Our Facebook groups have been asking for graduation ideas during Covid-19 and quarantine, and as a mom to a rising senior, and a high school grad last year, my heart goes out to all the 2020 grads.
While school kids everywhere have had their lives and routines upended by COVID-19, for seniors it’s years of anticipation cut short, and it’s hard. Instead of coming together in their final weeks of school to celebrate prom, senior week, and, most of all, a big graduation ceremony, they’ve become sudden homeschoolers, and are forced to FaceTime with friends instead of going out, knowing things aren’t about to change so fast.
Though the seniors I know are taking things in stride (in many cases even better than their heartbroken parents!), I know so many parents who want to honor their graduates in a way that is momentous, joyous, and, of course, safe.
So, if you are a parent or guardian of a senior — or if you hold one dear — I’ve put together 6 graduation ideas during Covid-19, to help celebrate our special 2020 graduates during such unprecedented times.
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1. Embarrass them (lovingly) with a huge lawn sign
Yard signs are an increasingly common sight on the lawns of graduating seniors in my suburban town. In some districts, schools or parent organizations are making them available, but you can also create your own. I like this nicely designed, simple personalized graduation yard signs from Pear Tree, which is printed on both sides from materials that should last through April — and May — showers and comes with a metal stake.
Other resources: the big collection of personalized graduation yard sign designs on Zazzle, or check and see if there’s a local business near you that offers lawn sign rentals. It’s one of the simplest graduation ideas during Covid-19, and still makes a big splash.
A poster on your front door is always an option, of course, especially if you don’t have a big lawn. You can print one yourself or order a beautiful printed photo collage collage that’s ready-made, like a chalkboard graduation design poster from Snapfish or the hanging canvas graduation prints from Shutterfly (above. and currently on sale 50% off). Include some photos of your grad with their besties, and they’ll want to hang it in their dorm room next year too.
A garage door sign is another option for those of you with suburban grads. (And uh, garages.) I really like this custom vinyl graduation sign from Oh Simple on Etsy that can be ordered in different sizes. It becomes an extra special graduation idea when you use your grad’s school colors — the shop can match a color swatch, should you be working with very particular shades. It’s big, bold way to show your pride for all their hard work.
Oh, and they even offer a sign that says “honk for our quarantined grad,” should you want to delight your grad with little reminders through the day from neighbors — or even schedule a drive-by honking celebration, like so many families are doing to celebrate birthdays and graduations these days.
2. Turn your front door into a celebration of achievement
Photo: Niko Morales via GMA
With so many end-of-year ceremonies, banquets, and festivities being cancelled, I absolutely loved seeing this Good Morning America article depicting how some creative graduates (or their parents) are celebrating accomplishments by decorating their front doors with accolades from the past four years.
Check out the different tableaus made of sports equipment and letters, dance costumes, robotics club awards, cheerleading ribbons, and marching band uniforms. What a way to let your grad know how proud you are of them!
3. Create a keepsake photo book of school memories
Check out this list of our favorite custom photo book services, and you can create your own keepsake graduation-themed photo book that reflects their favorite memories of school. Dig out their class photos, birthday pictures, sports or dance team group photos, extra-curricular, and of course, tons of photos with friends.
Companies like Shutterfly, Snapfish, and Mixbook (shown above) all have school or graduation-themed templates that allow you to just drag-and-drop your favorite photos to create an affordable keepsake photo book. Or, if you have the photos (and the money!) but not the time, look into Tweed Wolf, which will do all the arranging, cropping, and editing for you to create something extraordinary for your graduate.
If you want to make your album more collaborative, remember, you can always ask friends and family to send in their favorite photos as well.
4. Take those cap and gown photos!
This is one of my favorite graduation ideas during Covid-19 and I hope everyone takes the opportunity to do this in some way. There’s a feeling so lump-in-the-throat about seeing your child wearing their graduation gown (that’s my daughter, above), so I highly recommend it.
If your school is not planning to send out caps and gowns to their seniors, there are several online shops like GraduationOutlet.com, which sell caps, gowns, and tassel in your school colors at a reasonable price. You can also make your own using fabric or even a trash bag (really!) and the instructions for a DIY Graduation Cap and Gown from Instructables. Just keep in mind that this is a preschool pattern, so you’ll likely need to increase the size a bit!
Then, feel free send out graduation announcement cards using those photos — lots of great choices from sites like Minted. Not only will your friends and family appreciate it, but it’s a nice way to support the post office right now.
5. Host a virtual commencement ceremony with a speech from your own grad
Commencement may be postponed or canceled, but you can still hold your own informal online ceremony complete with speeches, diplomas — yes, you can print your own diploma if you don’t yet have your official one — and plenty of pomp and circumstance.
-Invite friends or family members with the online graduation cards from Paperless Post or Evite (above), which now includes the option to add your own video chat link. (Evite also has a proprietary video chat currently in beta, but we haven’t tried it yet.)
– Have guests sign in using a video conference service like Zoom or Google Meet.
-Plan a short itinerary of events, like a commencement speech from your grad — they don’t even have to be the valedictorian!
-I also recommend families take a cue from the homeschooling graduation I attended last year (above) and invite parents and even a special “guest speaker” (a favorite teacher, coach, or even a relative who’s got a way with inspirational words) to give a short speech. It is so incredibly meaningful and will definitely lend some gravity to even the most makeshift of home graduations. Just make sure you are in view of the camera.
-To keep things celebratory, you can print up special awards to surprise your new graduate on camera — they can be real achievements that they should get accolades for, or ones you make up, just for fun. For my own graduate and her friends last year, I handed out these “dubious achievement” ribbons and they were a big hit.
-Of course, be sure to celebrate with a big cake at the end.
It may not end up being the same graduation you’ve been dreaming about for your child over the past 12+ years, but the personal touches will make it all the more special.
6. Compile a video of congrats from friends, family members, teachers, and other VIPs
One of the biggest bummers for this year’s graduates is that they will miss special final days of school saying goodbye to beloved teachers, sports coaches and assistants, and of course, their classmates. So bring those people to your student instead, asking them to contribute photos, videos, and memories to create a virtual greeting.
You can assemble your own using Canva, PicMonkey, or other graphic software. Or try a service that does it all for you.
Kudoboard (above) is one service that compiles all the photos, kind words, GIFS and videos from unlimited contributors for just $20; the final result is a digital slideshow that can be ordered as a printed keepsake as well.
And don’t forget the iMovie app which provides a very user-friendly way to pull together a bunch of video greetings from all the most important people in your grad’s life. My daughter once compiled the sweetest bunch of birthday wishes for her good friend using iMovie when she was only 13 years old! If she can do it, I’m pretty confident I can too.
7. Throw a (household) party: Food, decorations, the works.
Even if you are planning to throw a big bash of some kind once it’s safe for everyone to get together, try to mark their graduation day with your own mini party in your own household.
Decorate! I love these free printable graduation party decorations for the class of 2020 from Lil Sprout Greetings that you can print out without leaving the house.
Eat all the foods Keep food easy with a make-your-own food bar, or get delivery or takeout from their favorite local spots. I also love some of the unique food options from Goldbelly from around the country. It could be a cool idea to include foods that are local to your grad’s future plans — say, North Carolina BBQ for a kid going to Duke, or lobster for a student heading to New England. You could also find food representing what kids might be doing during a gap year.
Don’t forget the cake! Many local bakeries are accepting orders with no-contact pickup so that you can get their favorite cake or desserts. Or just whip up some of your own fun and easy little treats like these brilliant chocolate graduation caps from Good in the Simple.
You can also add a cake topper like the one at top, from Bride & Chic, which will make any cake at all something worth celebrating.
Oh, and a gift… A special book? Gift cards toward dorm supplies? A new computer? Cash? Whatever works for you, I’m sure they’ll love it. And if generous friends and family have sent gifts, you can sit down together and open them over Zoom too.
Whether you decide to celebrate your graduate in ways big or small, may they finish out their high school or college years knowing that, though things may be difficult now, they are the light that will help make the future brighter. Happy graduation to all of our kids.
Any special ideas you’re doing to celebrate a grad this year during Covid 19? We’d love to hear them in comments below!