Seattle's Child

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box of summer-fun items

A box of summer goodies makes a great last-day-of-school gift. (Photo: Jasmin Thankachen)

How to celebrate the end of the strange, COVID schoolyear

It may be more important than usual this year to mark the last day of school. Here are some fun ideas.

The end is near … the end of school, that is!

Teachers, parents and students are feeling a combination of relief and sadness. With only a few more Zoom meetings left, we’re all trying to find closure in a tumultuous year, while social distancing makes that difficult.

Even so, my kids and I are making cards for our teachers and sending gifts to thank them for all the work that they have put into making an unthinkable and strange year quite successful.

Kids also need to feel victorious for finishing the year in whatever capacity they were able. With children moving on from grade to grade, celebrations are few and far between. To mark the occasion, parents are thinking of fun ways to make the end of year moment memorable and special.

Here are some ways that families can celebrate their child’s achievements:

  • Keep traditions alive! If you had a ritual that your family participated in pre-COVID (there was a time before, I swear!) then do it. If it was a special treat on the last day of school or a family trip, take necessary precautions, and go for it. My children get some things that they usually don’t indulge in during the year – McDonald’s Happy Meals and Slurpees!
  • Welcome break with a summer basket filled with activities that your child loves! Ideas: books, bubbles, a beach ball, backyard games, chalk, favorite candy or snacks, a new toy.
  • Let them de-school! I worry about summer-slide but let them relax and get their mind off school a bit, before quizzing them on their math facts.
  • Now that they’ve spent half the school year on screens, time to detox. Send them outside with specific activities to do and join them! Make the bike rides longer, stay outside until it’s dark, roast the s’mores, start a water balloon fight, go skating and enjoy that summer freedom.
  • On the last day of school, plan a surprise itinerary. Take your kids on a new hike or introduce them to a new outdoor game. Take a trip to a local farm for some berry picking or find another summer activity that they’d enjoy.
  • If you’ve been sharing your quarantine time with another family, coordinate a mini-party with cake and balloons. Share in celebrating the start of summer break.
  • Make signs that say “Congratulations!” and “Welcome Summer!” Get excited about the next step in their education.
  • Indoor/outdoor camping. My kids love bringing their mattresses or sleeping bags down to the family room to watch a movie and stay up late.
  • Dance parties are the best when you crank up the music and floss your way into summer.
  • We’ve done so many scavenger hunts since the pandemic and it never gets old. The thrill of the chase makes getting the prize all the more special.
  • Make a link chain out of construction paper for summer days, tearing off the rings as you count down to the beginning of school. Every few links, add in an activity like dinner al fresco, movie night, mini-golf or kids’ choice. Begin the day your kids are out of school. You can do this with a jar, too; sit down as a family and come up with things you want to do over the summer. Choose one on a designated day or any day.
  • I’m a big fan of YES days! Let your child celebrate their graduation in any way they would like. Start the morning off with ice cream? Sure! Want an extra 20 minutes of television? Of course!
  • Make a time capsule. You’ll never forget these days, but just to be sure, make a time capsule. Store some pictures of your child’s time on a Zoom meeting along with some of their schoolwork. Add a picture with their teacher from an online meeting, and a drawing or piece of writing reflecting this time period. Put it in a box , bury it or set it aside to look at again later.
  • Have an end-of-year online meeting with classmates to share summer plans, wish each other well and say goodbyes.
  • Coordinate with your educators and try for a teacher parade or drive-by. It’s a great time to make posters and say goodbye in person, but still 6 feet away.
  • Take those last-day-of-school photos, maybe in pajamas. It will be a year you’ll never forget!

Note that kids may continue to feel upset that there was no official celebration to acknowledge their achievements. Validate their emotions and make them feel safe and understood.


Related: Want to keep your kids learning? Here’s what Seattle Public Schools has planned

About the Author

Jasmin Thankachen

Jasmin is an Eastside mom of two boys and enjoys parenting with lots of love and laughter. Co-Founder of PopUp StoryWalk, she also loves children's picture books, essay writing, and community stories.