The scene is all too familiar: You’re chatting with parents at pickup about fun field day ideas when you casually mention the upcoming PTO meeting. The second you drop the “M” word, you’re met with blank stares and excuses about laundry piles of doom and Zumba night. Don’t give up—it just might be time to flip your PTO meeting on its head! Give one of these ideas a try, and before you know it, you’ll have parents hounding you for meeting deets. (A PTO leader can dream, right?)
1. Change the location.
We bet you can find a few parents who are ready and willing to trade homework duty for a decaf unicorn Frappuccino and an informal brainstorming session. When you swap your soapbox in the library for a more casual discussion at a coffee shop, more great ideas have a chance to shine.
2. Provide homework help—for parents.
“But this isn’t how I was taught!” is regularly heard at home between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., so your group might as well take advantage! Invite your school’s math teacher to review the basics for parents (Common Core, anyone?).
3. Offer different types of free food, like a popcorn bar, walking tacos, or ice cream sundaes.
Instead of making parents choose between your meeting and a destress snack after the kids are in bed, offer some comfort food to keep the hangries away while PTO business gets done.
4. Invite students to “bring your parent to the PTO meeting” in exchange for homework passes.
Parents won’t feel guilty skipping out on homework duty if there isn’t any! Enlist teachers to spread the word—then sit back and watch as every kid at your school incessantly begs their parents to attend.
5. Give parents a reason to get out of the house to pursue a hobby (what’s that again?).
For instance, plan a monthly book club discussion at the end of each meeting. You might even recruit a few cochairs for Family Reading Night to boot.
6. Allow momtrepreneurs to set up shop.
Show your support of female-run businesses in your community by offering momtrepreneurs a chance to sell at your meeting, whether it’s essential oils, must-have leggings, or skin-care products.
7. Let students dish.
From coding to texting acronyms, there are some things kids know way more about than their parents do (but we’d never tell them that). Invite a few “student experts” to lead a casual discussion and Q&A on topics parents should know more about.
8. Bring in free entertainment.
A little entertainment from a local improve troupe or a fortune teller goes a long way when it comes to making meetings more fun. Serve fortune cookies in baggies with a tag that reads “Our school’s future starts with you!” for added fun.
9. Tell parents to don their kicks and yoga pants (which, let’s face it, they were already wearing anyway) for a quick workout blast.
Chances are there’s someone at your school who’s a Beachbody coach or the like who would welcome the exposure while offering short training sessions for parents.
10. Teach valuable life skills.
Turn your meetings into a regular opportunity for parents to hone skills like packing healthy lunches, sewing on buttons, and knotting ties.
11. Hold regular “momversations,” the new mom-style meet up.
Offer free child care in the gym while moms meet to chat after a PTO meeting. This gives them the chance to get to know each other better—even if it’s just for a few minutes. A similar setup for dads could get more guys participating.
12. Get creative with low-budget door prizes, like first dibs on parking at your school’s busiest event.
It’s amazing what parents will do to get prime parking, homework passes, and more. You can also issue “tokens” for meeting attendance that students can redeem at the school store.
13. Break out the red carpet and selfie sticks—it’s time to give out student awards.
Announce student awards regularly during meetings and parents will be there in person to hear the good news. Keep a red-carpet runner on hand, along with inexpensive trophies from the dollar store and photo booth props, to make your monthly ceremony feel extra-special each time.
14. Work on a collaborative project for the school.
Give parents the chance to tackle a PTO pet project while participating in the meeting, like assembling teacher appreciation goody bags or painting rocks for the school garden.
15. One-up your PTO president’s speech with a special guest speaker.
Motivational speakers and local celebrities can be a big draw. Ask them to share personal stories about parenting, time management, or personal challenges.
16. Tack a parent education event onto your meeting.
Our Family Tech Talk event is FREE for all schools, presented by an Internet safety expert over Zoom, and educates parents on the risks students face online. Parents will walk away knowing more about what their kids are doing online, and how they can help them use the Internet safely. Just pick a date and time!
Originally posted in 2018 and updated regularly. Family Tech Talk Night™ and Family Ready Night™ are trademarks of School Family Media®.