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By Patricia Hall, FairfaxFamilyFun.com
It’s June, which for many families means… graduation time! College graduations, high school graduations, and, for some, even kindergarten and preschool “graduations.” High school and college or university graduations are, of course, “the real deal” — a celebration of academic achievement, the end of an area and the receipt of a diploma of some sort that says “you made it.” But some families also celebrate graduations of another sort — cute little events to tell their very, very young kids that, in some ways, they made it, too.
Preschool and kindergarten graduations are a source of joy for some people, and an easy target for mockery by others. While I certainly realize that finishing preschool or kindergarten is absolutely nothing in comparison to completing high school or college, I am firmly in the celebratory camp that believes the idea of a little party for tiny kids in tiny caps and gowns is not a bad idea. I state my case in an earlier post where I also talked about how, when the principal of our then-elementary school made it clear she was anti-kindergarten graduation, a group of parents decided we would host our own celebration. If you find yourself in a similar situation, this post will show you how to host a fun graduation event on a budget.
1. Pool your resources
Our party came about because other parents also had expressed an interest in a kindergarten “graduation” or year-end celebration, and were equally disappointed to find out the school would host no such event. Once I knew who shared our interests, I gathered a small group to serve as co-hosts. We quickly got people to volunteer for different tasks, such as providing a cake or getting decorations.
2. Find a venue
You probably won’t be able to host your event at the school, since it’s not an official activity, so you’ll need to look elsewhere. Hosting it at someone’s home is always an option, but I came up with a better idea: hosting it at a party place. Such parties can get pricey, but here’s where you can be creative: look for deals on deals and coupon sites, and you’ll be surprised what you can find! I had found a great deal for a birthday party at a martial arts studio that was so cheap, I was happy to pay for it myself and didn’t ask other parents to chip in. There was nothing in the deal that said the party had to be for a birthday, so when I made my reservation, I simply told them we were hosting a kids’ graduation party instead. The kids ended up with a unique year-end party where they got to enjoy cake and other goodies, plus break a few boards along the way.
3. Get graduation decorations
Our party venue had a separate party room so we were able to easily set up enough decorations in a dedicated space to set the mood for a “graduation.” We hung up typical paper decorations — caps and gowns, the year, other graduation icons — plus streamers and balloons. All of these are items that you can get at party stores, but if you want to save big, I highly recommend checking Oriental Trading or visiting stores such as Dollar Tree, which have some really cute items super-cheap. Amazon also has good choices, including a cool inflatable graduation frame that’s good for photo booths.
Another good thing about graduation is that the typical colors associated with it — black, white, and gold — are popular colors for standard items such as serving trays and party plates, so you don’t even need to buy any items with special graduation patterns. In our case, we used solid-colored plates and cups (in standard colors plus our school colors) buying just some napkins and extra plates with the graduation motif to further add to the decorations. Amazon also has graduation supplies, including unique items such as a graduation hat inflatable cooler and buffet.
4. Keep food simple
As far as kids are concerned, this is just another party — they know this is nothing like a high-school or college graduation — and honestly, you don’t need to do much food-wise. Our party venue deal included pizzas, so we just ordered a couple more for the parents, added a few snacks such as vegetables, fruit, and chips, and brought in a cake.
5. Buy and prepare certificates
While we weren’t taking this “graduation” too seriously, we thought it would be fun to give each child a “diploma” anyway. You can find plenty of blank certificates online, and may even be able to find a nice printable. For our event, I pre-printed each child’s name and date (I used the last day of school). I left the signature lines blank for the parents to sign at the party.
6. Buy a cap and gown
Kids likely won’t want to be wearing a cap and gown, it’s not practical to do so if they’re running around playing (or, in our case, doing martial arts), and it would be too expensive or order caps and gowns for everyone. What I did instead was order a kiddie blue cap and gown set from an online store to use for our son and his classmates. Another parent had a set in white that a relative had sent her, so we took both to the event. During the party, kids wore paper caps just for fun (and for group photos), and we had a photo opp set up in the corner with the real cap and gown options — parents could choose one or both to slip over their kids’ clothes and snap an “official” photo. Having a couple of cap-and-gown sets for all to share allowed other parents to share in the fun. With two sets, we also could take pictures of at least two kids at once in their full graduation “regalia.”
7. Make easy, creative treats
While you don’t need to go all-out with food and decorations, it’s fun to have some graduation-themed goodies. You can find some cheap and easy things to make! Our graduation goodies included candy diplomas and graduation hats. For the “diplomas,” I simply cut some pieces of white copy paper, taped one end to a roll of Smarties candies, rolled the paper around completely, taped it shut, and added a very thin black ribbon.
For the caps, I had seen where people take individually wrapped Reese’s peanut butter cups and add a square piece of paper on top with a little tassel. Because of peanut allergies, I instead use individually wrapped Rolo caramel candies. For a matching paper for the top of the “cap,” I cut up square pieces of gold scrapbooking cardstock and a small piece of the black ribbon for a tassel. These were the easiest, fastest things I could do, but you can see many more ideas on our “Milestones” board on Pinterest.
8. Get fun, inexpensive gifts
Kids are used to getting goodie bags at parties, so we made sure to create fun ones for this party as well. In addition to the diploma and cap-and-gown parties, our goodie bags included plastic golden good-luck coins, dinner mints with graduation messages, and fun graduation confetti. You can find a good variety on Amazon and Oriental Trading, and dollar stores, big-box stores, party supply vendors, and Easy also carry them.
At Dollar Tree I also found some surprisingly nice 5″ X 7″ graduation frames that had mortarboard embellishment with a tassel, so I bought one for each parent. I also used one to make a sign for the treat table congratulating the Class of 2013. If you want to give your own little graduate a little something, books about the end of graduation or the start of first grade are fun and a good way to encourage summer reading.
9. Invite everyone
You’re celebrating the end of the school year for all kids, so invite all the classmates. If they don’t come, or the parents think the idea of a graduation for kindergartners is silly, so be it. Ditto for the teacher: give her or him the opportunity to attend and share in the fun. Also invite your friends whose schools may not be having a kindergarten graduation, either. They may enjoy being a part of this, and since you’re printing your own certificates, you can make a “diploma” for those kids as well, with the name of their schools. Finally, since this “graduation” is a private party not on school property and after-hours, you can invite whoever you wish: siblings and other relatives, neighbors, and other friends.
10. Take lots of photos!
Just because it’s not an official graduation doesn’t mean you can’t have fun… in fact, you may be able to have even more fun! In addition to the standard photos (in the caps and gowns, holding a rolled-up mock diploma), take lots of photos with kids and their friends and consider setting up a fun photo booth of sorts.
Did you have a kindergarten graduation? Have any more ideas to share? Post your ideas in the comments below!
All photos (c) P. Hall, all rights reserved; no reproductions authorized
This article was originally published on June 8, 2016