hang.
16. A Hello School balloon
Every kid loves a balloon, and every kid needs something to do with their fidgety hands while they’re posing for a first day of school picture. That’s why we love this “Hello School” balloon from Etsy seller Tracepaper Pen, which is customizable by grade and comes with its own support stick, meaning no helium is needed. As a bonus, you even get a second “backup balloon,” because accidents certainly can happen when balloons are involved. You can even add some confetti inside if you want to highlight school colors or your kid’s faves.
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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.