My daughter is11 and graduating from elementary school and entering middle school in the fall. She is having a graduation with a picnic. I have been trying to think of what type of gift is appropriate for this occasion and am not sure. Money is tight right now, so I want to make sure it is thoughtful and not something wasteful. Any suggestions? What have other people done to celebrate educational milestones?
Gifts aren't common for elementary promotions in our area. My two had a ceremony at school but we didn't give them gifts for 5th grade.
If you want to do something and money is tight, perhaps something like a new backpack for middle school. A calculator (not the big graphic calculator... most kids don't need that until high school) but a basic scientific calculator can be handy. Some little gift cards for the summer might be nice. A friend gave DD (for eight grade) a cute vase with "gift card flowers." Each gift card was 5 dollars each at jamba juice, starbucks and a local ice cream place. It was cute and nice for DD to have in the summer.
I like those ideas, Jessaroo. When my older daughter finished elementary, the 6th graders always had a big end of the year party with lots of fun stuff like inflatables and games. They raised money all year for that, so that was their celebration. And then in 8th grade they had another really fun party in the park. High school graduation will probably be anticlimactic when it happens. :D
Is a gift actually expected where you live? I think a few families around here have a tradition like a family camping trip or an ice cream cone to celebrate the end of a school year, but there's nothing special for completing any particular grade other than 12th. Even then there's a lot of variability in whether gifts are given: some kids are given the title to mom's old Honda hatchback, others just get flowers or a restaurant gift certificate. Make sure you're not falling into the trap of spending money you don't have because of your perception that a substantial gift must be given. There may be a lot more variability in how it's handled by different families than you are aware of, and in my experience if kids are given realistic expectations ahead of time (eg. "just wanted to let you know that since money is tight, we'll come up with a nice surprise to celebrate finishing at your school but it'll be something that doesn't cost money"), they're not disappointed.
My kids may be weird, but they get excited by very simple things if they're made into special occasions ... the annual family nettle-collecting expedition and picnic at the lake is planned for tomorrow and my 11-year-old was in tears yesterday because she thought her head-cold might still be too bad for her to take part. (She's fine now, and we would have postponed it if she wasn't, but that just gives you an idea of how special she feels that experience is.)
If you have to or want to give something, consider giving the gift of an experience -- and it could very well be a free or low-cost experience. A candlelight restaurant-style meal at home with a friend or two, waited upon by parents dressed up and calling the kids "mademoiselles" and holding their chairs out for them and pouring pretend wine into stemware, a movie night at home for friends, or a family camping trip or hike to a scenic spot.
Mountain mama to three great kids and one great grown-up