Graduation Ideas & Planning

Graduation ceremony

Why hold a graduation ceremony?

For young students, graduation instills a special school spirit and recognizes their accomplishments. The ceremony creates closure as they move on from this first milestone and into the next big step in their academic career.

Parents are proud when their child achieves this milestone, which is great to recognize with the traditional pomp and circumstance of a ceremony. If parents pay tuition for your program, a ceremony rewards the investment made in their child's education. The ceremony is also an opportunity to capture a photo and to celebrate this first academic achievement.

For teachers & administrators, the ceremony is a testament to the quality education you and your staff provide to families in the community. We know that much of what you do happens "behind the scenes." A graduation ceremony is your chance to demonstrate the positive outcome of your efforts in educating young people.

When should you hold the ceremony?

  • Preschools, nursery schools, Head Start and Montessori programs can hold the ceremony at the end of the school year, as the students leave your program to begin kindergarten.
  • Students who have completed the kindergarten curriculum can celebrate as they get ready to move on to the First Grade program.
  • Day care centers can hold a ceremony at any time there are students ready to move on to the next level.
  • Students leaving elementary school at the end of 5th or 6th grade to go on to Junior High or Middle School, deserve to celebrate their accomplishments and commemorate this milestone as they transition to the next level of school.
Creating great photo opportunities

Graduation is a special occasion to be celebrated and commemorated. To create memorable pictures of the children in their caps and gowns, take a photo...

  • of each graduate with their parents
  • of each graduate with their teacher and/or the program director
  • of the whole class photo with their teacher and principal or program director
  • outside by the school/program facility sign
  • in the classroom
  • outside on the playground
  • outside by a tree
Planning recognition

Graduation is all about recognizing the accomplishments of your young graduates. Whether you are recognizing the leaving of your program, advancement to the next level or simply the end of the school year, here are some ideas for recognizing this milestone in their early academic careers:

Artwork displays – cover the walls with student artwork.

Diplomas – award each graduate a diploma (which implies completion) during the ceremony.

Achievement Ribbons – celebrate achievements with ribbons:

  • Great Job
  • Graduate
  • I Know My Colors
  • I Know My ABCs
  • I Know My Numbers
  • Attendance


Certificates – award each graduate a certificate during the ceremony for their accomplishments:

  • perfect attendance
  • learning numbers
  • learning ABCs
  • learning vowels
  • learning shapes
  • learning colors
  • learning to read
  • learning days of the week, months of the year, etc.
  • learning to tie shoes
  • being a good teacher’s helper
  • being a good listener
  • successful toilet training
  • knowing their phone number and address
  • writing name
  • losing a tooth

How to make it fun

No long speeches – have the teacher or program director say a few nice things about how hard the kids worked and what they accomplished.

Perform – sing, dance, do a skit!

Balloon drop – at the end of the ceremony, suspend balloons in plastic from the ceiling. Attach a string to the corner of the plastic. At the appropriate time, have someone tug on the string so the plastic gives way and the balloons come cascading down.

Confetti – if you can tolerate the clean-up process, children love confetti. They can help make it and then toss it at the end of the ceremony.

Treats afterwards – no celebration is complete without a treat! Cookies, cake, fruit, cheese, punch, etc. all make a great ending to the day's celebration.

Who to invite

(May vary depending on your type of program)

  • Immediate Family (parents, step-parents, siblings)
  • Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins
  • Potential new students of your program
  • Local Media (see below)
  • Principals and school administrators
  • School Board Members
  • PTA/PTO Members
  • Supporting Businesses – if any local businesses have donated to your program, invite them to the celebration

How to Get Favorable Publicity

Let the public know about the quality education you and your staff provide to young people. Depending on the type of program you offer, contact the local newspapers to write a story and take pictures. If you are part of a corporate day care program, invite the HR or Marketing departments to cover it for the employee newsletter.

Graduation support

There are several ways you can fund the cost of ceremonies and caps & gowns, depending on your situation:

Parent support – Ask each graduate’s family to pay for their cap and gown, then allow them to take it home and save it as a keepsake. Get customizable flyers to give to parents and order summary worksheets for schools.

Hold a fundraiser – raise funds to pay for the caps and gowns for all students or those who need financial help; or seek a corporate sponsor in your community to defray or cover the cost of the commencement ceremony.

Plan ahead and budget with school/program funds – if yours is a program where tuition is paid, you might be able to build the cost of the cap and gown into each child’s program fee.