Middle school graduation marks the transition from child to teen. It's the stepping stone to high school and the world beyond. No wonder it's become an increasingly celebrated milestone! If you're looking for a great gift for a middle school grad, here are some ideas to send him or her onto high school in style.

  • A reusable lunch set, utensils, or water bottle. When mystery meat's on the cafeteria menu, the smart student brings a healthy lunch from home. Stainless steel stacking containers are durable, chic and affordable. Bamboo utensils are a green alternative to plastic, and BPA-free bottles save money and calories when filled with tap water. A good source for all three? www.lunchboxes.com
  • A pay-as-you-go cell phone. Like it or not, your middle school grad is headed to high school, land of after-school activities, parties, and friends who drive. A bare-bones phone loaded with enough minutes to reach you in an emergency will help you both sleep at night. Seek out one without a built-in camera, and discuss your family's policy on texting before handing it over.
  • High school logo wear. Rev up the school spirit before the new year starts!
  • A computer. There's no need to pay for all the bells and whistles, but an inexpensive system including word processing is almost a necessity. Set ground rules about Internet browsing immediately.
  • Extracurricular accessories. Is your son planning on taking photos for the high school yearbook? Try a new camera, a digital photo frame, or a memory stick. Is your friend trying out for track? She'd probably love new sweats, an iTunes gift card, or a box of protein bars. In the great ego adjustment that comes with the shift from big-kid-on-campus to newly minted freshman, a gift tailored to the student's interests can be a balm to self-esteem—even if she is playing third-string JV.
  • Cash. You've probably already started thinking about college, but you may not have considered the many expenses that will crop up before then: class trips, new clothes, after-school outings, tickets to games and plays. Open a bank account, let your child add to it over the summer, and be very clear about what expenses she's expected to cover on her own. If she learns to set a budget and stick to it in high school, she'll be a step ahead when she gets to college.
  • A high school movie night, complete with popcorn and soda. Buffy the Vampire Slayer may not provide a totally accurate preview of the high school experience, but watching it together may help calm some pre-new-school jitters. For a list of classic high school movies, click here.  
  • A head start. If you know your grad plans on trying out for an athletic team or extracurricular in the fall, give him a running start by signing him up for extra training over the summer. Many high schools and athletic leagues offer pre-season training for a fee. Dance studios, theaters, and universities offer summer classes. If specialized help isn't in your budget, present your child with a gift certificate promising your company on training runs, your help with debate arguments, or your time reading lines.

Middle school graduation is as much a milestone for parents as it is for kids. It's a rehearsal for the graduations that will come later and propel your child out of your home and into the world. The gifts you give, whether homemade or store-bought, frugal or pricey, reflect your love and support—and they're all big.