As we move full steam ahead into the organized chaos that is back-to-school time (oh, you know you love it!), we can all agree on one thing: shortcuts rule. Even if you can plan a boohoo breakfast in your sleep, trust us—you'll still want to add a handful of these hacks to your back-to-school ideas. Fair warning, though: Your events just might need a “May Cause Extreme Moments of Awesomeness” label.
1. You know all those pool floats that are on sale right now? Stock up on a few inflatable doughnuts for a fun Doughnuts With Dudes photo booth.
2. While you’re at it, grab a few beach pails. They double as fun post-summer snack bowls. Don’t forget the serving shovels!
3. Throw drink pouches in the freezer to make mess-free, portable slushies.
via Girl Inspired
4. Use individual tissue packets as party favors at your boohoo breakfast.
5. Display cotton candy by hanging it from a clothes drying rack.
6. Parents like coffee (like, a lot). So chances are they won’t miss your PTO’s next event if you stick a reminder, ever so casually, in their cup.
via Jacolyn Murphy
7. Hand out labeled collection bags for box tops.
8. Walking tacos (using allergy-friendly chips) are a fun, easy, and school-safe meal at outdoor events.
9. Stuck on scooper duty? You’ll want to avoid a bad case of ice cream elbow, then. Simply store your ice cream containers in zip-top bags to keep it soft.
via DIY & Crafts
10. And if ice cream isn’t your school’s thing, a cupcake bar probably is.
11. Use golf tees to stake balloons to the ground—perfect for those outdoor events.
via B. Lee Events
12. Make pasta for a crowd—the night before.
via The Mama’s Girls
13. Paper plates + balloons = balloon Ping-Pong.
14. Use this free pizza calculator to figure out how many to order for a large event. (Yes, we just said “pizza calculator,” and yes, it’s a real thing.)
(Psst—we put together a whole bunch of easy meal ideas for large groups with a few really simple food calculators, from pizza to hot chocolate.)
via Calculate This
15. Make it easy for parents to identify your group by wearing “Ask me about our PTO” T-shirts.
16. Upcycle Pringles cans into box top collection tubes! Now if only you could find someone to eat all those potato chips...
17. Set up a kindergarten photo booth for new parents.
18. Organize and transport parent welcome packets and other open house materials in a dish rack.
19. The coffee filter hot dog—it’s like having a plate and napkin in one!
via Sew Many Ways
20. Throw some hay and a table tennis ball in a box for a game of “Find the eyeball in the haystack.”
via Meaningful Mama
21. Make a “drive-through” volunteer sign-up board using sticky notes that you can take along to different events. That way, parents can just grab a volunteer opportunity...and go!
22. Set up a “selfie station” for families and ask parents to share their photos on your school’s Facebook page. Don’t forget the photo booth props!
via PTO Today
23. Plastic tablecloths are an inexpensive way to make a fun backdrop for a photo booth.
via Dixie Delights
24. Use graphics to promote upcoming events to parents on Facebook.
via PTO Today
25. Keep families busy between activities with a “guessing booth.”
26. Scoop your ice cream into cupcake-lined muffin pans and pop in the freezer. Bam! Ready to go.
27. Cook corn on the cob in a cooler.
28. Make hot cocoa for a crowd in a slow cooker.
29. Make cupcakes shaped like apples using balls of aluminum foil.
via Make and Takes
30. One potato, two (hundred) potatoes! Make baked potatoes for a crowd by washing them in the dishwasher (yes, for real).
31. Soda bottles, a beach ball, and pool noodles = instant outdoor bowling alley.
via Polkadot Chair
32. Empty laundry detergent dispensers make great handwashing and bubble refill stations—just add soap...or bubbles!
via Gwenny Penny
33. Pasta, pasta! For a low-cost activity, invite kids to make macaroni necklaces.
34. Use plastic cups to sell cupcakes at the bake sale fundraiser.
35. Turn old boxes into giant dice for a fun outdoor carnival game...
36. ...And pool noodles into giant pencil decorations for back-to-school night.
37. Instead of tables and chairs, lay out blankets for families to picnic on. BYOP (bring your own pillow)!
Want even more time-saving event tips and tricks? You’re in luck—we have 50 more event hacks to make your PTO life easier. Rock on, PTOs!
Originally posted in 2016 and updated regularly. PTO Today® is a trademark of School Family Media®.