A craft fair may be a tried-and-true holiday event, but having students as the vendors gives it a whole new twist. That’s exactly what happened in December 2017 at the “I Made It!” holiday bazaar at Fairfield Elementary and Middle schools in Leesburg, Ohio.

PTO board member Kim Haines found a crafty way to combine entrepreneurship, creativity, and family fun by having students sell items they made themselves. Preparing for the event gave students the opportunity to practice money skills, learn how to collaborate, and showcase products they could make on their own at home.

Haines’ fellow board members loved the idea, and a group of four of them got to work coming up with guidelines, planning their marketing efforts, and securing local sponsorships to help with online advertising and sign costs.

“We had no clue what the response would be,” she says of the bazaar’s success, which prompted 52 student vendors from both the elementary and middle schools to sign up to participate after the PTO sent flyers home to parents.

“Students did a remarkable job at coming up with creative ideas and putting in the time to prepare quality products,” says Fairfield Elementary principal Katie Streber.

Holiday shop how-to! Choosing a vendor, getting organized, and lots of promotional tools

Students’ varied creations included birdhouses, Christmas ornaments and decorations, string art pictures, and postcards and note cards featuring their drawings. Other items included cinnamon rolls and other baked goods, pint jar “water globes” that featured winter scenes, wooden signs, jewelry, and handmade soaps and candles. Kids made on average 20 to 30 items for the fair, Haines says.

The PTO held the craft fair on the same night as a basketball game and school dinner to ensure a crowd, but found it wasn’t really necessary—people from all around the community turned up to support the students, even those without any ties to the school.

Almost all the students sold out of their inventory. Haines says the students also traded among themselves. “There was so much camaraderie and friendships were made,” she adds. “It was neat to see that.”

Another benefit of the event was its low-maintenance nature. Only a handful of volunteers were needed to help set up the students’ tables. (Haines recommends two to four.) Because there was no price for admission, parents could roam around the bazaar to check on their kids.

Students paid $5 for a table, and the money went toward fun, bright T-shirts they wore to show their status as a vendor.

Streber was excited about the PTO’s success. “This was a great event to celebrate our students and their creativity while also teaching them valuable life lessons,” she says. “These life lessons will make them more knowledgeable in entrepreneurship and possibly spark an interest or idea toward a future career.”

Haines reports that the PTO received positive feedback from parents, too. “There were several families who hadn’t participated in a PTO event before and told us, ‘We love this. We had such great family time at home helping [our daughter] make things,’” Haines says. “We are thrilled with the way this turned out.”

Fairfield Elementary and Middle Schools
Leesburg, Ohio
350 students, grades K-4
250 students, grades 5-8

Tips for Organizing a Student Holiday Craft Fair

Schedule the fair far enough in advance of the holidays so families can get their gift shopping done.

Publicize the event to students six weeks ahead of time so they have plenty of time to plan and make their crafts. Use a variety of publicity efforts. In addition to a flyer, the Fairfield PTO ran an online ad on Facebook and created Facebook posts with graphics.

Be mindful of your area’s cottage food laws. The Fairfield PTO didn’t intend for students to sell ready-to-eat food items, but some did. The group realized it should have considered consulting with the county’s food inspector.

Keep in mind that some food items might need to be refrigerated, and coordinate use of refrigerators, if needed.

Get help from local businesses. Haines looked to a committee member who’s a local businesswoman to secure sponsors. Chances are your group or school also has parents who’d be willing to talk to businesses about event sponsorship.