Celebrating the End of This Long Strange School Year

Gift ideas for kids, teachers and YOU!

By Christen Reiner, Macaroni Kid Lakewood-Littleton & Macaroni Kid Denver Editor and Publisher May 26, 2021

I can hardly believe that we have reached the end of the school year. Some days this year felt like the longest year EVER. Our kids and their teachers were thrown curve balls left and right, and I have to say, they handled them like absolute champs. Were there glitches here and there? You bet. Were there times that we were all frustrated? 100 percent.

But no one has had to roll with the punches this year like educators and their students.

And parents! Yes, you! You were rock stars, too. You took on roles that you never thought you would take on. And quite frankly, roles that you didn't want! No one blames you for that. Yes, you are the parent, but most of us did not think we would be homeschooling our kids, or monitoring them while they were learning remotely ... while juggling our own jobs and quarantine troubles.

So, I think that we all deserve a celebration! I'm guessing that if you're like me you have very little brain power left at this point, and you might be dreading having everyone home again for the summer after it feels like we just got them back in their desks at school. So I'm going to help you out. Buckle up, buttercups.... let's get our end of school year 2021 celebrations on!

Celebrate the young kids:

  • Chill out with some ice cream after the last day of school. Who doesn't love ice cream?
  • Grab a friend or two, hit the park, and let the kids play!
  • Popsicles. Need I say more?
  • Gift your kids a couple of brand new books they'd love for summer reading. 
  • Even better, give them a gift card to your local bookstore, and let them pick out their own!
  • Pool toys or a summer fun tote make great end-of-year gifts and they give the kids something to look forward to.
  • Create a coupon book full of fun things to do that your kiddos can cash in this summer. It's okay to set some boundaries for when these can be redeemed.
  • Design a t-shirt to wear on the last day of school. Or buy one. Your kids don't care!
  • A picnic is always a hit with the kids, and it gives you a chance to reconnect with them after a busy year.

Celebrate your teens:

  • Take them out to lunch. Maybe not on the last day of school, because they will want to hang with friends, but get a date on both of your calendars.
  • Create a summer survival kit — gum, some fun money, a gift card to buy a new swimsuit, fun nail polish, a hat they would like, Pit Vipers, hammock, Harry Styles magazine (just sayin'), etc.
  • Gather up a basket of their faves ... you know, those things you won't usually splurge on for them.
  • Give them restaurant gift cards or a little extra spending money for the summer. Even a gas card is welcomed!
  • Coupon books might seem silly to a teen, but not when they are filled with unusual "values!" Think out of the box for your teens with a coupon book filled with unexpected treasures like:
    • Get out of one summer activity that doesn't float your boat.
    • Give one chore back to mom and dad for the week.
    • Good for one free tank of gas.
    • You pick the movie for a family night.
    • Choose a book that you enjoyed that your parents must read.
    • One breakfast delivered in bed.

Celebrate your teachers:

  • Join forces with a few families and buy your teachers a gift card to a nice restaurant so they can celebrate on someone else's dime.
  • Create a summer survival kit for them — restaurant gift card, favorite candy, favorite soda, an outdoor candle, and a book you recommend.
  • Scratch and win gift cards are inexpensive and a fun way to remind your teachers how lucky your kids were to have them this year.
  • A special sweet is always a treat and the perfect way to celebrate.
  • Do a little detective work and find out their favorites — candy, drinks, snacks, pens, fast food, magazine, etc. —  and gift them with one. Or a few.
  • Ask your kids what their teacher likes to do for fun. They probably know! Then get them something that they can enjoy while doing that. For example, if your teacher loves to hike, you can get them outdoor gear. Or if your teacher loves the beach, gift them a nice beach towel.
  • Write them a note from the heart and tell them why you appreciated them this year. Be specific!

Celebrate yourself:

  • Do something you enjoy BEFORE the kids are out of school. By yourself. Or with a friend. Whatever makes you happy.
  • Gift yourself a little secret stash of treats that you enjoy. This can be food or nonfood items. When you feel like you might lose it this summer, remember that stash and take a moment to pick out a treat just for you. 
  • Set aside a few minutes every day for reading time this summer, and read a book, or magazine, or even Facebook if it makes you happy! And force yourself to stick with it. Even little kids can read for 15 minutes, and you will be happy that you took the time each day. Trust me.
  • Schedule a date night with your partner, or a girls/guys night out, or both! And make it sooner rather than later!
  • Write a list of things that you would like to do this summer and share it with your kids. You might be surprised at what they make happen for you!

No matter what you choose to do, make a point to do something to celebrate making it through this strange year! Congratulations to ALL!

Christen Reiner is the publisher of Macaroni Kid Lakewood-Littleton and Macaroni Kid Denver.