Holidays Archive

  • 20 Super Easy Treat Ideas for Valentine’s Day

    Get our ideas on keeping Valentine's Day simple, but fun! 

  • Holiday Shop How-To

    Good organization lets holiday shop volunteers focus on the kids.

  • For the Love of Books!

    With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, February is the perfect time to plan a "For the Love of Books!" Family Reading Night at your school. We’ve rounded up 14 ideas to add some Valentine’s-theme fun to your event. Get started by downloading our free Family Reading Night planning kit—it has everything you need to organize and run your event, including Valentine's-theme "Save the Date!" graphics to share on your school's Facebook page. Just a pick a date (from the calendar, that is!) and start planning!

    1. Choose books that are about love, friendship, and kindness. 

    via The Multitasking Mom

    2. Hold an on-site book drive to collect "gently loved" books. Donate them (along with handmade Valentine’s cards) to a local children’s hospital.

    via Pinterest user Cheryl Crosby

    3. For those books that are too worn out to donate, use the pages to create magnets.

    via Love Teaching Kids

    4. Yes, you can make hot cocoa for a crowd in a slow cooker. Pink hot cocoa? Even better! 

    via Real Housemoms

    5. Raffle off a book lover’s basket (after all, February 14 is International Book Giving Day!).

    via First Grade Glitter and Giggles

    6. Kids can make these fun, take-home bookmarks using (free!) pink paint chips from the paint store. 

    via Pinterest user Heather T.

    7. Valentine’s Day meets Dr. Seuss with these sweet red and white snacks. 

    via New Jersey Family

    8. This “Blind Date With a Book” activity is a fun way to show it’s what’s inside that counts. 

    via Edublogs

    9. Get kids up and moving with a game of musical hearts. The winner scores a new book to love! 

    via No Time for Flash Cards

    10. Kids will go gaga for these pink prepackaged love bug fruit cup snacks. 

    via The Melrose Family

    11. A game of conversation heart bingo is fun for early readers and older bookworms alike.

    via Create Craft Love

    12. Pair a (cheesy) love story with these snowmen cheese sticks.

    via Pinterest user Eve Hathaway

    13. Set up a simple photo booth for kids to pose with their most beloved books. 

    via Pinterest user Jen Howard Small

    14. Families won’t know about your event unless you tell them! Get “For the Love of Books” social media graphics and more in PTO Today’s free Family Reading Night kit. 

    via PTO Today School Family Nights

    And if you can't schedule your Family Reading Night event for February, don't fret—there's always Read Across America Day on March 2! Download our free Family Reading Night kit to get started.

    Originally published in 2016 and updated regularly.

  • PTO Leaders Inspired by Special Holiday Moments

    We asked our community to tell us about holiday moments that have inspired them and helped them see that the work they do as PTO leaders is well worth it. Here’s what they shared: 

    Middle School Helpers
    One of my favorite moments was from our recent Holiday Shoppe & Breakfast. At the conclusion of the event my amazing middle school volunteers paused a moment to take a quick picture with Santa before we started our clean up duties. These students did (and continue to do) an incredible job! They truly are our Husky Helpers and at this event, our elves! - Jaci D.

    Breakfast With Santa 
    My favorite holiday moment has to be the Breakfast With Santa event our PTO hosts. Our group works months in advance preparing for this event, sending out flyers, selling tickets, asking for donations, recruiting volunteers and vendors. We have teachers volunteer to serve breakfast, our music teacher and principal provide holiday music, and we also have local crafters set up vendor table to sell their goods. The highlight of the morning is when Santa arrives. To see the kids light up with excitement makes all of our hard work worth it. - Erica P.

    Bonus Gifts for Teachers 
    We brought out items from previous year’s Santa’s Workshop that didn’t sell and placed them on a counter for teachers to select as a gift from us. Teachers were so excited to be able to select items for their students’ stockings and to decorate their classrooms. There were also some items for teachers to treat themselves. - Marissa H.

    Giving Back to a Special Teacher 
    We hold bingo games throughout the school year, as a fundraiser and a fun family night out. This December our big raffle item was a giant stuffed dog. We raised nearly $150 on the raffle, but what warmed my heart was not one, but several parents and students who said if they win, they would give it to a certain favorite teacher who would love it as a reading buddy in the classroom for her students. - Jenn T.

    Grandfather’s Generosity
    At the Santa Shop, a little girl was over budget by a lot. I was trying to help her figure out how to reduce/exchange. A grandfather who was there helping his grandson shop overheard and asked how much she was over. When I told him, he said, “I’ll take care of it. Just add it onto my grandson’s gifts.” All of us volunteers were so moved by this gesture. That man showed the true meaning of Christmas, and the adults who witnessed it felt it, too.  - Courtney M.

    Caring for Kids in Need 
    For years, our school did an Angel Tree program through our guidance counselor and the PTO. She would find students in need and parents could donate money or adopt an angel-tree child and purchase a full set of clothes plus a toy. I loved helping to organize the bags. We would sort through each child’s bag to make sure every item was purchased, every size matched, and that they had at least one item from their toy wish list. The PTO would then go shopping to exchange items or purchase what was missing. It was so rewarding to know that it benefited a child in the school. We had no idea who these kids were, it was a number system to us, but it was a great feeling to know there would be some happy children at Christmas time. - Ingryd M.

    Families Helping Families 
    This year our PTO partnered with Ronald McDonald Family Room in Edward Hospital.  We have collected pop tabs and donations and money all year. During the holidays, we started a giving tree and asked for parents and students to donate items from the family room’s wish list. I am amazed by the generosity of our families. So many other families will benefit from all these donations. I couldn’t be prouder of my school and all their Walker’s Grove Wildcat Spirit. - Jaime P.

    Kids Beaming With Pride
    My favorite holiday moment is the Christmas Shopping for kids event. The kids get so excited and are so proud to be able to shop for the top people on their list. The school purchases gifts for all ages and sets up individual tables for grandmas, moms, sisters, brothers, grandpas and dads. Each gift is $1.00 and it also includes wrapping and a name tag. Our two P.E. teachers dress up as Elves and Santa joins in the fun too. To see the beaming in their eyes when they walk up to the table to have PTO volunteers wrap up each individual present for them is the best. These kids are so excited and proud that they were able to personally shop for their family members. - Misty C.

    Christmas Song
    Last year we had all students meet in the cafeteria for a Christmas song along with hot chocolate and candy canes. The look in the kids eyes as they sang their hearts out to their favorite Christmas songs was priceless. The PTO purchased 710 cups and enough hot chocolate for all the students as well as the staff. Since this event our PTO has expanded and we now have a full board. I like to think this event helped the parents to see how a kind, fun gesture can change the way a child feels about school. - Erika M.

    Smiles, Laughter, Excitement
    My favorite holiday moment comes during our annual Winter Wonderland Festival. After weeks of planning and preparation by our PTO and staff, I enjoy just standing back and taking a moment to watch the students, parents, and teachers interacting and enjoying themselves with crafts, raffles, and contests. The smiles on their faces, their laughter, their excitement...it’s what Christmas is all about! - Tammy T.

    Ornament Party
    My favorite holiday moment just happened two days ago. Out PTO was in danger of disbanding. It has been a rough start. We decided to hold an ornament making after-school program. The turnout was amazing. Both days the program was filled with kids; the parents love their ornaments and gift as well. The parents as well as the kids ask if we can do it again next year. It was very nice and heartwarming to see such a big turnout. - Melissa M.

    Surprise Cocoa Bar
    We love pampering our teachers! We set up a hot cocoa bar for them this week as a surprise! - Renee C.

    Christmas Performance 
    The Second Grade Show! It is a lot of prep work by our Music Teacher, and parent volunteers come in to help get the kids ready for their performances. Each class gets its own song, costumes and hair and make-up done. The kids talk about it months before the show (“I wonder what song my class will get!”) and older siblings request to attend. I love being able to help out on this day, with the audience packed with family members and the students so proud of their work. Being able to help with costumes and make-up forces me to take a break from the Craziness that IS December, and just enjoy the time. - Cara L.

    Parents Night Out
    Being able to host a parents night out! We gave our parents four hours in the evening that was kid-free, for a date [or to] wrap presents etc. We fed the kids dinner and did crafts, games, and a movie, and we had a surprise visit from Santa and his Elf! - Hailey R.

  • How To Protect Your Cash During the Holidays

    Ah, December! Here comes Breakfast With Santa, holiday shops, teacher luncheons, holiday movie nights, craft nights, community service projects, candygrams, holiday performances, receptions, and bake sales. Phew! And we probably forgot a few!

    The holidays can be one of the happiest times of year, and for PTO leaders, it is so rewarding. Seeing excited kids and celebrating as a true school community makes all the work and sleepless nights worthwhile, right? Just one note of caution: In the midst of all the holiday hubbub, remember to keep up with your financial best practices, especially with cash. When we are rushing from one event to the next, it’s easy to lose track of the details. 

    And sad to say, sometimes holiday pressures get to folks. Parents may be overwhelmed with bills and credit card debt, finding it hard to buy gifts for their kids. Sometimes, it’s just too tempting to steal money (often thinking it’s just “borrowing” a little bit that won’t be missed) from a parent group. Picture a parent feeling a financial squeeze who happens upon an unattended cash box at an event. 

    1

    One of the best things you can do to protect your group from theft (and not just for the holidays) is to consider getting insurance. Certain insurance policies provide coverage for embezzlement. For example, if you purchase insurance through PTO Today that includes general liability and excess accident and medical coverage, you can add crime coverage. The crime coverage will replace stolen money (up to $25,000) so your group can continue operating as usual. A group can add additional coverage of up to $50,000. 

    We have the details of crime coverage on our insurance page. You also may want to check our page that provides an overview of the different types of insurance.

    Also, check in with your volunteers to remind them about simple cash handling procedures. Our article “Handling Cash: 6 Simple Steps” gives a quick overview of best practices, including these two key tips: 

    1. Have just one cash point at an event where money is coming in and out, like a ticket sales station. The more checkouts you have at an event, the more likely it is you will lose some cash. 

    2. Counting cash and receiptsneeds to be a two-person job.

    For more general financial best practices, read our article “5 Smart Financial Controls”, which offers helpful reminders like requiring two signatures on all checks. 

    OK, enough of the serious talk. We’re looking out for you this holiday season and hoping you all have a wonderful time!

    Originally posted in 2015 and updated regularly.

  • Ideas for Giving Back at the Holidays

    Many schools and families love the thought of giving back at the holidays. Take the guesswork out for them with these ideas.
  • Teacher Appreciation Ideas for the Holidays

    When it comes to showing your teachers you care during the holidays, don't leave it to the last minute.

  • Thanksgiving Ideas for PTOs

    Use these ideas, helpful tips, and new downloadables to organize a fitting Thanksgiving celebration.

  • 6 Ways PTOs Can Observe Veterans Day

    Ideas to honor veterans in your community, from simple student projects to schoolwide events.

  • Last-Minute Halloween Ideas for Your PTO

    Quick (and fun) ways to mark the spooky October holiday.

  • How To Organize a Trunk or Treat

    This fun school Halloween event provides families with an alternative to trick-or-treating door-to-door.

  • Ideas for PTOs To Support Troops and Veterans

    Many community members have recently asked how to send candy and care packages to U.S. troops overseas during the holiday season (including Halloween!). 

    One suggestion is to head to the Department of Defense websiteand start with its list of organizations that have been approved by such groups as the Better Business Bureau. Several of these organizations’ efforts are well-suited for community service projects involving kids, with options for sending care packages full of treats, letters, and basic supplies. 

    Here are a few examples: 

    Operation Gratitude: This organization has a special effort devoted to Halloween candy shipments and provides useful information, like how to package candy (separate chocolate from non-chocolate goodies) and ideas for other items to include, like notes to soldiers. There’s a helpful Halloween section that includes tips on how to write a letter to a soldier. 

    AnySoldier.com: This group maintains a list of troop volunteers overseas who distribute care packages to fellow soldiers. You can search the site to look for troops who may be deployed from your school’s area to give it a local connection and request a package to be sent to those soldiers. 

    The Hugs Project: This group is currently focused on the National Guard and Marines in Afghanistan. You can send items for care packages using its list of most requested items like canned food (tuna), nuts, socks, and small sewing kits. 

    Project Thank You: Based in California, this organization has several locations where groups can pick up a shipping box, called a Hero Box and fill it with items using the suggestions listed on the site. (Some of the most popular items are jerky, gum, note pads, and floss.) Groups return a filled box to the Project Thank You location where it is picked up and shipped overseas. 

    Operation Homefront: This organization offers various programs to support military families and children with holiday meals and toy drive programs. 

    Here are some additional resources for celebrating soldiers and veterans: 

    Halloween Treats for Troops Flyer 

    Community Service: A Week Spent Honoring Veterans

    Veterans Day Tip: Make It Personal 

  • 5 Tips for a Very Merry Holiday Shop

    A holiday shop for kids is a fun way for PTOs and PTAs to help celebrate the season at school. Here are some tips to make your shop a success.

  • 8 Easy Valentine’s Day Crafts and Gifts

    Get everyone involved in spreading the love with these fun and easy craft projects. They're sweet with no added sugar.
  • 5 Really Last-Minute Valentine's Day Ideas for PTOs and PTAs

    Quick and easy ways to celebrate the holiday on Feb. 14.

  • Simple Holiday School Party Ideas for Kindergartners

    Tips from our community on organizing a sweet and fun holiday event for very young students.

  • Last-Minute Holiday Ideas for Your PTO or PTA

    Still looking for holiday ideas for your group? Don't sweat it—we've compiled a list of fun and easy events, crafts, and more.
  • 6 Ways To Celebrate the Winter Holidays

    Fun ideas for marking the holiday season.
  • 7 Ideas for Celebrating Leap Day

    2016 is a Leap Year! Celebrate that extra day in February with some of these fun and educational activities.

  • How PTOs Celebrate Halloween

    Halloween events are more than a chance for students to show off their costumes. They’re a way to provide some family fun and build a sense of community at school.