Field day. Create an obstacle course, play kickball, or set up a bowling alley with pins made from soda bottles partially filled with sand. Older kids love messy games like the water balloon toss, or try having teams move a pile of flour from one end of the line to the other by passing it over their heads in a small pail. Relay races and events modeled on the Olympics are popular, as well.
Gym games. Hold a gym night or add gym games to another family night. Team games add excitement. Two favorites: the shoe shuffle, a relay in which kids shuffle across the floor with shoeboxes on their feet; and the drop-and-pop relay, in which kids run to a chair, sit on a balloon and try to pop it, then run back to tag the next person in line. An imaginative obstacle course using hoops to hop through and boxes to crawl through can also be great fun.
Fun run. A fun run can be a great fundraiser, but it’s also a good way to build school spirit and get more parents involved. Typically, kids run laps and get pledges per lap. You also can work with the PE teacher to teach kids fundamentals like the importance of warming up and pacing themselves as they run.
Walkathon. A walkathon is like a fun run, but it usually is extended over a period of time while a fun run takes place on a single day. The Briarlake Elementary PTA in Decatur, Ga., created a “million steps challenge”, giving students pedometers to track how many steps they took during a 40-day period. When the steps were totaled, they had taken enough to cross the United States five times.
Skating night. Reserve the roller-skating or ice-skating rink for a few hours. Have some adults on hand to coach beginning skaters, and plan a special skate for school VIPs—the kids will love it! The South Jacksonville (Ill.) Elementary PTO actually held its meetings at a skating rink so kids could have fun while parents went over group business.
Jump-rope marathon. If each jump counts as 1 foot, can teams jump as high as the Empire State Building (1,250 feet) or even a mile high (5,280 feet)? Another method is to map out a “marathon” course. Count each trip across the gym or down a school hallway as 2.5 miles. Kids chart their progress to see if they can go the full 26.2 miles.
Student dance. Choose a theme and make it fun. To attract boys, the Atkinson Elementary PTO in North Andover, Mass., held a “jammin’ fun” mother-son dance that featured the limbo, a Hula-Hoop contest, the chicken dance, and other highlights to keep kids excited.
Martial arts. Invite a tae kwon do, judo, or karate instructor to give a lesson at a family night, or set up an after-school program where kids can learn a new sport. Martial arts encourage fitness and agility, and they don’t have to involve contact.
Basketball tournament. Colonia (N.J.) Middle School holds an inspired basketball tournament that gets the whole school involved. Kids form their own teams, and each team is designated blue or gold (the school’s colors). Games last 10 minutes, then the next teams play. Scoring is cumulative; whichever team, blue or gold, has the most point at the end of the day wins.
Walk or bike to school. Set up a walking school bus or bike train in which parents supervise groups of kids on a foot-powered commute. Make it festive with balloons and signs, or designate a weekly walk or pedal day. Another approach is to hold a bicycle safety fair followed by a group ride.
Family dance lessons. Ask a dance instructor to teach families how to waltz, two-step, salsa, line dance, or do the latest hip-hop moves. Follow up the lessons with a dance-off or your very own Dancing With the Stars contest.
Fitness night. Invite a fitness coach to teach kids and parents fun exercises they can do at home. Ask the school nurse to take blood pressure readings or measure body mass index, and offer healthy snacks.
Bowling. Plan a parent-child bowling tournament, or divide into teams. Many bowling alleys will play music and turn on colored lights for a fun and more unique bowling experience. Using bumpers can make bowling fun even for younger children.