Spring is finally rounding the bend (virtual high five, folks!), which means your group is most likely kicking it into high gear and planning the auction, the carnival, teacher appreciation, and maybe even a few fun School Family Nights (it’s a good thing we PTO peeps love multitasking, right?!). Whatever cool event ideas you have on the calendar, you’ll definitely want to bookmark our collection of 50 (yes, 50) hacks that’ll make planning and executing them much easier for your group—and a lot more fun for families.
1. Display cotton candy at your spring carnival or summer fair by hanging it from a clothes drying rack.
2. Turn a trash can into a Box Tops donation receptacle.
3. Pringles cans work in a pinch, too (how fun is this for back-to-school night?!).
4. Make a cupcake carrier out of an old cereal box, and never worry about getting it back.
5. Draw in the crowds with a “free valet parking” offer.
6. Take the guesswork out of planning a fun family event with free kits designed just for PTO and PTA groups.
7. Transform white shipping boxes into giant dice decorations for a Family Math Night.
8. Healthy snacks for Earth Day events are irresistible if they’re served in mini terra-cotta pots.
9. Scooping ice cream isn’t a problem (heck, you could do that in the dark, with your eyes closed). But scooping ice cream for your whole school? Slice it up instead!
10. Or, if you’ve got it together (of course you do, you’re on the PTO!), scoop your ice cream into cupcake-lined muffin pans and pop in the freezer. Bam! Ready to go.
11. If your event has activity stations, give volunteers a book to read aloud to their group in case they finish before the allotted amount of time is up.
Photo credit: Random House
12. Capture memories with a “selfie station.” Ask parents to share their photos on your school’s Facebook page. And if you’re really savvy (of course you are!), you can come up with a fun hashtag so that parents can easily tag and share their photos.
13. Use golf tees to stake balloons to the ground—perfect for an outdoor event at school.
14. No helium? No problem. Hang balloons from the ceiling with crepe paper.
15. Insert glow sticks into balloons for glow-in-the-dark balloons (fun for a movie night!).
16. Keep kids busy in between activities with a simple “guess how many Legos are in the bowl” station.
17. You know that little place called the dollar store? Stock up on clear plastic cups and use googly eyes, temporary tattoos, or stickers to jazz them up.
18. Or, if you’re fancy (here's lookin’ at you, fancy pants!), you could use washi tape.
19. Paper plates + balloons = balloon Ping-Pong.
20. Throw some hay and a table tennis ball in a box for a game of “Find the eyeball in the haystack” at the fall festival.
21. Send polished email newsletters directly from your own personal email in just a few clicks to make sure everyone knows about your event.
22. Transform boring, store-bought treats into something spectacular with a few bells and whistles.
23. Facebook is your friend! Tag all those parents you see frequently at school events in the comments of your “upcoming event” posts to make sure they see it. (Bonus: All our free family night planning kits come with Facebook graphics—score!)
24. Use an empty laundry detergent dispenser as a hand-washing station at outdoor events.
25. Pick snacks that tie in to the theme of your event, like a kid-friendly cheese tasting (featuring prepackaged cheese sticks and Babybel cheese) for The Stinky Cheese Man at Family Reading Night...
26. ...and colorful cupcakes (or gelatin cups) arranged in the shape of a periodic table at Family Science Night.
27. Put pancake mix in a ketchup bottle for a no-mess school breakfast event.
28. Easily process payments on-site using an app like Square or PayPal.
29. For those jazzier “parent-only” events, string holiday lights around a Hula-Hoop for instant fancy.
30. Jazz up juice boxes and pouches with crepe paper and googly eyes.
31. Or prettify plain old water bottles with a roll of patterned duct tape.
32. Give your event a holiday theme—for example, plan a “For the Love of Books” Family Reading Night around Valentine’s Day.
33. Make hot dogs for a crowd in a Crock-Pot...
34. ...and cook corn on the cob in a cooler.
35. Spray-paint Twister on the field for a fun outdoor spring carnival or field day game.
36. Make it easy for parents to identify your group by wearing “Ask me about our PTO” T-shirts.
37. Pass out themed movie night prop kits for audience participation (like clappers for when Dorothy clicks her heels during The Wizard of Oz).
Photo credit: EmBaSy/Thinkstock
38. Walking tacos (using allergy-friendly chips) are a fun, easy, and school-safe meal at outdoor events.
39. Plastic tablecloths are an inexpensive way to make backdrops for a fun photo booth.
40. Tickets make for a fun photo backdrop, too (bonus: you can reuse the tickets at another event!).
41. Duct tape—an instant parent icebreaker.
42. Also a good icebreaker? Free samples and coupons for parents!
43. Fancify a cheap plastic tablecloth with just a few nips and tucks.
44. Plan a raffle basket around your event’s theme (we love this “mad scientist” gift basket for Family Science Night!).
45. Turn an old bulletin board into a pin-the-nose-on-the-(insert character here!) game.
46. Spray-paint trinkets from the dollar store and use them as trophies (best costume at Family Movie Night, anyone?).
47. Plan a movie night around movie release dates. More families are apt to attend if it’s a new movie kids have been dying to see.
48. For the holidays, “wrap” tables into presents.
49. Bring Candy Land to life in the library with some oversize colorful squares (decorating for a family game night doesn’t get simpler than that!).
50. Get a year's worth of event and fundraising ideas in just a few hours at the PTO Today Live.
Originally posted in 2016 and updated regularly. Family Science Night™, Family Movie Night®, Family Reading Night™, and School Family Nights® are trademarks of School Family Media®.