What to Do on the Last Day of School

As the days get warmer and longer, kids anxiously anticipate three months free from studying and homework. Here's what to do on the last day of school.

Kids on the last day of school throwing papers in the air

“My boss reminded me we only have 10 weeks left, and I couldn’t believe it – the year went by so fast,” says Colleen Burcroff, a fourth-grade teacher at Escuela Avancemos! Academy in Southwest Detroit.

If you are just as surprised as Burcroff by the approaching first day of summer break, then you may want to get some ideas about how to help your family prepare.

The last day of school is a fun – but also challenging – time for students.

Wondering what to do on the last day of school for your kids? Here are some ideas to help launch your family into a great summer.

1. Come clean

Arguably the worst part of the last day is locker and cubby clean out. Deciding what you want to keep or what you want to throw out can be difficult, and the task itself is tedious. To help students get through it, Burcroff gets it over with first thing.

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“I send half the class to clean their cubbies and the other half to their lockers then they switch. I tell them to only take home important things they’re proud of or things they can use to get organized for the next year, such as empty folders and notebooks.”

2. Give back

While Burcroff says she’s happy accepting laughter and hugs as her end-of-year gifts, other sources urge giving teachers a token of appreciation for spending their year instructing your children. Scholastic suggests a handmade gift that your child can help with. “A handmade gift will not only make a teacher’s last day of school memorable,” it notes in an article; “it will help your child feel he did something special for someone he cares about.” 

The blog A Girl and a Glue Gun suggests printing out surveys to get to know teachers for personalized gifts. Have them answer questions about their favorite foods, colors, hobbies, etc. to get them something they will actually use. The blog also suggests school supplies, (since many teachers have to buy these out of pocket), gift cards and thank you notes.

3. Get in the water

“It’s usually 9 bajillion degrees out, so we have water balloon fights. We started the first year I was here, and now everyone looks forward to being in the fourth grade, because they know it’s coming,” says Burcroff.

Whether you’re a teacher or a parent, you can copy this idea and get some water balloons and water guns loaded for a refreshing battle. Or you can have water fun by jumping through sprinklers, hitting the pool or hopping around a local splash pad.

4. Make a summer bucket list

“We make a summer bucket list about two weeks before the last day where kids can write goals – whether academic or family activities – to lessen the anxiety of the change and loss of routine,” Burcroff says.

Sherry Kelley, a parent from Coweta, Oklahoma, wrote a similar suggestion in a Parents article, saying she makes a countdown chain. “Every few links has a special activity written on it: ‘Hike,’ ‘drive-in movie’ and so on. For the last day of school, it’s always ‘ice cream sundaes.'”

Help your kids plan for a memorable summer by figuring out ahead of time what is on their “to-do list.” This is also a great way to ensure they will continue their education over the summer by adding trips to the zoo, museums and science centers to the list.

5. Update contacts/collect autographs

Most high schools – and even some middle schools – have yearbooks that friends can sign. Those messages usually include phone numbers so that students can contact each other over the summer.

Even if your child doesn’t have a yearbook, it is a good idea to send them to school with some sort of autograph or signature book. This way, they can contact their friends for get togethers over the summer. 

Scholastic also suggests asking the teacher if you can make a family address, phone and email list to distribute to the class. That way, you can coordinate get play dates.

6. Get crafty

The end of the year offers a variety of reasons to bust out the scissors and glue sticks. Whether it’s making a teacher gift, a celebration banner or an activity for the class to enjoy, creating crafts on the last day of school will help kids pass the time – and have a cool memento, too.

Burcroff says for her class, she created a giant homemade Scrabble game that the students can play outside. Consider other board games that you can make life-size, too, such as checkers and Clue.

7. Make it sweet

Ice cream socials, s’more parties and whipped cream fights – these are just a few suggestions from parents in the Parents article. I know my nephew will be hopping on the Grosse Pointe trolley to get to Sweeties for a scoop. Celebrate the end of the school year by indulging some sweet teeth.

8. Look back and plan ahead

Burcroff has her students reflect about the past school year with an autobiography assignment called “My Life as a Fourth Grader.” She says that it helps them overcome some of the anxiety surrounding the change they are facing.

Scholastic suggests talking to kids about all of the changes they have been through in the past year and supplementing those conversations with pictures so they can physically see how far they’ve come.

Burcroff also makes her students review packets that they can return on the first day back to school for incentives. This way, they are learning over the summer – and they’re also getting over the anxiety of starting in a new classroom with a new teacher.

Scholastic also agrees with this approach, suggesting parents take students to see their future classrooms and meet their future teachers on the last day of school, so that they have an idea of what to work on over the summer.

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