How to Create an EASY, FUN, and FREE End of Year Kindergarten Celebration

How to create an easy, fun, and free end of year kindergarten celebration.  Kindergarteners standing with toes against the edge of a yardstick.

It's the end of the year. You're TIRED. But, did you know you can STILL create a magical YET EASY, FUN, and FREE end-of-year kindergarten celebration? Teaching kindergarten tends to keep you at both ends of the age spectrum.  On a daily basis, I hear myself turning into my mother and feel my joints revolting against tiny chairs. While I’m aging like a president, however,  I am simultaneously time traveling back to the days when I believed Mary Poppins would show up on a really windy day and I exchanged notes with the tooth fairy.  

Yes, kindergarten is an exhausting, magical, draining, exhilarating place. But, by the time May rolls around, it’s a miracle if I show up to school with mascara on my lashes and not lingering somewhere else on my face, and I always consider it a success if I am fully dressed and caffeinated. This should explain why the words EASY, FUN, and FREE are my love language! Are they yours?  Keep reading…

By the way, do you have a soon-to-be kindergartener?  Are you a kindergarten teacher?  Do you know someone who fits either of those descriptions?  If so, you have got to check out my FREE DOWNLOAD, 10 Things Your Kindergarten Teacher Really Wants You To Know Before They Go.  “I laughed through the entire thing – and shouted ‘YES!’ in agreement!  I want to make this a MUST READ for all of my incoming parents!” – Kindergarten Teacher

A Kindergarten Classroom Celebration

I love a good party.  And, I’ll even take it one step further and say I enjoy planning a good party.  I've always loved to design and decorate and can work a table display.  I dressed the windows for a clothing store in high school as a part-time job, and was a wedding consultant at a large department store where china patterns and floral arrangements were my jam!  I LOVE a planned-out, themed, fine-tuned party!  BUT…There’s a BIG BUT coming.  

(Aaannnnddd if you know kindergarteners – or elementary kids in general – you know that the last statement would have them rolling and there’d be no coming back from the “big but”. Uh-huh.  Actually, it is slightly funny.)

Kindergarten teachers – I know you’re out there and can shout AMEN! when I say – In May ain’t nobody got the energy or time or wherewithal to party plan – no matter how much you LOVE it!!  Especially not an epic end-of-year kindergarten celebration! I attempted this in my first few years of teaching, but then I realized that the carefully sought-out matching plates and themed balloon centerpieces were lost on 5 and 6-year-olds.  *sigh*  

Quote with a ruler and a heart against a chalkboard.  "The only measure of success is the amount of joy we are feeling."  - Esther Hicks How teachers measure success at the end of the school year.

Free End of Year Kindergarten Ideas

(can be the BEST End of Year Kindergarten Ideas)

In the same vein, what I’m about to share with you has become quite legendary with my incoming kindergarten kiddos, but was born out of sheer desperation one day in May a few years back.  I had no budget left.  My room moms had gone overboard for other things – for which I was extremely grateful.  I racked my brain trying to remember end-of-the-year parties in elementary school – and came up with NOTHING.  I couldn’t for the life of me remember any decorations or centerpieces or party favors.  Did we even HAVE an end-of-year kindergarten celebration?

I started having flashbacks and memories of things like Mrs. Pinkston in 3rd grade telling us stories about her parrot, Mrs. Boone singing and playing us classical music while we worked. Mrs. Baucom’s sandals and suntans, and Mrs. Whaley’s epic teacher look she could shoot you, and how it felt to be the reason she flashed her smile.  I decided I wanted to create a feeling.  A memory.  A moment.  

Creating a Memory Together as a Class

It’s funny…the kids who stop by each morning never say, “do you remember the treasure box item I loved” or “I remember the {insert item here} you stressed over matching perfectly”.  Nope.  They say, “remember when Silas threw his glasses accidentally and we laughed until you choked?”  “Remember when you airplaned all of us and then let us airplane YOU?”  

I’m not trying to belittle all of the amazing and talented crafters and creators out there – NOT AT ALL.  I’m a HUGE FAN.  However, I want to encourage EVERY TEACHER who is likely also a huge fan, but is:

  • Low on funds
  • Low on time
  • Low on energy
  • All of the above

You CAN create a magical and memorable end-of-year kindergarten celebration with something that you likely already have in your classroom.  If not – run down the hall to your teacher bestie who you KNOW has one.  (and I BET they’ll let you borrow it).  

You need:  A YARDSTICK.  Period

Kindergarten teacher with students sitting on the carpet in the classroom facing one student who is standing.  A yardstick is between them for the end of year kindergarten moving up ceremony.

Moving Up Celebration

​Currently, we don’t have an official kindergarten graduation or end-of-year kindergarten celebration at my school, nor did I have that experience growing up.   After several parents asked why we didn’t have one, I consulted the all-wise google and saw the cuteness overload of pint-sized graduation caps and gowns.  I loved the idea and wanted to have some sort of closing ceremony, or right of passage if you will. I just didn’t want to spend any money and didn’t have any time or energy to spare!

Enter—my yardstick! ?  Here’s how it works:

Steps to Creating a Jumping the Yardstick Ceremony

  • First, I have them all sit together on one side of the room, and I sit opposite of them (on the floor at their eye level is my favorite)
  • Next, I show them my yardstick and then lay it out horizontally between us
  • We talk about our measuring unit and how much fun we had. Then, I ask them if they think they can measure how much they’ve grown this year.  The answers are always sweet and funny – and I lead them to talk about growth that we can’t see with our eyes.  Their hearts.  Their kindness.  Their friendship.  Their confidence. 
  • I express how extremely proud I am of them and how much I KNOW they have grown! During this, there may be a brief little moment (or 50…who are we kidding here) when tears fill up my eyes and I have to stop for a minute and fan them away! (Yes…they always looove that! (“Ith thee cah-waiian?” —translation: is she cryin’?) ?
  • One by one, I ask them, “Who is ready to go to 1st grade??” 
  • I call their name, and they stand in front of the yardstick.  As we go along they get SO excited and are SO encouraging to their friends!
  • I have them state their name, and ask them why they think they are ready to move on to first grade. They come up with some pretty wonderful reasons, sometimes we do a little pinky promise or a little dance, sometimes I have them shout out “I BELIEVE!” – depends on the kid and the moment! (Last year I had a boy who broke out singing “I believe I can FLY!” Hilarious.
  • Finally, when they convince me I say they can jump over into first grade… And oh my goodness that jump is amazing! I have even had a kiddo tap dance over that yardstick! 
  • Those who are already on the other side celebrate and cheer— likewise, those still waiting can barely contain their excitement! ❤️
Snapshots of kindergarteners jumping over the yardstick to their kindergarten teacher, symbolizing their moving on to 1st grade during their end of year kindergarten celebration

Moving On Ceremony

Last year, when I posted about this topic on Instagram, I had a great question posed to me. I’m going to share it with you here, as you may be asking yourself the same question! 

I love this! ? What do you do for those being retained? 

In my school being retained in kindergarten is rare. However, it has happened. On this occasion, I had a private one-on-one conversation with the child prior to my ‘ceremony’ to share what would happen and get her feelings on it. Because of this, she was ok, and I asked if she would be my “special picker”. She sat beside me and was the one who chose each “candidate” and was also the one that told them when to jump! Giggling and laughing the whole time, she said she wanted to be the first to go next year. ☺️  In a different year, I knew the child wanted to participate — and so he did! Jumped with the rest as a “dress rehearsal”… and then came up and whispered to me that he couldn’t wait to do it again next year. ❤️  

To see the post – click here!

Kindergarten teacher sitting alone in an empty classroom facing a yardstick, waiting for her students to begin the end of year moving up celebration.

How Lucky I Am That Saying Goodbye is So Hard

Teaching kindergarten is truly one of the best jobs on the planet.  I am constantly teaching and reaffirming those life lessons that we all need to be reminded of.  I am also a student.  5 and 6-year-olds are joyful and unjaded and can often speak the wisest words in the simplest ways.  Each May, I count the weeks, days, and hours until summer, but I also count my many blessings.  Without fail, every year I have no clue how I will be able to love another group as much as I love my current little family. They are only this little for a little bit, and as proud as I am of the first graders they have become, it’s definitely bittersweet.  “How lucky I am having something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”  (Winnie the Pooh, another wise soul.)

Snapshots of kindergarten kids having fun and hugging their kindergarten teacher during the end of year kindergarten celebration.  Quote: "How lucky I am having something that makes saying goodbye so hard."  - Winnie the Pooh

So now, we are headed to the final days of the school year – but yet we are also ALREADY wrapping up incoming kindergartener assessments for next year! They look so tiny!  Speaking of which, do you have a soon-to-be kindergartener?  Do you teach kindergarten or know someone who does?  If so – you have got to check out my FREE DOWNLOAD, 10 Things Your Kindergarten Teacher Really Wants You To Know Before They Go.  

“I’m a retired kindergarten teacher and wanted something to send to my daughters for their kids. This is SPOT ON! Thank you for posting. I look forward to other posts from you!” – B. Mayes

Check out more on the Blog!

P.S. Jusssst in case you didn't know – I had a career mash-up of epic proportions I'd love to share with ya! Singer/Songwriter + Kindergarten Teacher = MUSIC FOR KIDS! (and their parents, teachers, etc!) I'd be honored if you'd take a hot second and go check some of my tunes out! We even had a #1 on Sirius XM Kids Place Live with “Dare To Be Me”! Pretty darn cool if ya ask me!

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