10 Ways to Celebrate the End of a Very Different School Year

10 Ways to Celebrate the End of a Very Different School Year

It is all so weird, so unfamiliar. May of 2020 is different and must be creatively navigated. A photo was snapped of me mid-May last year. I was dressed-up, smiling, and holding up a big bag of donuts, crazy-eyed, and overwhelmed. The donuts were for after a grade-level awards ceremony. I also held eight gift cards, icing for cupcakes, and party plates for other parties. I’m guessing that most parents can relate. 

The familiar version of May and early June includes a mile-long to-do list, a calendar without white space, and an inbox filled with sign-ups. Also, gifts to buy, donations to purchase, and cookies to bake, costumes for projects, plus crazy socks and wacky hair for spirit week. It is the time of sports banquets, plays, concerts, fifth-grade walks, and end of the school year parties. It’s overwhelming and fun.

This year, of course, school will end calmly and quietly. We’ll slip from digital learning into summer, all while mostly at home. 

So how do we honor the season and bring some closure? 

Begin by talking with your kids. Acknowledge what they are missing, and reassure them that disappointment is understandable. Talk about what events they are most sad to miss. Then, ask if they would like to help brainstorm different, yet fun alternatives.

Here are 10 celebratory suggestions:

Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Gabriel Baranski

  • couple waving out of car window smiling happy

    1. Saying Goodbye to Teachers/Drive-By Parade


    Most disappointing to our kids is not having the opportunity to say goodbye to their beloved teachers. With social distancing, we can’t gather to show our appreciation, so why not go to them? Ask your teacher if they would be comfortable having their class parade by his or her home in their cars. 

    Other teachers who have been blessed in this way report that it was an incredibly meaningful alternative goodbye. 

    Determine a date, a time, and a designated place to meet to line up the cars. Kids can roll down the windows and say goodbye from their cars. Balloons, signs, and honking horns add to the hoopla.

    2. Paper Plate Awards:

    One of the many ways we traditionally celebrate the end of the year is with both class and whole school awards ceremonies. Though we can’t dress up and gather together in classrooms or gymnasiums to honor citizenship and achievement, we can still receive awards. Try hosting family paper plate awards! 

    All you need is a pack of paper plates, markers, and maybe a bouquet. You can go all out and dress up, or just meet on the back deck in shorts. The kids could sit in the audience, while one parent plays MC, and the other passes the certificate and shakes hands. Making a fuss in a few easy ways could result in laughs and great memories. 

    Award categories could include: Math Whiz, Most Improved Reader, Best Helper, Citizenship, Honor Roll, Zoom Superstar, Biggest Helper, Multiplication Master, Prayer Warrior, Most Likely to Read All Summer, and Best Attitude.

    Photo Credit: © Getty Images/wavebreakmedia

  • 3. <strong>Field Day</strong>

    3. Field Day


    For most students, field day or class Olympics is looked forward to all year long. Why not host a backyard field day as a family?

    You could plan all the events and surprise your kids, or invite them in on the fun of planning. Talk about what events they enjoy the most and brainstorm modified versions. If you have an older child who could handle and enjoy planning, let them take the lead.

    You could divide your family up into teams, such as red and yellow teams, with points tallied on a whiteboard. Or, keep it simple and just play the games altogether. 

    Part of the fun of field day is also the fuss that goes with it: coolers with water bottles, popsicles for afterward, and loud music playing. 

    Event Ideas:

    Balloon Pop Relay: Grab a balloon, run to your chair in the distance, and try to be the first to sit on the balloon and pop it!

    Tug of War: parents vs kids or boys vs girls

    Hula Hoop Toss: toss a hula hoop over an object from a distance

    Water Station: water guns or a sprinkler

    Bucket Relay: fill two buckets with water, have participants fill cups with water, and run to fill up a second bucket to a designated level line

    Beach Ball Volleyball: volley a beach ball back and forth over a net and keep points

    Photo Credit: © Getty Images/omgimages

  • 4. <strong>Photo Journal</strong>:

    4. Photo Journal:


    If your child is more reflective and sentimental, create a photo journal. Order hard copy prints from the school year from your photos or from the class photo site. Throughout the summer, have your kids tape a picture onto each page of a journal. Under each photo, they could write a few sentences about the experience. This might become a special keepsake. 

    5. Yearbook Signing:

    Have a family yearbook signing night. Make a special dinner and take time looking through each child’s yearbook. The kids can talk about highs and lows, memories, and special classmates. Parents and siblings can sign by writing notes to their kids inside the cover, just as classmates do in school. As special as class signatures? Definitely not, but still special and your kids will soak up your attention as they reflect. 

    If you are comfortable, also ask friends if you could drop your child’s yearbook off in their mailbox for them to sign too.

    Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Wave Break Media

  • two children waving from house wearing masks

    6. Neighborhood Last Day Celebration - Root Beer Float Party:


    On what would be the last day, do what you might have done to celebrate, in a modified way. We usually have a neighborhood party with the kids in our neighborhood. We make root beer floats, fill water balloons, and shoot water guns. Though it is certainly more fun with a yard full of kids, families can still have their own celebratory blowouts! 

    7. Water Gun Parade:

    Have kids walk through the neighborhood at a safe social distance, and all the parents can squirt them with water guns like they might have when they got off the school bus. 

    8. Class Zoom Party:

    Party as a class on Zoom like you might have at school. Everyone could eat their own festive food, tell each other jokes, or play trivia on Kahoot. Each child could share their favorite memory.

    Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Suriya Silsaksom

  • 9. <strong>Postponed Class Party:</strong>

    9. Postponed Class Party:


    If they can’t celebrate in class together when they’d like, plan to gather for a pizza party in a park in late July. The kids will have enough time to miss each other to make it feel extra special. 

    10. Class Flipgrid:

    Flipgrid is a free platform where kids can upload short videos for their classmates. They could say goodbye or share a favorite memory. Each video links to each child’s photo on the page. Kids will love clicking on each of their classmates. 

    Missing all the traditional festivities stinks. But one very important aspect of this time is that our kids can learn to make the most of difficult situations. Planning alternative ways to commemorate is a great way to model that. They can experience finding joy in hard situations and being content even when we have things we want to do but can’t. 

    I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13)

    This is the season of ceremonies and activities that are rites of passage for our kids, most of which are happily anticipated the whole year long. We might not be able to observe, feast, and honor as expected, but we can commemorate even still. We can show our kids that their hard work was noticed and appreciated and have some fun while we’re at it.


    Rebecca Radicchi, her husband and crew of kids, live outside Atlanta, where the summers are hot and the tea is sweet. She’s ridden the waves of adoption, breast cancer, and being the mom of kids with complex medical needs. And, through it all, she’s seen that abundance can be found in the uncomfortable hard and in the easy beautiful. She’s also discovered that whether she’s passing bread at the kitchen table, clock-watching in a hospital waiting room, or listening to a neighbor on a porch swing, God always has something to say. It’s a wonder really. She encourages others to listen for it too on her website and Instagram, and also connects with adoptive families at No Hands But Ours.

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    Photo Credit: © Unsplash/MI PHAM