bunch of balloons for pto events flying in the sky

Low Cost Events Families will Rave About

For the past 2 years I’ve been in charge of family fun events for my children’s schools.  Family fun events, no matter the cost, have an awesome way of bringing the community together if done right.

Here are some of my greatest low-cost successes along with a little insight about how to make them work!

Family Fun Fitness Night

This event can be done totally with whatever you have on hand.  No need to buy anything special for a night of fitness fun!  Here’s how:

Section off the gym into quadrants and have different activities that families can rotate through. Borrow recess or gym equipment like hula hoops, jump ropes and the like.  Scout out beforehand what you’ll have access to.  I’ve yet to meet a teacher who won’t share their equipment for such an event!  Ask nicely and you’ll probably receive!

If you have a second gymnasium in the building, dedicate one gym for basketball.  In this gym, dump a bunch of balls borrowed from the PE teacher and have one parent stay to supervise. You can run a shooting contest, but the kids will probably just play pick up games and organize themselves quite nicely with no adult interference needed.

In my most recent fitness night for a Grade 4-6 building, I bought some giant foam dice from Five Below and made up an exercise game.  Roll a 1 and do one jumping jack; Roll a 2 and do two squats, etc.  I totally made it up!  Mix it up and have fun with it!

Oh, I spent just $10 for the giant dice.  Easy peasy and cheap as all get out!

Another year we were supposed to have a Zumba instructor volunteer her time for the evening.  But she had to cancel last minute, so a few of the moms lead a few line dances.  It was super fun and many more parents moms participated instead of lurking on the sidelines of the action!

Trunk or Treat

Not sure what a Trunk or Treat event is?  It’s simple: you invite families to decorate their cars and bring treats to pass out to kids in costume.

Call your police department and let them know about the event ahead of time.  They might send an officer (with treats) to participate and add a greater sense of security and fun.  Our local PD did just that and welcomed the opportunity to be involved in such a positive way.  The kids loved chatting with the officer!

If you feel you will have low participation from families who are willing to decorate their cars, invite local businesses to take part.  The first year we had a Trunk or Treat, we had an area pediatric dentist and a church participate.  The dentist didn’t hand out candy, of course, but toothbrushes and toothpaste samples were not on short supply that night.  The church handed out books and stickers!

One cost associated with this event is that it’s a good idea to have some extra candy on hand to refill low-candy running cars.  But you can probably get away without it too.  Sometimes it is what it is and people have to be ok with it just like that.

The first year I organized a Trunk or Treat event, I actually teamed up with the other elementary schools in the area.  It was a fantastic way for families to get to know each other and make connections.

Another note: have trash cans on hand and get straggling families at the end of the evening to help clean up the parking lot.

And indoor bathroom access is a must, so make sure the building will be open!

Need a flyer to promote this event?

Game Night

I don’t know about you, but my family loves to play card and board games!  But our schedule can be so hectic at times that we don’t have the chance to play.  I’m sure my family isn’t alone, so carving out some time for games would make for a terrific family fun event!

Here’s how a school game night can work: Ask for donations of board games or ask families to bring a game to share.  Set up in the cafeteria or gymnasium and families can play games together.  They’re sure to find a new game to add into their collection plus this offers a really great time for people to connect and talk.

If you have a low income school, ask churches in the area or in local Freecycle groups for donations.  PTO Today once had a game night program where they would send you a pack of games from Hasbro (awesome!).  Check out their family fun night page for details on current offerings.  You can also snag cheap games in local Facebook buy/sell groups.  Post an “In search of” and you’ll probably get what you need for an evening of gaming fun!

Talent Show

I must admit, this was one of the most fun events that I’ve ever done solo as a PTA volunteer.  I detailed how I pulled it off in this post!

Immediately after the show ended, I had tons of parents saying how they had a great time and wanted to know when it would be held next year!  I arranged for our awesome Principal to emcee and she loved the event so much, she is planning to re-create it on a smaller scale during the school day this year.

One of the keys to the success of the show was the publicity around the show. This pre-designed flyer will help you spread the word about the show so easily!

Even more help

If you’re looking for more ways to engage parents and families, check out all of the fantastic resources there are in Parent Involvement Success Kit!  It has done for you parent letters, event ideas with suggested timing and a slew of other resources that’ll boost parent engagement in a hurry!

Scroll to top