A family potluck or barbecue at school serves a number of purposes: It’s low-cost, it’s easy to organize, and it brings people together in a comfortable, familiar way. And it’s an event that can be held any time of year—as a warm-weather cookout with families contributing side dishes, desserts, and beverages, or as a traditional indoor potluck when the weather is colder.

An ice cream social is a popular event with plenty of possibilities. Some schools keep it simple by arranging for an ice cream truck to serve cold treats to students and parents or offering single-cup servings only, while others go all out with multiple tubs of ice cream and fixings on the side. If your group decides to scoop, one fun twist is to ask teachers to do the honors—it’s a great opportunity for parents and teachers to make contact in a low-key way.

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Have kids clean up school grounds. Work with your principal to organize a weekend day cleanup for weeding flower beds, tending to raised garden beds, or doing simple painting projects. Create a list ahead of time, ask parents to bring tools and refreshments, and crank the music while everyone works.

Spirit Fridays give kids a chance to create a sense of camaraderie. Students and staff can sport their school T-shirt, school colors, or other attire that reflects their school, or have spirit days around different themes to keep kids excited about school. Some examples include backward day, silly shoes or wacky socks day, and Hawaiian day.

Establish a tradition around getting kids involved in local community service, such as a cleanup day at a local park, collecting canned food for your food bank, or contributing to a holiday toy drive for local children.

The Parent Teacher Club at the James L. Collins Catholic School in Corsicana held a mother-son basketball game. The game divided students into four age groups; students in each division played for one 15-minute quarter against their moms. The boys wore blue T-shirts while the moms donned pink T-shirts (purchased ahead of time by the families).

Tailgate parties are becoming popular traditions at many schools. At one held by the Lorenzo de Zavala Middle School PTA in Amarillo, parents could buy spiritwear and fill out volunteer forms while kids ate hot dogs, listened to music, and socialized.

As a fun twist to a basket raffle fundraiser event, the George H. Mitchell Elementary Parent Association in Bridgewater, Mass., has a tradition with its family Sock Hop contest. Families decorate socks at home and wear them to the event, which is held during the basket raffle.

The PTO at Burke-Memorial Elementary in Medway, Mass., added a unique twist to two common school traditions. Rather than hold a simple ice cream party or traditional art show, the group combined the two in its annual Art Walk/Ice Cream Social.

There are three words of advice that Essex (Mass.) Elementary PTO leaders give to students and parents at their annual Messy Art Night: Take a smock. Other than that, kids are free to be creative. A wide variety of materials allows kids to students explore 16 different art stations in a fun, unstructured way.