End of Year School Party Ideas... with Recipes!

Eric Ginsburg

No matter the age, help kids celebrate the start of summer with these end-of-year school party ideas.

When you’re trying to come up with end of year school party ideas, sometimes tradition is the way to go. 

My mom would always let me celebrate the end of the year with the biggest bowl of ice cream I could imagine. Sometimes this took the form of a gargantuan homemade sundae, heaped with toppings and drizzled with chocolate syrup. Other years, we went out for banana splits. 

But there’s also something to be said for something unique, especially if you’re marking the end of the school year with a party. Here are a dozen food-centric end of year school party ideas that can be easily adapted to any age, so the kids in your life can enjoy a celebration that adequately represents their joy at summer’s onset.

End of Year School Party Photo

1. Backyard Camping with S’mores

This idea works best for a smaller group — maybe just your own children, or one or two besties each. Hopefully where you live, mosquitos aren’t in full force and any cicadas offer a dull background thrumming rather than a roar. 

What better way to welcome the summer than to embrace the outdoors and be a little more relaxed with bedtime? 

S’mores are the perfect backyard firepit treat, but you could also complete the experience with a grilled dinner

End of Year School Party Picture

2. Pizza Party

You can’t go wrong with pizza. Obviously ordering delivery is the easiest route, and may be exactly what you need after a long school year. But depending on the kids’ ages, consider a build-your-own pizza party where guests can top the pizza with their own selections. 

If it were me, I’d use store-bought pizza dough to save time, but allow the kids to roll it out themselves. Simplify the process and allow for maximum creativity by making English muffin pizzas, creating more little blank canvases to decorate and less fuss if something turns out terribly.

Grilled Barbecue Chicken Pizza Recipe Pic

3. Cookie Pizza

Oh, and speaking of pizza — have you ever made cookie pizza?! We’re talking a gigantic circular chocolate chip cookie on a pizza tray, topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit.

There was no bigger hit in my childhood home, and it’s still a celebratory favorite. Cookie pizza is incredibly easy to make, especially if you use store-bought cookie dough to save time and mess. It’s exactly the kind of indulgent decadence that makes a run-of-the-mill children’s party into something they’ll rave about all season.

Similar but different — younger kids would love these Cookie Monster brownies!

Cookie Monster Brownies Pic

4. Pool Party

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t grow up with a pool and I don’t have one now.

But having a hookup is crucial for summertime. As a kid, I relied on a neighbor. As a college student, I crashed any pool I could find, sometimes hopping a fence if needed. 

As a twentysomething, invariably found myself at an apartment complex’s pool, generally linked to a friend. And now as an adult, I’m not sure my friends realize just how much I’m planning to take advantage of their backyard digs.

If you don’t have a community pool, sprayground, or somewhere similar to dip in, you could even celebrate the start of summer by booking a one-night hotel staycation with the kids to let them enjoy room service and practice their cannonball.

That said, my first choice for a pool party, if at all possible, involves somewhere popsicles can drip down your knuckles, hot dogs seem to be in endless supply, and a cooler full of “spicy water” (AKA seltzer) sits nearby.

Crispy Chicken Sheet Pan Tacos Recipe Picture

5. Cruise Around the World

I’ve never been on a cruise, and some of the videos I see on TikTok are convincing me that I never need to.

Still, the activity remains incredibly popular, and it can be alluring for kids, too. What if you recreated the concept of a cruise on land, without being trapped on an expensive floating pollution machine with screaming tots?

Here’s the idea — create different stations that represent various countries where your “cruise ship” is going to dock. Plan out a few different destinations with distinct food offerings, and let your little ones set sail!

For example, maybe you drop an anchor in Puerto Rico and enjoy some sorullitos de maiz or panetela de guayaba before cruising over for some Jamaican jerk chicken. Continue your Caribbean cruise with some crispy chicken sheet pan tacos or Mexican corn in a cup.

Complete the vibe with some virgin piña coladas!

Protein Waffles Image

6. Sleepover Party and Breakfast Bar

The sleepover party part is pretty straightforward and was certainly my preferred kind of celebration as a kid. You can pair this idea with pretty much any other on this list really easily to keep the fun going, and may be particularly beneficial if you’re a grandparent or rich auntie who’s taken their kin in for a summer kickoff weekend.

Make the experience extra memorable with a build-your-own-breakfast bar, especially if you’re trying to entertain multiple kids (or a party full of them). Think fun toppings or additions to waffles or pancakes in particular, but this could also look like a cereal bar with a bunch of different options.

For special occasions, my mom would implement this plan, but upgrade the experience even more by making crepes. I distinctly remember my sister asking for this regularly when her friends would sleep over, and I’d be one of the beneficiaries of her plan. We’d slather the crepes with Nutella, fruit, powdered sugar, and more, delighting in the decadent treat.

Are Saturday morning cartoons still a thing in the streaming era? Because that’s the only missing ingredient.

Salted Caramel Milkshake Photo

7. Ice Cream Party

Speaking of sweets, ice cream socials were the only kind of school party that ever interested me. If you’re organizing a gathering on school grounds, this and pizza are really the only ways to go. And as mentioned, a magnificent towering helping of ice cream was always my favorite way to end the school year. 

Create an experience similar to those froyo bars that proliferated around the country a decade ago with endless toppings. You might have to mop Oreo dust out of every crack in your kitchen, but hey, this is a once-annual event! Roll with it.

Related — you could also try making skillet brownies and topping them with ice cream.

End of Year School Party Pic

8. Movie Night

I planned to reference the Ramones’ Rock & Roll High School movie here, but that probably just makes me sound too much like the aging punk I am. 

Instead, something on Disney+ is probably more what you need. Maybe the full Taylor Swift Eras set, or Coco?

What differentiates this from a normal weekend? Combining it with a sleepover party with friends is certainly one route. Another would be to set up an outdoor showing if possible (or even go to a drive-in theater and bring treats from home).

You can also upgrade the experience with the food, of course. Consider making Nerds popcorn, Oreo popcorn, or Nutella popcorn to delight the kids in your life. Make their eyes bulge with homemade Twix candy bars or another memorable dessert like chocolate cheesecake pudding.

Popcorn Factory Popcorn Copycat Image

9. Beach Party

Anything that evokes the season to come will be an instant hit. Unless you live incredibly close to a coast, bringing the beach to you may be the best option.

Cover the floor and couch with beach blankets and put a beach-view screensaver on the TV. Or take the party outside and play the sound of waves over a portable speaker. Give each kid a pair of shades at the door, and set up a sand art station.

Stock a cooler with Capri-Suns, freeze popsicles together, or tell everyone to wear swimsuits and let them run through a sprinkler. 

Root Beer Float Popsicles Pic

10. Backyard Cookout

Nothing says summer quite like a cookout. The smell of charcoal and fresh summer air mingle to tell us the evils of standardized testing and homework are behind us (for now). 

Depending on when your school year ends, this may be your first outdoor dinner of the year, or at least the first time you fired up the grill and realized you were out of propane.

Make your kids’ favorite meal, or try something new, like cilantro lime grilled shrimp or grilled pineapple with mascarpone. If you’ve got picky eaters on your hands, grilled meatballs are probably safe, or you can always stick to burgers and dogs. 

It’s less about what you’re making and more about the vibe — carefree, relaxed, and unaware of the clock.

Dessert for Two Rainbow Cookies Photo

11. Cookie Decorating Party

Any dessert decorating is generally going to go over well with kids, from the aforementioned cookie pizza to a gingerbread house. So why not let your kid and their classmates decorate a couple dozen cookies?

You could cut sugar cookies into summery shapes like a sun or a wave, offer frosting in school colors, or test their penmanship by attempting to write messages like “School’s out!” or “Vacation mode” on top (depending on their ages). 

You could even turn it into a Great British Baking Show-style blind competition.

Fruity Pebble Marshmallow Cookies Pic

12. Picnic Party

What differentiates this from a backyard cookout? Nothing if you’re lazy.

But it doesn’t take much to kickstart a child’s imagination. Maybe it’s a couple of props like a picnic basket, checkered blanket, and sitting on the ground. Or maybe you make the effort to go somewhere out of the ordinary, like a local park or a campsite.

Better yet, switch up the food and let them decide as much as possible. Are they old enough to appreciate a meat and cheese spread? Do they want to have a tea party with friends and pretend they’re part of the Bridgerton universe? Would they prefer to eat homemade sushi or a burrito bowl from Chipotle?

It doesn’t really matter, as long as they’re happy.

End of Year School Party Image

Eric Ginsburg is the Editor of Food Fanatic. He's served as an editor at three newspapers and written for a wide range of publications, including Bon Appétit, Serious Eats, Wine Enthusiast, Southern Living, and Eater Carolinas. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. Follow him on Instagram.

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Eric Ginsburg

About Eric

Eric Ginsburg is the Editor of Food Fanatic. He's served as an editor at three newspapers and written for a wide range of publications, including Bon Appétit, Serious Eats, Wine Enthusiast, Southern Living, and Eater Carolinas. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. Follow him on Instagram @eric_ginsburg.