From school carnivals to Teacher Appreciation Week, we offer tips for organizing some classic—and some new—spring parent group events.

by Poornima Apte


Are you looking to liven up your spring events? Whether you’re a parent group rookie or an old pro who’s looking to bone up on the basics, here are some ideas for spring events that are bound to deliver plenty of sunshine and warmth.

Spring Carnival

A few retro games and dedicated volunteers are all you need to create a memorable spring carnival. You can recreate the feel of an old-timey carnival, making it your school’s signature annual event or another fun go-to in your parent group’s annual repertoire. While ring toss and face-painting are standard and expected draws, it’s always a good idea to throw in something unusual to the mix. Fisher School in Walpole, Mass., has a Lego Derby room where the children build cars out of Legos and then race them for a prize. While bouncy houses and other outdoor activities are an attractive proposition, they don’t always work in case of bad weather. Prizes (and candy) are huge draws, so make sure you have plenty on hand.

Top tips: Such a large-scale event needs many volunteers. Look for them outside your immediate school community. Ask Scout groups and high school clubs, whose members may be looking to fill service hours. Try some new volunteer recruitment methods: Nancy Niles, coordinator of Fisher School’s carnival, says the PTO hosts a pre-raffle for anybody who donates or volunteers at the carnival. The winner gets an all-access pass to the carnival. Don’t forget to ask faculty and staff, she says. Many are ready and willing to jump in and help in any way and the students love to see their teacher at the event.

Fresh Ideas for School Carnivals
Spring Carnival Flyer

Family Fun Night

Smaller in scale than a carnival, a family fun night can combine many activities for an evening of fun. You might hold a family movie night or a game night with tools and tips from our School Family Nights kits. Or you can go all out like Pleasant Grove Elementary in Greenwood, Ind., whose parent group defines their family night as a “massive affair” with video game rooms, clowns to make balloon animals, face-painting, a pie-eating contest, a silent auction, and more. Whatever your scale, remember to keep the “family” in “family fun.” Include activities for a range of ages, and don’t forget older siblings. Even the hard-to-please teen set can help with activities and be made to feel part of the festivities.

Top tips: David Colby, one of the coordinators of the annual event at Pleasant Grove Elementary, recommends starting planning months in advance. Having strong leaders in charge of different aspects of the programming really helps. Local food vendors love to be part of the action and can be encouraged to supply pizzas or operate small food concession stands. When planning the menu, be sure to check with the school about food allergies.

Pi Day

A relatively new event, Pi Day, marked on March 14, is an opportunity to interest students in geometry. Your parent group can celebrate by hosting fun contests that foster a love of math and...pies! If your school will allow it, baked pies or pizzas can help kids reinforce fraction concepts, and students get to eat the learning materials. At Halley Elementary in Lorton, Va., the parent group combines Pi Day with another popular March event, March Madness. The result? March Mathness, which lasts an entire week. March Mathness includes a 5K and color run and the parent group hosts math-related games, including a “pi” walk (instead of the always-popular musical cakes).

Top tips: PTO president Rachel Burchard suggests working in tandem with teachers who can seamlessly create excitement in classrooms as well. Students can be encouraged to memorize as many digits of pi as possible, with the successful participants winning a chance to throw a pie in a teacher’s face. As a special treat, on March 14, kids can get a serving of apple pie a la mode at lunch.

Earth Day

Even if your school has already “gone green” and there’s a recycling bin in every classroom, there are plenty of fun ways your group can observe Earth Day on April 22. Area Audubon societies or state parks often have school outreach programs which you can tap into. Kids get to learn about critters and their habitat from trained naturalists. Kids of all ages love to get down and dirty, so having them plant a few flowers around the school is a great way to get them outdoors and beautify school grounds.

Top tips: Help kids see how they can make a difference. Measure the amount of trash students typically throw away at lunch, then challenge students to bring in a zero-trash lunch, in which no food or containers are thrown away. Announce how much less trash was generated. Gather paper from recycling bins for a week, and calculate how many trees will be saved by recycling it.

Celebrate Earth Day at School

Teacher Appreciation Week

The first full week of May is when most parent groups say thanks to teachers and staff. The event can be as elaborate or simple as you want it to be—from themed lunches (luau or beach are always hits) and brunches to a quick round of donuts and coffee. Parents are often willing to send in small gift items or gift cards; these can be grouped into raffle baskets that teachers and staff can qualify to win.

Top tips: Have each grade be responsible for one group of items in the buffet. Make copies of recipes for popular casseroles so they can be reproduced at home. Be sure to extend the invitation to all school staff members. Don’t overlook bus drivers or office staff! And look to our Teacher Appreciation Resources List for lots more tools and ideas.


Originally published in 2015 and updated regularly.

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