Graduation in the early childhood setting is such a special time for little ones, educators, and parents, and it’s worth celebrating! These little people will make a big difference in our world one day and lots of them have been in childcare, daycare, preschool, or kindergarten (whichever term you prefer to use!) since they were itty bitty babies. The time has come to move on, and it’s important to recognize and honor the strides they have made and commemorate them as they go off to their next step. Throughout this article, you will find different ideas to consider while planning a graduation celebration.
Why throw a graduation ceremony?
Children deserve to be lifted up and celebrated. In fact, they crave it. Children often look to adults for this confirmation. It’s important that children know how completing something feels. This can set a strong foundation for commitment and motivation.
Starting graduation ceremonies in the early years helps children understand the importance of education. They feel proud that they have completed Preschool or Pre-K and are excited that they get to move on to bigger and better things. We set them up on the road to accomplishment by allowing them to feel and be celebrated.
Ideas for celebrating a child’s graduation
There are endless ways to celebrate a child’s graduation – some of them more traditional, some of them more novel! Either way, any celebration will be cherished.
Traditional children’s graduation ideas
- Classic indoor graduation ceremony – Having a classic indoor graduation ceremony is a wonderful way to celebrate. Children feel special getting to dress up and wear a cap and gown. They will beam with pride as they hear their name and walk across the stage to receive their diploma certificate.
- Outdoor graduation ceremony – Outdoor ceremonies are a wonderful option. Children love to be outside and the outdoor component has major benefits if it’s a possibility. Those benefits include no limit on guests in attendance, fun opportunities like a balloon release, and great lighting for pictures.
- Graduation luncheon – If you’re up for a more low-key, but still traditional option a luncheon may be for you. A luncheon is a good opportunity to spend time together at the end of the year. You could also hand out awards and diplomas while everyone is eating – easy peasy!
- End of the year assembly – Assemblies can be fun, but do require a bit more work. An assembly is a great way for the children to showcase what they learned throughout the year. Children love to perform and often feel proud after singing a song or reciting a verse. If you do choose an assembly, just give yourself some time to plan, prep, and practice!
Non-traditional children’s graduation ideas
- Class project – A class project may be a fun and different option for children to celebrate the end of their time in an early education center. These types of projects could relate to end-of-the-year type subjects. For example, it’s common to ask graduates what they want to be when they grow up. So, let’s make it into a project! Each child could pick what they want to be, they could each research their job, dress up as what they want to be, and then present it.
- Virtual graduation ceremony – A virtual graduation ceremony is not only a good way to celebrate during COVID, but also to reach a big audience. The convenience of our virtual world right now cannot be denied. Perhaps a child has grandparents across the country? Perfect – they can attend! Just sign onto the virtual ceremony. This is also an option that has the potential to be saved and replayed at a later date, or for years to come. That makes it pretty special.
- End of the year compilation video – This is a nice option if you’d rather not go the ceremony route. Compiling pictures together to music is a sure-fire tear-jerker for parents. These videos can also include baby and toddler pictures of the graduates to really showcase their growth while at your center. Much like the virtual graduation ceremony, this one can also be saved and viewed for years to come.
- Create a keepsake – Creating a keepsake for each graduate can be equally special for the child and their parents alike. Some good options are things like a handprint in clay, having the child draw a graduation self-portrait, creating an autograph book, and answering a questionnaire. Something that can act both as a keepsake and a gift is a photo of each child in a frame with the graduation year on it (um, adorable!). These are all keepsakes that parents will treasure for years to come and children love to look back on as they grow.
Involving the child’s family
Given the close relationship that early childhood centers have with their families, it’s a no-brainer to involve them in the celebration! Just as graduation is special to the child, it’s meaningful to the parents as well. You may even want to consider choosing more than one way to celebrate graduation such as a ceremony and a keepsake for the parents to cherish.
Parents can be involved in many ways. It could be as simple as them contributing a treat to a graduation luncheon, or sending in photos to be included in an end-of-the-year video. Another special idea is having parents record themselves saying how proud they are of their child and what they love about them most or what their wish for them is and compiling these videos to play for the children.
Adjusting for COVID
This past year we have all learned to be more fluid due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When planning a graduation celebration during COVID, flexibility is key. Whatever works for you and your center will be perfect.
Having the ceremony outdoors or virtually are both safer options. You could certainly make graduation a special time even while following CDC protocols. If you do choose an indoor ceremony, it’s important to connect with families prior to planning the event and let them know the details and what precautions will be taking place. Perhaps you swap shaking hands for a thumbs up or have everyone in attendance socially distance themselves in the audience.
Here are some important factors to consider to keep everyone safe:
- 6’ apart spacing for children and attendees
- Limit handshakes and hugs
- Consider festive Class of *insert year* facemasks
- Schedule photo opportunities in time slots to avoid overcrowding
- Host an outdoor ceremony with a rain date
- Choose a virtual ceremony via Zoom or Google Meets
- Have children arrive already dressed in caps and gowns
Regardless of which avenue you choose, celebrating a graduation in the early childhood years has endless benefits. Pick whatever feels right and feasible and get to celebrating! You are, without a doubt, creating one of the sweetest memories. Hey…speaking of sweet, throw in a class (Ring)Pop! Here’s to the graduates!
Don’t forget to share all of the amazing photos and videos of your graduation with your parents — discover how HiMama can help today!