It can be easy to plug away at tasks and deadlines without taking time to pause and acknowledge your accomplishments and the accomplishments of those around you. Celebrating the small and big wins within your program is crucial to the individual and collective health of your community. Let’s explore ways to increase a culture of commemoration within your program, celebrating the achievements of those we serve and those we serve alongside.
Why We Celebrate
It feels good to acknowledge one another, progress, and milestones.
It promotes reflection on what worked and what can be replicated in the future.
It offers a break from daily work routines to reset and recharge.
It’s a conscious effort to turn our focus towards gratitude instead of emphasizing lack.
It’s great for our health. A research study conducted by University of California Davis and University of Miami showed that people who consistently cultivate moments of celebration and gratitude have more energy, less stress and anxiety, improved physical health, and are more likely to help others.
What makes a great celebration?
Make affirmations and acknowledgements specific. It is important to be as detailed as possible when communicating individual and collective accomplishments. Be sure to include specifics like who was responsible, what was accomplished, and how a goal was achieved.
Consider the timing of the celebration. Consider ways to spread out celebratory moments to make them a part of your overall culture. Hosting occasional, grand celebrations is important to highlight momentous accomplishments, but it’s also important to recognize the small wins that happen on a more frequent basis.
Ways to Celebrate Families:
Make graduation bags. Gather a host of different items to give out as graduation gifts at your last session. These bags can include graduation hats, certificates, pictures from the session, books, gift cards, and brochures that highlight early talk events.
Ask for donations. Reach out to local restaurants, performing and visual art venues, museums, child-play activity centers, parks and recreation, and other local organizations to see if they are willing to donate a product or service to your cause. For example, Denver Public Library (Colorado) gave memberships to the local children’s museum to families during their LENA Start graduation.
Create DIY gifts. Do-it-yourself gifts are great to incorporate when celebratory funds are limited. Consider creative crafts you and your team can make to create meaningful gifts for your families. For example:
- Centers for Families and Children (Ohio) provided families with a box of materials they can use to make and decorate musical instruments. Families will be able to play along with the graduation music at the last session!
- Read Aloud Delaware (Delaware) created graduation hats out of poster board, using multi-colored yarn to create tassels and stickers and markers to decorate each cap.
- Best Memories Academy (Florida) asked families to write down one recipe they would like to share with other LENA families. Best Memories collected those recipes and created a recipe book that was shared as a gift to families at graduation. This book inspired families to share their own culture and family history with one another.
Make a slideshow. Create a photography archive that highlights the beginning to ending of your program. Ask parents to do the same and share their pictures with you. Gather these photos to create a slideshow and present it to families at the end of your programming.
Host a virtual dessert party. Consider creating a take-home bag of cookies, cupcakes, or other treats with decorative ingredients. Set a time to host a virtual decorating party. Invite families to share and eat their dessert masterpieces with one another. For example:
- Denver Public Library (Colorado) hosted a virtual ice cream social for their families to connect outside of regularly scheduled programming. They delivered ice cream to families, then hosted a casual zoom meeting to chat and enjoy their treats.
- Iowa State University (Iowa) has made it a tradition to host cookie decorating parties with their families for graduation. They invite all the family members to create decorative cookies while the facilitators share the accomplishments they’ve witnessed throughout their sessions.
Decorate your meeting space. Whether you are hosting a virtual or in-person celebration, create a space that marks this festive moment as “special.” Consider hanging streamers or balloons. You might also try adding a virtual party background to your video-conferencing platform or dressing up for the occasion with party hats, kazoos, costumes, graduation robes, etc.
Add some tunes to the occasion. Incorporating background music can liven up any celebration. Consider adding music that matches the mood you want to evoke. Consider upbeat tempos for happy, exciting, funny moments and slower, melodic tunes for moments of inspiration, hope, and reflection.
Host a pop-up, drive-in celebration. Choose a location that accommodates vehicles to park at a safe distance and enjoy a socially distant celebratory experience. For example:
- Best Memories Academy (Florida) hosted a drive-in graduation featuring a slideshow on a large outdoor screen, a photobooth, a gift bag station, and a meal prepared in takeout containers for families to enjoy in their cars.
Ways to Celebrate Your Team:
Say thank you. A simple “thank you” can go along way when you recognize a colleague’s dedication, their consistency, their acts of kindness, their work ethic, etc. These moments of recognition can be shared across title or position and during any time.
Host an achievement happy hour. Ask your team to grab a tasty drink of their choice and join one another for a virtual happy hour to celebrate your accomplishments for completing a project or goal. Once acknowledgements are communicated, consider adding a fun event to your celebration like a virtual party game (e.g. murder mystery, trivia) or a cooking class that welcomes laughter and fun to your event.
Buy your team a meal. Consider sending your team a breakfast/lunch/dinner at their respective residences. Share the meal together over a virtual meeting.
Grant time off. Time is a precious resource for many. Giving your team a block of time to do what they choose can re-energize and encourage staff. It will be much appreciated.
DIY together. Consider creating a craft or meal together over a virtual meeting. A list of needed supplies will have to be considered before participating in this event.
Send a personalized gift. What are those special characteristics you know about each of your teammates? Maybe it’s a favorite candy bar, favorite restaurant, or a personal hobby. Consider specializing your gift-giving and adding a personalized note that acknowledges the celebration of your teammate.
Shout out ceremony. Create digital certificates and host a virtual ceremony that highlights what each teammate brings to the team and how they have supported and contributed to overall goals.
What are ways you plan to celebrate your team and the families you serve? Share with us stories and pictures! We’d love to hear!