Maybe you signed up for the first time to be a room parent. Or maybe no one else did, and you became a room parent by default. That means, you are planning the classroom parties! I am a former elementary teacher and now have been on the other side as a room parent. Here are some tips for success on your first classroom party.
Talk to the teacher before the party.
What doesn’t she want done/used at the party? When I asked my daughter’s teacher this, she said, “Please, no glitter or paint.” It was good to know ahead of time to avoid these (especially since many craft projects use both). Also, find out the allotted time for the party. She may want you to end early so kids can get ready to leave for the day.
Hopefully others already signed up to help. If not, send out a note to parents about areas where help is needed: planning the party, helping with games and crafts, supplying the food, bringing in the paper products and decorations.
Ask about food allergies.
As a parent of a child with a food allergy, parties can be really difficult. At some schools, treats need to be store-bought only. Find out these details in advance. It is a wonderful feeling when a child with an allergy can enjoy eating everything at a school party.
Create a schedule.
I always find it nice to divide up the party into three parts: craft, game and treat.
For crafts, consider whether or not it will need to dry. If so, will it be ready to take home that day? Can the craft be easily taken home on the school bus? Will most kids be able to complete it in the same amount of time? (If not, have something for kids who finish early to do: a coloring sheet, word search, etc.)
For games, decide whether they will be done in centers or involve the whole class at once. If you are doing centers, plan a backup activity for each center in case it doesn’t work or ends early. If it’s a whole class game, be sure students who are not playing are still engaged. You can find lots of fun classroom games online, especially through Pinterest. The “Minute-to-Win-It” games are fun and fast. Also, decide whether games involve prizes or are just for fun. In a classroom, sometimes it can get sticky if some kids win a prize and others don’t.
For treat time, consider moderation. For Halloween, chances are, many of the kids will be trick-or-treating that same day. You might not want to pre-load them up on sweets. They also won’t have a ton of time to eat. Kids don’t need a cupcake, cookie and bag of candy. One sweet is sufficient. It’s also nice to balance with fruit, vegetables or cheese. Often kids end up actually eating the healthy food because they’re hungry by this time or are sugared out. Salty snacks are also good.
Streamers go a long way.
I’m not a decorations person … until I passed the classroom with the streamers and pumpkins everywhere. Think about decorations: streamers, holiday-themed items, colored (plastic) tablecloths. Kids love to find their classroom transformed for the party. Often there’s a parent who excels at this kind of thing. See if they’re interested in taking care of décor.
Forgo balloons. Have you seen your own child with a balloon? Now imagine 25 kids with balloons. Unless you plan to do an activity that must use them or you will have enough for each child, you might want to just avoid balloons.
Don’t forget paper products: plates, napkins and utensils (or avoid foods that need utensils all together). Also remember drinks. Juice boxes are quick and less messy than drinks in cups.
Have a plan for forgotten items.
Sometimes an item that was supposed to be brought in doesn’t make it to the party. You may want to designate a parent to be on deck to run to Walgreens if needed.
Consider bringing in music.
Music can be nice playing in the background. Freeze dance is also an easy filler activity. Have books (possibly Halloween-themed) ready. Reading to the class helps calm them down. It can be read while parents set up the snack, while the kids are eating or if there’s spare time at the end.
Teacher bonus: When I taught, my room moms once brought me a cup of coffee at the start of the party. It was such a sweet gesture that said, “Sit back, relax, and be a guest at the party.”
Plan to stay after the party for cleanup.
Although you should ask the students to help clean up before they leave, some cleanup is easier once they’re gone. You will also have to find a home for the leftover treats and juice. You may want to bring a large garbage bag if you think you’ll have more trash than will fit in the classroom garbage can.
Classroom parties are fun. Even if it doesn’t go exactly as planned, the kids won’t know and will probably have a blast. Try to relax and enjoy it, too.