Make Graduation a Special Event!

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When I was a kid growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, graduation parties were not necessarily the rage, except for a few memorable bashes after high school graduation. Parties following the transition from one education level weren’t generally a consideration, at least in my circles at the time.

When I had kids, however, I soon learned that graduation celebrations were not only part of the academic process of moving from one grade level to another, but they were more or less expected. When my oldest son graduated from kindergarten, I planned to take him out for ice cream and perhaps buy him a toy. Some of his peers, however, sent invitations to grand celebrations, such as a pool party complete with a bouncy house or a night out at the movies. But such things are not always affordable or necessary. If you want to celebrate the transition from one grade period to another, there are fun and inexpensive ways to make it memorable and the talk among your social circles!

Graduating from preschool and transitioning to kindergarten is a pretty big deal and worthy of celebration. However, it does not have to be lavish. Consider an ABC theme party with party decorations and games featuring the alphabet they have just learned. They can have fun and show off their new skills at the same time! Use invitations featuring the ABCs and be creative in terms of what the invitation might say: “A party to celebrate Jack’s preschool graduation; Please Be there to share in the fun! C you on May 25th!”

As your child moves up from elementary school to middle school, certain party games are sure to please, as they provide great entertainment and make terrific memories. Try a From Yesterday to Today photo game party. At this event you ask friends to try to identify others based on a baby picture. On the invitations, ask each guest to bring a baby photo of themselves to the party. Alternatively, the guests can e-mail them to you and you can have them all blown up to the same size and placed flat around a table at the party. Be sure each person’s name is on the back of the photo. Put a number somewhere visible on each photo. Ask the guests to fill in on a numbered sheet of paper who they think the person is in each picture. The winner gets a prize, such as a gift card to a favorite store or restaurant.

Graduating from middle to high school is an even bigger deal, especially in the minds of the graduates. Keep it simple and fun. Photo booths with props are always a hit, or paint a game of Twister on the grass. Ask guests to bring water guns, water balloons or nerf-type toys and give them the Last Chance to Be a Kid party. Make sure you tell them to wear something they don’t mind getting wet and meet at a park for a picnic afterward.

Then there is what I refer to as “the big one:” the high school graduation party. My three sons graduated one after the other in sequential years. My advice is to not go solo here! Assemble five or six other moms and make it a group gathering, with each mom taking an assigned task or two to make everyone’s load manageable.

My oldest son and his friends requested an outdoor barbecue at the home of one of the families that had a backyard pool. We even had a karaoke stage and plenty of food to serve the 300-plus guests who showed up to this open-house style event.

My middle son chose a more subdued party in a private room at a local restaurant with only 25 people in attendance. My youngest son opted to host a fun party at a local brewery with an attached pizza pub. No alcohol was served, obviously, but the setting in an actual brewery was unique! We had several pizzas prepared, along with appetizers and several dessert choices. We decorated with Class of 2016 party items and enjoyed a guest list of about 150 people over a three-hour period. We had a special table dedicated to the guests of honor with posters made for each of them, decorated with photos of each young man over the years, mounted with ample border space for guests to sign them. Decorative baskets, into which guests placed cards for the graduates, flanked the posters.

After hosting numerous graduation parties and events for my boys over the years, I realize the most important part of each one was the planning. Being prepared truly helped, as did having a small army of other moms to assist, so that each of us could enjoy the moment rather than running around and missing out the fun. After all, this is somewhat of a graduation process for you, too! ■

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