From glow dances to reading pledge drives, it's time to get planning! Get tips and tools 👉

16 Quick and Easy Event Ideas

Quick and Easy Event Ideas

With a little creativity, you can plan activities that strengthen the school community without breaking the bank or exhausting your volunteers.

by Emily Graham


Call the Experts

You don’t have to do it all. Whether you’re planning a night of fun or an educational event, call upon the people in your community to share their expertise. Many local businesses will offer discounts or donate their services in exchange for a little publicity.

Family dance lessons: Ask a dance instructor to teach families how to waltz, two-step, salsa, line dance, or do the latest hip-hop moves. Follow up the lessons with a dance-off or your very own Dancing With the Stars contest.

Fitness night: Invite a fitness coach to teach kids and parents fun exercises they can do at home. Ask the school nurse to take blood pressure readings or measure body mass index, and offer healthy snacks.

Museum night: Many museums take their family programs on the road for a fee. Typically, the museum brings the materials and leads activities, while families spend the evening doing science experiments or creating art together.

Expert advice: Ask experts to speak to parents about drug abuse prevention, bullying, Internet safety, or other issues. Specify that the programs are for parents only and arrange on-site baby-sitting. Your school’s parents will thank you.

QUICK TIP: Show your appreciation by promoting the businesses or experts on event flyers and thanking them in your school newsletter.

Help parents learn the risks kids face online with our free Family Tech Talk webinar


Share the Load

Keep costs and prep time to a minimum with these fun event ideas where the guests bring supplies or supply entertainment. Ask attendees to RSVP and be sure to thank them for their part in the event.

Game night: Ask families to bring their favorite board games. You might also call local independent toy stores; some lend or donate games for school events or even teach new ones.

Knowledge bees: Let students show off what they’ve learned with a spelling bee or a competition in math or geography. Or turn the tables and quiz parents to find out whether they’re smarter than a 5th grader!

School picnic: Have a picnic on school grounds, with each family bringing its own food. Plan a few activities for the kids, but give them some free time on the playground while parents mingle.

Trunk or Treat: Invite families to decorate the trunks of their cars and award prizes for the best decorations. Have parents pass out candy to students as they trick-or-treat through the parking lot.

QUICK TIP: Encourage families to get creative, but require that they clean up after themselves.


Take Family Field Trips

Plan an event where someone else does all the work for you! Get a group discount at a popular entertainment venue and invite the entire school community to join in the fun. Kids will have a blast, and parents will enjoy socializing, too.

Skating night: Reserve the roller-skating or ice-skating rink for a few hours and watch everyone strut their stuff. Have some adults on hand to coach beginning skaters, and plan a special skate for school VIPs—the kids will love it!

Sports outing: Take your group to the ball game. Reserve some cheap seats at a major league game, or look into minor league teams in your area. Ask whether your group can be recognized during the game, and arrange for students to meet the team mascot.

Amusement park: Secure discount tickets for school families at an amusement park or water park. Reserve a picnic shelter where participants can eat lunch or hang out between roller coaster rides or water slides.

Bowling: Plan a mother-son bowling tournament, or let families compete against one another. If competition isn’t your group’s thing, look for a bowling alley that offers cosmic bowling, an arcade, or laser tag facilities.

QUICK TIP: Make sure parents know they are expected to enjoy the event with their kids. Don’t allow student drop-offs.


Swap It Out

Plan a swap to help families reduce clutter and get the supplies their kids need. Have a check-in area where families get tickets for each item they bring. They can use the tickets to “pay” for the items they want to take home.

Books: What better way to save families money and promote the importance of reading? Plan a book swap in conjunction with a school literacy program and provide materials for kids to make their own bookmarks.

Halloween costumes: Each fall, invite kids to trade last year’s pirate or princess costume for something new to them. For families with multiple trick-or-treaters, this can be a real money-saver. If there’s enough interest, let adults get in on the act, too.

School uniforms: What do you do with a school uniform your child has outgrown? Let families trade used uniforms in good condition at the beginning or end of the school year.

Sports equipment: Capitalize on the popularity of soccer or baseball in your community by letting families exchange outgrown soccer cleats or baseball mitts. Consider expanding the event to include sports equipment of all kinds, from bicycles to inline skates.

QUICK TIP: Have a plan in advance for how to remove any leftover items from the school.

Essential Coverage Every Parent Group Needs
Because bad things can happen to good groups, PTO Today works with a best-in-class partner to offer groups like yours the insurance protection you need. We offer affordable, easy-to-choose packages specifically designed for PTOs and PTAs with policy options to cover property, accidents, injury, and theft, and coverage begins within 24 hours.* Learn more about how PTO insurance can help protect you, your officers, and your group at
*Your coverage begins the day after payment has been processed. Your certificate of coverage will be emailed to you within one week of payment.

Originally posted in 2007 and updated regularly.


# Vicki DiGrado 2008-06-11 11:08
Do you have any suggestions for the school uniform trade? We are having one in August and need some guidelines. Thanks.

Vicki DiGrado
# Dione 2008-07-03 08:59
Hi Vicki,
We plan our uniform exchange in conjunction with our welcome back picnic, just before school starts. It always nets a good turn out. We used pieces of posterboard to clearly mark the sizes set up on each table. Good luck!
# Lori Butrus 2008-09-06 17:26
Does anyone have any suggestions for high school fundraisers? I would llike to plan to a big one in the spring. Also, any ideas for bringing more high school students out to help. Thanks.
# Janet 2008-09-22 18:03
Does anyone have any game ideas for a middle school Fall Festival? We are having our 1st Annual Fall Festival. Middle school kids are harder as far as planning games. We're having the festival Nov. 3rd. CAn we still use halloween? I am really stressing on this. Lack of volunteers, lack of funds, I really want the kids to enjoy the event and we need to earn money! HELP! ANy suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thanks so much.
# Craig Bystrynski from PTO Today 2008-09-23 20:19
Hi Janet -- You're likely to get more response if you post that question on the message boards. There are lots of people on the boards who are willing to share their experiences. You'll also find some cool ideas in the story "Middle School Magic," which is a profile of a previous Parent Group of the Year winner. That group did some fantastic events, including a very successful welcome-back festival. -- Craig
# Mary-Pat Davoren 2008-09-30 19:59
Hi Vicki,

We have a monthly Uniform exchange - usually on a Friday when we get out early. Parents can drop off used uniforms anytime during the year. Once a month, those uniforms are put out on the lunch tables and parents can come and take whatever they need. At the end of the year, all of the remaining uniforms are given to charity.
# Linda Ryan 2009-02-17 21:04
Our school collects used uniforms and has a monthly sale. The chairperson looks over the donations to make sure they are still in good condition. We sell shorts for $3, pants for about $5. All of the money earned goes to the scholarship fund for the next year. It really is a win-win. The availability to purchase additional uniforms at such a low price makes it affordable to have several for the week. You won't be doing laundry ever night of the week! Always a blessing.
# Liz Davis 2009-06-30 18:00
Can anyone make suggestions for Middle School programs...something that will draw a large crowd. Any suggestions will help greatly!
# Lisa @ PTO Today 2009-07-02 16:15
Hi Liz-
Check out this event run by a middle school PTA group that won last year's PTO Today's Outstanding Family Event:
Also, our message boards are a great place to ask other leaders for ideas:
Let us know what you end up doing!
# Niki Dexter 2009-09-22 13:31
I am a 'volunteer' mom at our Christian elementary school and another parent suggested us trying a mom and muffins day and then a dad and donuts event the following month. I am trying to research what is involved, if we are legally allowed to use those names, and hoping for any suggestions or advice you might offer. Thank you for your help!

Niki Dexter
# Amelia Damlo 2010-02-09 23:56
Liz and Janet --

Our middle school has a pretty successful glow in the dark (glo necklaces) capture the flag. Can move inside to gyms for poor weather.
# Becky 2010-03-17 12:57
We have a great turn out with our Donuts with Dad and our Muffins with Mom. We generally have a speaker or activity (something short,dads this year got Harley Davidson speaker, moms got a chance to dance with the kids)and have couple craft tables set up for the kids also.
# Teleia Tollison 2012-03-02 11:30
We just had a Family Reading Night, and were keeping our fingers crossed for 8 to 10 children and parents. We had 175 people!!! The PTO Kit helped so very much. Everyone had a wonderful time, and we are already planning our next event, the Family Movie Night.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
# Craig Bystrynski 2012-03-02 15:12
Hi Teleia -- That's great to hear! Thanks so much for sharing. It makes all of us at PTO Today feel good to hear a story like that. Congratulations on your success, and good luck with your Family Movie Night!


Add comment

Security code

^ Top