Special Events & Family Fun Ideas
Our Special Event ideas give you a reason to fundraise all year. It's time to spend some of the PTO funds and give back to the kids. Here, we provide information on non-profit programs. These ideas are meant to provide fun for them just because they deserve it!
- After-School Workshops
- Artistic Talent Shows
- Bingo For Books
- Book Swap
- Day at the Movies
- Day at the Zoo
- Earth Day
- Field Day
- Food Nights
- GRAM Days
- Holiday Workshop - Holiday Shopping - UPDATED
- Host A Theme Party
- Ice Cream Social
- Internet Safety Seminar
- Kids Fair
- Memory Video
- Movie Night
- Need Volunteers?
- New Years Eve Celebration
- Parade Float
- Roller Skating or Ice Skating
- Scavenger Hunt
- Search Places & Events in Your Hometown
- Spirit Days
- Team Spirit Night Out
- Theme Days
Staying safe online is an important issue for both kids and parents. We encourage every PTO to host an internet safety seminar - two actually: a morning session for students and an evening one for parents.
Every school system has a School Resource Officer, a member of the police force that works within the schools to handle & monitor student issues and to raise awareness about drugs & alcohol. If your school system doesn't have an officer assigned to the schools, just ask your local police. The seminars are free to offer and very educational.
Field Day is a a full day of outdoor fun for the kids. Give the kids "team" t-shirts, play games, and have a picnic lunch. Here are some ideas to make it fun:
- T-Shirts: Purchase t-shirts for every student at a local craft store (about $3 each). Each grade gets a different color and gets to decorate their shirt in their chosen theme (sports, letters, butterflies, or have students sign eachother's shirts). In honor of the Olympics, some schools opted to have each class chose a country and decorated their shirt based on their country.
- Field Games: Kick ball, wiffle ball, flag football, soccer, basketball. Other games ideas include:
- Water Games: Set up a sprinkler or a few small pools and have water guns & spray bottles available. Set up a dunk tank and dunk the principal. Water balloon relay race or toss. Put marbles in the bottom of one pool and the kids have to grab the marbles using only their toes.
- Jousting Contest: Set up two long boards next to eachother where each kid tries to knock the other off the board with a pool noodle.
- Scavenger Hunt: Create a list of questions and kids have to find other kids that answer the questions. Example, Find someone that vacationed in FL this year; Find someone with green shoelaces; Find someone who has a Mom named Kate.
- Sports: Kickball, Volleyball, Wiffleball, Frisbee, Softball, Basketball, Floor Hockey, Bowling, Disc Golf, Soccer
- Team Races: Relay, Sack Race, 2-legged race, frog jump, obstacle course, 25 yard dash, 100 yard dash
- Bean Bag or Ring Toss: Also see Kids Fair below.
- Contests: Hula-Hoop, Jump Rope, Limbo, Basketball Free-throw, 3-Legged Race, Tug-of-War, Soccer-Shots-on-Net
- Picnic: You can either ask the kids to pack a bag lunch or ask your school food service to cook (bag lunch or hamburgers & hotdogs and fruit).
- Refreshments: Rent a slush or snow cone stand. Have bottled water available througout the day.
Kids (& Adults) of all ages enjoy the challenge and excitement of a great scavenger hunt. A scavenger hunt is like a mental obstacle coarse in which the participants follow clues to find hidden "treasures". Scavenger hunts can be incorparted into fundraisers to create awareness, used as a "Welcome Back to School" event or an end of the school year celebration activity, or worked into an educational lesson.
For planning details, go to our Scavaneger Hunt page.
A great reward for kids is as simple as extra playtime!
A Book Swap is an exchange of gently used books between students. This is a great way for families to obtain "new" books without spending any money. Book Swap guidelines:
- On January 8th, 9th, and 10th, bring one, two, or three books to school. No more than 3 books per child.
- The books must be in good condition. Please avoid Golden Books at the primary level.
- The books should be ones that are appropriate for your grade level or one or two grades above.
- On January 15th choose "new" books to take home. (Choose the same number of books you originally donated.)
- Keep in mind that someone else will take home your original books. Bring in books that you enjoyed but no longer want to keep.
Whether it's once a month or just a few times a year, talk to the school principal about reserving the school gymnasium or cafeteria (this may involve hiring a custodian for a few hours) and let the kids play bingo with books as prizes. Bingo can be run in two different ways. Whichever way you decide, no child should have to leave without a prize.
Charging an entrance fee is optional since this is a non-profit event. You may choose to charge $2.00-$3.00 per child or $5.00 per family as an entrance fee and put these profits immediately back into the bingo program by purchasing juice boxes, snacks, or purchasing books for the next bingo night.
- It can be run like a book swap in that each child brings one or two gently used books as an entrance fee. These books then act as the bingo prizes. Everyone leaves with a book; or
- The PTO can purchase some new books to be used as the prizes through their scholastic book program (while earning books for their school) or online. In this case, we suggest having each child also bring a gently used book from home. Place these on a table for the kids to choose one each so everyone leaves with at least one book.
You may want to have simultaneous bingo games taking place. Divide the room up into different age groups and offer age appropriate books as prizes. Bingo games can be played by calling out letters or numbers for the younger players or give the older ones a challenge by asking lesson-related questions and having them crossing off the answers on their bingo sheet. For example, What is 2 plus 4? Cross off "6" on the bingo sheet; What is the 3rd planet from the sun? Cross off "Earth" on the bingo sheet; What is the largest rainforest in the world? Cross off "Amazon" on the bingo sheet. Teachers can help prepare these and coincide the questions with lessons the kids learned in class that month.
Gingerbread Houses: Make them from scratch that evening or have student's bring in an already assembled gingerbread house. Place paper or plastic tableclothes on the lunch tables and bowls of various candy pieces and let them decorate their houses.
Potluck: Each family brings a different dish to share. Or, choose a theme for the evening - Mexican, Italian, Pizza, Noodles, Vegetarian, Tropical Fruits.
Give the kids a lesson they can be excited about learning. Let them work all year long making decorations during art class, talking about geography and science, or learn about another time & place. Then at the end of the school year, make that lesson a reality by transforming your auditorium into what they've learned. See our theme party ideas. Our parties are fun and educational. Our goal is to have the kids learn while they celebrate!
Art Gallery: Turn the gym into a gallery and host a viewing of the students' best artwork.
Poetry Showcase: Students perform a poem on stage.
Musical Performances: Students write and perform their own songs.
Lip Sync: Students lip sync their favorite songs.
Talent Show: Students perform short skits, dance routines, or play a song.
Note: Hook up a great sound system. Host a dress rehearsal before any live show.
Find a special event taking place, a great park, zoo, or restaurant in your town and plan a school trip. There is no better resource for this than ParentsConnect.com (formerly GoCityKids), a site that lists places and events by city and by date. Before you begin browsing the ParentsConnect site, please begin here and let them know how much you like PTO Ideas so that other PTO members will visit us and share their favorite ideas too. Thank you!
If you have a movie theatre that is within walking distance (1 mile or less) of your school, a day at the movies is a fun event for the kids. Chaperoned students will enjoy the walk and the movie theatre will welcome the mid-morning business to rent a theatre. Negotiate with the theatre to offer a discounted rate. The PTO can either pay for all of the movie tickets or can help subsidize the cost so the student only incurs a minimal fee. Request an escort from your local police department.
The PTO can organize a variety of after-school workshops for students. These workshops can be educational, promote health & wellness, or be just for fun!
Hold the workshops for 1 hour right after school while the school is still open. Most schools remain open for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours after the students are dismissed, which means that administrative staff and custodians will stay until that time anyway. Workshops can run for once a week for 5 to 6 weeks. Charge each student a fee to participate, generally between $45-$65 for the entire workshop.
The fees collected are used to pay the person(s) teaching that particular workshop, purchase needed supplies, and purchase snacks and drinks for the participating students.
Some ideas for workshops include:
- Beginning Sign Language Instruction
- Craft Classes
- Lego Workshop
- Basketball Camp
- Art Class
- Creative Writing
- Music/Song Composition
Whether it's Independence Day, Halloween, or Memorial Day, show your school spirit by participating in a local parade. Parents and students can work together to design and assemble a float. It's all about teamwork and using your imagination! First you'll need to reserve a flat-bed truck. We recommend asking for one that's low to the ground for safety purposes. To locate a truck, check with your town maintenance department, local trucking or landscaping companies, or ask parents if they have a contact. Second, decide on a theme for your float.
Think about the safety of the kids riding on the float and allow for adequate seating toward the center. Consider asking local farms or nurseries for bales of hay or plastic milk crates - these are sturdy and can be covered. Large rolls of plastic tablecloths come in lots of colors and make great banners to cover the sides of the truck. Consider using potted plants, pumpkins, flags, or anything else related to your theme. Think about having the kids ride on the float and only adults walk along the sides for safety purposes.
- popular movie - Avatar, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, Grease, Pirates of the Carribean, Little Mermaid, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, Shrek, Tarzan
- decade - 1950's diner or sock-hop
- holiday - Saluting our Heroes, Winter Wonderland, Halloween Spookville
- favorite setting - Old West Dude Ranch, Mountain Ski Resort, Beach Party, Under the Sea, Jungle Expedition, Knight's Castle, Desert Oasis
Ask students, teachers, and staff to dress in their school spirit clothes or to show their support for your local sports teams. Example, if you're in MA have Patriots Day, Bruins Day, or Opening Day for the Red Sox. On Patriot's Day, have a tailgate party during recess or lunch. Have snacks, drinks, hotdogs, hamburgers.
Organize a Kids Fair for a Saturday afternoon at the playground so the kids can celebrate Spring! Ask to have items donated. A small admission fee can help pay for any purchased items. Have a dunk tank, rock wall, popcorn machine, and helium tank with balloons, or bounce house. Arrange to have a company bring a petting zoo or other animal presentation. Sell food for lunch - hotdogs, pizza, water, juice, ice cream. Have each class make a Fun Booth - ring toss, obstacle course, frisbee toss, baseball pitch, football throw, hoop shoot, horseshoes, balloon pop. You may opt to have a theme for your fair - Old West, Amazon Jungle, or Knights & Princesses - and have all of the booths relate to that theme. See our Theme Parties ideas. Be sure to obtain appropriate approvals or permits from the school and town to host this event.
Many zoos offer free admission programs to school groups during the school year. Check with your local zoo. The PTO can pay for all or part of the bus transportation. Request extra parent chaperones to attend. Ask the zoo about available picnic areas and the student can bring a snack or bag lunch.
Plan a movie night in your school's auditorium. Most schools already have audio-visual equipment or a parent willing to loan a DVD player for the evening. Get approval from the school principal to have access to the school. This may involve hiring a custodian for a few hours. Let the kids wear their pajamas and bring a pillow and blanket. Rent a popcorn machine and serve juice.
If you're in need of extra volunteers, start a Student Volunteer Club at your school. These young adults can assist with Bingo for Books or helping out at a Kids Fair by running a booth, face painting, craft table, set-up, or clean-up. Also let them get the Savings Programs labels ready to mail in by trimming, counting, and checking the expiration dates. Another option is to contact your local church group. Confirmation and other classes generally need to put in volunteer hours prior to the ceremony. For more ideas on obtaining volunteers, visit Charity-Volunteer.
Purchase several gallons of ice cream, bowls, spoons, napkins, and small bottles of water or juice. Get approval from the school principal to have access to the school. This may involve hiring a custodian for a few hours. Ask for parent volunteers to set up, scoop ice cream, serve drinks, and clean up. Although the PTO pays for the ice cream and supplies, this is a perfect event at which to have a fundraising raffle because you will have a large crowd gathering. See our Raffle ideas and our Gift Basket ideas.
Ring in the New Year! Plan a New Years Eve celebration in your school's gymnasium, local hall, or local boys & girls club for an early evening of fun (4:00pm-6:00pm) for the kids. Reserve the space. Serve pizza, salad, refreshments, and desserts (donated & purchased). Provide entertainment (i.e. music by a DJ, a magic show). Have an early countdown at 6:00pm with a balloon drop. Supply noisemakers and party hats. Children should be accompanied by an adult. Sell tickets in advance for $5.00 per person or a maximum of $20 per immediate family to cover supplies. Always ask first for items to be donated (i.e. the hall, food, drinks, party supplies, music, magician).
Reserve a local roller or ice skating rink for two hours and let the kids enjoy an afternoon together. Charge a small admission fee to cover the rink reservation cost. The PTO may opt to subsidize the costs.
Rather than the typical yearbook, opt for a memory video. Most photographers have the ability to put pictures on a DVD and set them to music popular with the kids that year. Making several copies of a DVD can be far less expensive than printing several copies of a book, making it more affordable for the students. You may even be able to work this out with the photographer that takes the school photos.
Encourage families to get outside in the fresh air and be active. Most state-owned parks have marked hiking trails and available maps. Organize a day when families can hike the trails and meet in the park for a picnic lunch.
Purchase group tickets to a local sports team. Many sports events offer discounted group rate tickets. Strengthen your school pride. Families can purchase tickets and enjoy the game with other families from their school. To find local teams in your area visit:
When the circus is in town, ask them to host your school group. Request discounted tickets and offer them to parents at a discounted price.
Host a back-to-school or year-end picnic. Either cater hamburgs and hotdogs at a local park (with approval from your town hall), or set up a few grills on the school playground (with approval from the school) and ask a few volunteers to cook. Keep it simple and let the playground swings and a few balls or frisbees be the kid's entertainment.
Coordinate your school's Earth Day event with the National event every April.
EARTH DAY PROGRAM IDEAS:
- Deliver, to every student, a flower seed along with a note asking them to take care of our Earth. Ask the students to plant the seed in the flower beds somewhere around the school during recess.
- Turn the lights off in the classrooms for the entire day.
- Ask students & staff to wear green or brown.
- Ask parents to walk their kids to & from school rather than drive.
- Ask students to use re-usable containers or brown bags for their lunch, snacks & drinks.
- Go on a nature walk or bug hunt
- Plant a tree or some perennial flowers on school grounds.
- Organize a playground or park cleanup
- Have an Earth Day Walk-a-thon.
- Encourage students & teachers to turn the lights off in the classrooms every time they leave the room.
- Have a Yard Sale to encourage re-use of all sorts of items.
- Have a Sports Equipment Sale to encourage re-use of gently-used sports equipment.
- Host a Recycling Drop-Off. Find a local group or company that collects items that would typically fill the landfills. Charge people small fees to have drop of their items for recycling. - TVs $15-25, appliances $10, computer equipment $1-5, air conditioners $10-15, printers $5-10, batteries, etc.
- Host a Book Swap
- Sell consumable food products that produce little waste.
- Sell re-usable products like canvas grocery bags, stainless steel water bottles, and re-usable lunch bags.
GO GREEN ALL YEAR LONG:
- Distribute recyclable water bottles to the students at the beginning of each year to encourage their use rather than disposable plastic bottles.
- Assign recycling programs by grade: 2nd Grade is responsible for paper recycling; 3rd Grade, plastic grocery bags; 4th Grade, plastic bottles; 5th Grade, ink cartridges and cell phones.
- Place plastic and paper recycling containers in every classroom as a constant reminder to recycle.
- Cut down on paper by posting PTO newsletters and other updates to the PTO website and sending email. To ensure everyone is able to get the updates, also do weekly all-call (aka: reverse calls) phone announcements.
- Coincide PTO meetings with times when most parents are already at the school (morning drop-off, afternoon pick-up) to cut down on driving, gas & emissions. Or, offer parents to take place in the PTO meeting via conference call.
Make any day a Theme Day.
- Number Day - wear a shirt with a number on itn (#1-100). Either a favorite sports jersey or paint/pin some numbers on a plain shirt. During lunch or recess the principal can randomly pick 10 numbers. Those wearing the number, win a small prize. (Idea submitted by Jen, San Diego, CA)
- Crash Day - pillows, games, books
- Character Day - dress as your favorite character
- Dress in Your Fave Decade - 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's
- Pajama or Slippers Day
- Hawaiin Day - wear Hawaiian shirts, give out leis, serve pineapple as a snack
- Jersey Day - wear your own team jersery. Or if a students doesn't play sports, they can wear their favorite professional team jersey.
- Backwards Day
- T-Shirt Day - wear a t-shirt with a funny saying on it; Or, wear a t-shirt from a place you visited
- Color Day - wear several of the brightest colors you can find
- Funny Hat Day - Let the kids parade through the school wearing a funny hat of their own design!. Offer prizes for each grade level for Most Original, Most Creative, Most Fashionable, and Most Colorful.
- Crazy Hat Day
- Read Day - One Massachusetts school hosts a Pajama/Carry Your Favorite Book Day just before school school breaks to encourage students to read over vacation! Students carry their favorite books and whenever the principal announces to Drop What You are Doing and Read, students pull out their book! They could be anywhere so they need to be ready!
- Crazy Sock Day
- Hoe Down Day - Dress 'country' style, serve cornbread for a morning snack, and have haysack races at recess one day in the Fall.
- Opposite Day
- GRAM Days - Have your school mascot or principal deliver theme-related goodies to the students. Relate them to the holiday or event taking place that month.
You've probably heard of a Candy-Gram or Birthday-Gram. GRAMS are fun, theme-related deliveries. Plan a schedule to make monthly special deliveries to the students (or teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week). Relate them to the holiday or school event that month. Here's a sample schedule:
September: Welcome Back to School Gram - Ask parents or teachers to write an inspiring note to their student(s) and wrap it around a granola bar for good brain power during the day.
October: Fall or Halloween Gram - Deliver a spooky ghost or a small treat (candy). To make the ghost, cover the end of a pencil with white tissue. Secure with an elastic and make 2 eyes with a black marker.
November: Thanksgiving Gram - Deliver a small container of apple sauce along with a note of thanks.
December: Christmas & Hanukkah Gram - Deliver candy canes from Santa.
January: Healthy Gram - Promote a Health & Wellness month and deliver an apple to each student.
February: Valentines Day Gram - A Hugs & Kisses delivery (Hershey Kiss candy).
March: Easter or National Reading Month Gram - Deliver a candy-filled plastic egg from the Easter Bunny. Inside each egg can also be an inspiring note, like in a fortune cookie.
April: Earth Day or Spring Gram - Deliver a flower seed along with a note for them to take care of our Earth. Ask the students to plant the seed in the flower beds somewhere around the school during recess.
May: Teacher Appreciation Gram - Ask students to write a single sentence as to why they love their teacher. Print these onto a single sheet, wrap it around the stem of a flower and deliver it to the teacher(s).
June: Summer or End of the Year Gram - Deliver notes that say "We are so proud of you! Enjoy the Summer!".
(Idea submitted by Kim, Cudahy, WI)
Set up a shopping area at the school so the kids can shop for their families during the holidays.
Stocking the Sale: Purchase inexpensive gifts in bulk (approx. 100 of each item). Purchase 4-5 different gifts in each category so the kids can choose themselves. Here are some ideas for gifts you can find for about $1.00 and some estimated quantities to buy:
Gift Prices: Set prices of gifts at cost. Remember this is a nonprofit event. If possible, charge $1.00 even for all gifts. If you decide you'd like to make a small profit on the event, charge $2.00 per item.
- Women's gifts for mothers & grandmothers - hand cream, lip balm, holiday pin, ornament, scarf, nail polish, note pad, candle, gift wrap, ribbon, gloves, scarf. Purchase twice as many "Mom" gifts as you have students.
- Men's gifts for fathers & grandfathers - flashlight, ice scraper, socks, wallet, golf balls, key chain, yard stick, measuring tape. Purchase about 1-1/2 as many "Dad" gifts as you have students.
- Children's gifts for brothers & sisters - game, toy, stuffed animal, ball, puzzle, gloves, candy. Purchase 3-4 as many "Sibling" gifts as you have students.
Wrapping?:Do not wrap the gifts prior to the sale. We found that the kids like to see what they are purchasing and enjoy wrapping their own gifts.
Advertising: Send home a flyer announcing the Holiday Workshop event. List the gift choices with the prices on the flyer. Parents should review the gift list with their child so they can identify the quantity of each gift and send in cash or check (payable to the PTO) for the specified items. We recommend you specify on the flyer that these gifts are available for the student to shop for their immediate family members only. Otherwise, you will find students arriving with very long lists and you may run out of items.
Location & Schedule: Reserve the school library or auditorium for the days of the sale. Hold the sale over 1-3 days. Allow 1/2 hour for each class to attend the sale. Note the shopping schedule for each classroom on the flyer you send home to parents. The final sale day is a make-up day for any student that missed their assigned sale time due to an absence, forgot their money, or would like to purchase left-over items.
Volunteers: Ask for parent volunteers who will need to assist students as they come to the holiday workshop to purchase their gifts.
Evenly Distribute Gift Selections: We highly suggest dividing the gifts evenly between classrooms ahead of time and just before that classroom enters, put out their gifts. This way the best items are not purchased by the first frew classrooms that have the benefit of shopping first.
Watch the proud faces of the children as they leave with their gifts!
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