A fall festival or international night is more than just a fun time out for families. For many parents, school events like these are their first exposure to your parent group. It’s an opportunity for kids and parents to make memories together, meet others in the school community, and learn more about what your group does! Members of our PTO and PTA Leaders & Volunteers group on Facebook named the following events among their favorites.

There’s no doubt that holding a family event can be a lot of work. Make it easier with these planning tips along with free resources like our Family Event Planning Kit.

Digital citizenship FTW! Teach kids and parents what really matters for online safety

Carnival or Festival

In our (admittedly unscientific) poll of leaders, carnivals and festivals far and away received the most votes for favorite school event. The great thing about them is how they can look so different from place to place. One school might have a fall festival with a Halloween costume contest and hayrides. Another might offer an outdoor spring carnival with a cakewalk and crafts station. Whatever type of event is in the works at your school, our Complete Guide to Planning a School Carnival can help.


Family Dance

School dances with the whole family are popular (at least until kids get old enough to think their parents aren’t cool anymore...too bad, so sad, Mom and Dad). Around Valentine’s Day, many PTOs and PTAs hold sweetheart dances, where students can invite a parent or another important adult in their life. Glow-in-the-dark dances with blacklights and theme dances like “back to the ’80s” are also popular options.


Multicultural Event

At many schools, teachers and parent groups work together to stage international festivals where a variety of cultures are celebrated and students visit stations to learn about different parts of the world and have “passports” stamped. Simpler events like a potluck dinner can also be part of building a multicultural PTO.


Movie Night

Family movie night is a big attraction at many schools, with students often coming in pajamas and bringing blankets and pillows to lounge comfortably during the show. Besides choosing a family-friendly film, groups need to have a movie license. Our Family Movie Night kit walks you through the process and provides ideas for carrying a theme into snacks and decorations.


Fun Run

Students like fun runs and jogathons because they shake up the school day routine. Parents like them because the family can participate together! PTOs and PTAs mix things up with color runs (using powdered dye), zombie runs (braiiinnns...), and even mud runs (get down and dirty). Get started planning your next -athon with our School Fun Run Fundraiser Guide.


Field Day

Who doesn’t love field day? The event’s positive reputation might have as much to do with its typical end-of-school-year scheduling as with the mix of activities offered. Dunk tanks, relay races, and bubble stations are often popular activities at field day. You can find lots of other creative ideas shared in our Facebook group, like musical chairs with Hula-Hoops and fishing for marbles in a kiddie pool—with your feet!


Enrichment Event

At events like Family Science Night, kids just might have such a good time that they’ll forget they’re learning! A curriculum-related event gives parents a window into what their kids are learning at school, and often families go home with suggested activities to continue the learning. Broader events like Family Tech Talk Night teach the whole family about digital citizenship and making good choices online.


Bingo Night

Plain old bingo is a favorite school event of many leaders—dare we say it’s because kids sit still for minutes on end? PTOs and PTAs have developed many variations on this classic game, from the ever-popular glow-in-the-dark version to events where winners receive books, Thanksgiving turkeys, or designer handbags. Find a slew of game cards and more in the Bingo File Exchange.


Inflatables Day

Whether you call them bounce houses, moon jumps, or just plain inflatables, it’s hard to overstate how excited students can get when they see one (or more) at their school. Parent groups often rent an inflatable or two for special events, and in some cases they get enough to make them the focus of the entire event. Some school districts have set policies preventing inflatables at school events, so check with your district before signing a rental contract—and check your insurance coverage, too, so that your group (and the kids jumping) are protected.


Ice Cream Social

While it might be messy, many parent group leaders think serving ice cream to school families is worth it. For some, the ice cream social is the main event. Others add the icy treat to another school event, like a back-to-school event or open house. If you’re not up for all the scooping (and the cleanup), another option is to hire food trucks that serve ice cream, shaved ice, or other sweet treats.


Winter Holiday Events

When it’s cold outside, there’s nothing better than a warm night in with friends. Some groups love holding Santa-centered events (think cookies or pancakes), letting students meet and have their photos taken with the jolly guy in the red suit. Kids can make handmade gifts at a holiday craft night or winter paint night, or shop for gifts during school hours at a school holiday shop.


Book Fair

You might think of book fairs as mainly in-school events, but they can also entice families to school after hours. Consider scheduling a book fair to coincide with parent-teacher conference week or an event like a literacy night or Family Reading Night. Or make a standalone book fair a bigger draw by adding activities parents and kids can do together, like book-related crafts or a school library scavenger hunt.

Family Movie Night®, Family Science Night™, Family Tech Talk Night™, and Family Reading Night™ are trademarks of School Family Media®.