6 Ways To Add Fun and Energy to Your PTO Events

It's easy to liven up traditional activities by adding something new.


Sometime during your event planning, you might wonder whether certain events are really worth the trouble again. Another spring carnival? What about the holiday fair? Both may have been successful in the past, but they’ve been held for so many years. Maybe they’re not even fun anymore, or people are getting sick of them.

If you reach this point, you probably don’t have to start from scratch. In fact, you don’t want to lose the momentum you’ve built up over time by changing your events completely; the fact is, it’s likely that event organizers get bored with activities long before attendees do! Adding a new element or two is often all it takes to get everyone excited again. Here are examples of how parent groups like yours did just that.

Add a Friendly Competition

An element of competition is sure to spice things up. Family Fun Night at Green Intermediate School in Uniontown, Ohio, wouldn’t be complete without “pizza wars,” in which families get to sample and vote on pies brought in from five local pizza shops. Once the tasting and voting (which includes the kids) are finished, families move on to the event’s other offerings. Variations on food competitions abound; add a chili or pie taste-off to any event for an easy and delicious change.

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Encouraging good-natured competition between mothers and fathers has the potential to increase parent participation overall. Such was the case at Hemlock (Mich.) Elementary, whose PTO held a competition to see which event could turn out more parents, Muffins With Moms or Doughnuts With Dads. In the end, the fathers earned bragging rights, which was more than fine with organizers: “The more parents we get to come in the school and volunteer, the better education we can provide our students,” Hemlock PTO president Erin Clayton told a local newspaper.

Come Up With a New Theme

Adding a theme (or changing an existing one) is a strategy that works to freshen up just about any event. The options for pairing a theme with an event are endless (Dr. Seuss, current movies, and the ’80s, for example). If your group prefers a broader approach, feel-good themes like beach party, superheroes, or sports teams can work for events ranging from teacher appreciation luncheons to larger outdoor events.

Get Trendy (or Techy)

Activities influenced by technology or pop culture can really get kids excited about an event. The Batesville (Ind.) Intermediate School had a big hit at its indoor winter carnival with an activity based on an app called Escape the Room, which required teamwork, problem-solving, and sleuthing to complete.

The Lincoln Elementary PTA in Lakewood, Ohio, decided to swap out its carnival in favor of Lincoln MINES, an event with interactive workshops on the game Minecraft, online gaming, coding, and other tech topics.

Combine Elements of Different Events

Bringing parts of separate events together can yield some interesting and fun results. Saint Anne Elementary in Bismarck, N.D., combined a holiday event with an international art night where each grade studied a country and created accompanying art to display. Also during the holidays, the Marie Gatton Phillips-Sacramento Elementary PTO in Sacramento, Ky., combined its first vendor fair with the local Christmas parade, which resulted in more traffic for the vendors as well as a better-rounded event for attendees.

North View Elementary in Clarksburg, W.Va., made its inaugural back-to-school bash at a local park a health and wellness event with some simple outdoor play items from PTA members’ homes. Combining the events was a fun way for families to get to know each other and enjoy some physical activity at the same time.

Add a Twist

Even the most established events can seem new with just a few tweaks. Students from Jefferson Elementary in Faribault, Minn., enjoyed some extra fun at the school’s annual walkathon. Previously, students just walked around the school’s exterior, but stations like a soccer kick and an obstacle course renewed the excitement.

The highlight of the PTA’s Royal Night at Royal View Elementary in North Royalton, Ohio, is the Glow Gallery, a hallway connecting two parts of the school building into a glow-in-the-dark art exhibit. (Read more about the event on p. 26.)

Eat Fun Food

While pizza and chicken nuggets have their place as convenient event foods, they’re not likely to be crowd-pleasers in and of themselves. Pair your indoor event with a fun food, like art and ice cream sundaes or winterfest and tacos. For outdoor events, like the Earth Day festivities held by the Crockett Elementary PTO in Brentwood, Tenn., consider hiring a good-quality local food truck or two—it’s a tasty addition guaranteed to draw a crowd.

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