Paint Night Fun

Parent groups across the country are planning Cookies and Canvas and other paint nights as a creative and low-cost way to bring students and their families together for evenings filled with art, treats, and fun. Typically, the school art teacher facilitates drawing and painting a simple design on canvases, and the parent group helps with purchasing or borrowing supplies. The Partin Settlement Elementary PTO in Kissimmee, Fla., has hosted four such events and plans to do more.

Show and Tell

There are art shows. And then there are art experiences. At East Elementary in Lancaster, Ohio, students got to participate in an art show opening night, thanks to the PTO. Besides creating the pieces displayed at the school’s first-ever student art show, the kids dressed up in their best clothing, politely complimented fellow artists on their work, and mingled with other guests. They also sampled hors d’oeuvres and chatted while classical music played softly in the background.

The Family That Crafts Together...

A Family Arts & Crafts Night is a fun way to bring parents and kids together at school for a low-key, low-cost event while also providing a creative outlet. Our free planning kit provides a timeline and promotional materials, plus comprehensive instructions for eight photo and paper crafts appropriate for all ages.

Teaching Art to All

An in-class art appreciation program known as Art Smart exposes students in Michigan to well-known art and artists through hands-on learning. Run by the PTO in West Bloomfield, Mich., it uses parents to bring art education into the classroom even if they have no formal art training.

A Night With No Rules

During the Messy Art Night family event at Essex (Ma.) Elementary, parents and kids experiment with a variety of artistic styles—from pottery and wire sculptures to oil painting and mosaics—guided by local artisans, museum employees, and other volunteers. “We want scribbling, sloshing, marking, and mixing. We want big, messy, individual art,” says PTO past president Jess Yurwitz.

Hands-on STEM and STEAM ideas for parent groups to support learning

Kindness Rocks

Even young kids can contribute to a collaborative art project that inspires kindness and creativity. Invite students to paint smooth rocks with messages of encouragement, then use them as a colorful landscape element or walkway in the school garden. You can even add a fundraiser element to your Family Arts & Crafts Night by selling rocks to paint. Rocks are readily available at most craft stores and can be painted with oil-based Sharpies or acrylic paint.

Schoolwide Beautification

Students at Unionville Elementary in Kennett Square, Pa., have become canvas connoisseurs thanks to Art in Action, an annual program run by the PTO. The program has two segments: volunteer-led art appreciation classes for students, followed by a schoolwide hands-on art project involving the kids, school staff, and parent volunteers. Past projects have included life-size self-portraits, Warhol-like silk screens, a large-scale American flag mosaic, and a collage map of the United States made from fabric. For a unit on impressionism several years ago, a painting of the original Unionville Elementary building was hung in the middle of a long wall, which was then painted to look like an extension of the framed picture.

Chalk Full of Fun

Get the good vibes going with a few inexpensive buckets of chalk and some willing participants! Students, parents, and staff can doodle notes of hope, positivity, and kindness during a chalk art festival. This easy event is a great way to kick off Random Acts of Kindness Week or Red Ribbon Week, and it’s a fun add-on during other outdoor events like fun runs or food truck fundraisers.

Tying Art to the Curriculum

Meet the Masters, a program founded and sponsored by the Kings Road School PTO in New Jersey, began connecting art appreciation to the in-class curriculum in the 1980s. Parent volunteers work with classroom teachers during the school day to discuss a particular artist’s work and then help students with a related hands-on project; subject areas and artists range from language arts and social studies (Marc Chagall, Faith Ringgold) to science and mathematics (Claude Monet, Joan Miró), among others.

Student Storytelling


San José Public Library/CC BY-SA 2.0

Your school librarian and art teacher are the perfect partners for a unique drawing and storytelling event during which kids can write and illustrate their own comic strips and stories. Invite students to come dressed as their favorite comic book character or superhero to inspire even more creativity!