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For some readers, this is the most important time of their lives until they get married, buy a house, have a kid, or some other really big milestone.  For some, this is a stressful time when we struggle to find the best, most appropriate gift that has a deeper meaning than “here, take this”.  This post is for the parents and families of graduates.

Okay, in my family, I have people graduating from Pre-School, Kindergarten, High School, and College.  I’m sure there are some graduating from obedience school as well.  This is huge for them.  They’ve worked hard, in some cases harder than they ever have in the past or ever will work again in the future.  You want to give them something to celebrate, but you aren’t sure what.  There are plenty of ideas out there, but I thought I would share a few with you.

Pre-School/Kindergarten:  Okay, I admit that I’m a little skeptical of calling this a graduation.  I mean, it’s freaken’ Pre-School, or Kindergarten.  That been said, I can acknowledge that this is definitely a developmental landmark for children.  This is a time when kids have learned some basic skills, and for many, the first time when they are away from their parents socializing and learning with peers of the same age.  So in that light, why not give a gift.

The important thing here is managing future expectations.  On one side, you don’t want to start down a path where you have to buy increasingly more expensive gifts too early.  You don’t want this “graduation” gift to be seen as comparing with graduation from high school or college.  On the other side, you don’t want to make this the same type of gift that kids get for not crying at the store.  You can also manage expectations by giving gifts that accentuate that they are starting a voyage into education that can last a lifetime!

Marker Board/ magnetic letter board


Magnetic Chalk board/ Dry-erase board:  This item, available at Target for $16.99 is a great way to integrate some of the same experiences that children will find in school.  On one side, there is a marker board.  Since this is the norm at almost all schools, kids can play school, practice writing skills, work out math problems, or draw silly marker pictures.  On the other side is a chalk board for that old-school feeling.  Both sides are magnetic.


Johnny Appleseed by Patricia Brennan Demuth: Book CoverBooks!  Sacajawea by Joyce Milton: Book CoverEither of these books, or thousands of others are a great gift.  Many of these books might be on the reading list for your child’s next school, so you can teach young children about the value of preparation and reading ahead.  Even if a particular book isn’t on a teacher’s list, I guarantee that reading almost any book is going to help young people throughout their lives.  Pictured are two historical books that open the door to children learning American history.  Okay, I admit that as a history teacher, I’m partial to making sure kids learn history, but there are other types of books out there.

One thing about books:  As parents, especially of children this age, YOU have to read all the books you expect your children to read before they read them.  You want to make sure that the book is appropriate to your child’s age level, reading ability (you want it to challenge them, but not be so difficult as they get frustrated and give up), and your morals and values.  For example, everybody loves Charlotte’s Web.  But let’s face it, there are some sad scenes in this book that might be too much for overly sensitive kids.  Do you really want to have to sit and deal with your crying child who now hates reading because he read a book that was sad?  Other books might not jibe with the values you want to teach your children.  The only way to know this ahead of time is for you to read the books ahead of time.

Educational toys:

Toys are fine, but when kids are young you have the opportunity to show them that toys and games can be both fun and educational.  Websites like and specialize in games and toys that are both fun and educational.


High School:  This is probably the big one that most people will buy the best gifts for.  This is where it can also be expensive.  At the risk of pissing of a lot of the young people that I write for and teach, you don’t have to spend a ton of money to make graduation from high school special.

Oh, the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss: Book Cover

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!:  This has been a classic for graduation for 20 years.  It’s whimsical, it’s fun, it gives good life lessons.  Warning:  If you read this book while thinking of your graduate, you may cry.  Make sure you don’t get tears on the book!

This book allows young adults to focus a little more on the young and less on the adult for a while.  We all might know that once you are out of high school, you become an “adult”, and in many cases, have to leave behind a lot of the safety and security that comes with being a child.

This version is a hard-cover deluxe edition.  It is slightly nicer than the regular cover, but both books are excellent for a graduation gift.

Is your kid going to continue on to college, or are they going to join the workforce?  Depending on which, other gift ideas can be pretty cool too.  For the student, you might get supplies, or even donate towards the student’s textbook fund.  Textbooks are expensive.  Even if you can find discounts, they are way overpriced.  For the worker, you can look at things like alarm clocks, watches, pens, or other items.

Experiences:  If at all possible, try sharing in an experience with your graduate.  It could be a family trip somewhere the graduate wants to go, or it could be as simple as a day with the graduate where you reminisce and share conversation.  A time when they are the focus.  If you plan one of these, consider leaving the electronics at home.  Too often they get in the way of communication, and this may be, for many the last time where they can have good communication with the children we love so much.

Again, at the risk of angering some, while a car is a nice thing, it is just a thing.  Unless that car is a junker bought so you and your graduate can work on together, there are other times for a car.

College:  This is a big one.  Even more than high school, when someone graduates from college, they are on their own.  You have done everything you can to raise the precious little one that once slept on your arm into the man or woman who is now ready to take on the world.  You’ve taught them right from wrong.  You’ve taught them as much as possible about money and finance, and ready or not world, here they come!

Housewares:  This is probably the best idea.  If your children went away for college, let’s face it, they had crap!  They scrounged to repurpose furniture.  They probably have stains (you don’t want to know), on every item they own, including furniture and housewares.

A nice watch:  Depending on what they are now doing for a living, very few items say, “You’ve made it!” as much as a stylish watch.  Make sure the watch is practical for what they do.  Your teacher daughter might love a Rolex, but probably wouldn’t be able to wear it to work.  Your lawyer son probably won’t appreciate a novelty watch as much as another, more professional  model.

There are a lot of other great ideas out there as well.  You know your kids better than I do.  You know what they want, need, and would like.  Be creative, and try to get them something that means something to them.


Your graduate is important to you.  They worked hard to get to where they are.  Personally, for parents, I’m not a big fan of cash.  But that is only my opinion.  I know that a lot of kids want the cash, and would actually appreciate it more than any other gift.  If that’s the case, fine.  I think parents have the unique advantage of knowing their kids better than anybody else, and can use that knowledge to give a gift with meaning.  Use that gift that tells your graduate that you recognize everything they’ve gone through to graduate.  Use it to create an even stronger bond between you and your graduate.

Of course, for high school and even college, my suggestions are for “almost as good” gifts.  The best gift you can give to your child graduating from high school or college is FINANCE FOR YOUTH:  THE BOOK!  This is a book that will help them with any of those issues where you might not have been able to cover to your satisfaction. 

Many of the same topics are covered here as are covered in the book, but the book has completely different content.  We talk about getting a job, keeping a job, making decisions about financial institutions, balancing a checkbook, and even a lot of information about buying a car and other topics.  Check out a limited preview on my FACEBOOK  group.  In addition to the Table of Contents and Introduction, I’ve also included the first page of every chapter so you can get a feel for what you will be reading.  Buy a few copies, one for your graduate, one for you, and a third one (at least) for all those graduates you know that you want to get a gift for, but aren’t sure what to get.

Now, for something a little different:  Since the year 2000, this song has been the second most popular song for High School and Middle school graduation ceremonies.  As a teacher, I’m sure I’ll be tired of this song before the month is over, but for now, enjoy!

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  1. […] Finance For Youth offers up some graduate gift ideas. […]

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