All Parents with children in school know the importance of Room Moms and Dads. Parent Helpers do everything from assist the teacher with copies, filing, preparing for lessons, to party planning, coordination and clean-up.
We know that their are many, many Dads who are volunteers/ teacher helpers/room parents and we thank you for your help with your child's classroom! Although the tips below may specify "room mom" they are indeed intended for any adult who volunteers to assist classrooms.
Welcome Back to School Decorations
WHAT IS A ROOM MOM (ROOM DAD)?
A room mom or dad is someone who volunteers to assist the teacher. The extent of parental involvement varies from teacher to teacher, so one year you may be very involved, and the next you may find yourself with very little work to do.
The primary purpose of a room mom is to host the classroom parties.
Most teachers also rely on parent helpers to cut, make copies, organize work folders, help with centers, assist with field trips, help on cooking days, and organize book orders.
WHAT IS A "HEAD" ROOM MOM?
She generally works directly with the teacher to organize parent volunteers and relay information to the other room mothers. (See our "Room Mom's Questions for a Teacher" tip)
On occasion, two head room moms will be selected. One will organize the parties, and the other will organize all the other tasks.
She typically collects and disburses the money.
She recruits volunteers for specific events, and assigns the commitments for the coming school year.
She sends out two letters to parents during the first month or two of school after conferring with the teacher. The first letter should be a "Recruiting" tool, and the second letter should be a " Thanks for Committing To…" tool. This is quite possibly the most time consuming task for a head room mother, but well worth the effort.
WHAT DOES A CLASSROOM PARTY INVOLVE?
Classroom parties take place during the school day. They are usually one hour in length, and involve games, crafts, snacks, and favors . Each class has its own party, and all the activities should be age appropriate. The parents are the "hosts" of the party, although the teacher will always attend the party.
The most common parties among pre-school and elementary aged children are: Halloween/Harvest, Christmas/Holiday, Valentine's Day, and an End of the Year Celebration. Other potential parties for the classroom are: Thanksgiving Feast, St. Patrick's Day, 100th Day of School, Spring/Easter, Cinco De Mayo, Mother's Tea, Dad's Night, Grandparent's Day, and Earth Day. We have some terrific party tips for all of these parties!
Every teacher has different expectations. Some teachers will give you a party plan, laying out all the details for you to execute. Others will await the party as anxiously as the children to see what fun you have prepared for them!
HOW CAN I BE MOST EFFECTIVE?
Respect the teacher's wishes. Just because you know "Mrs. Smith did it this way last year", don't expect all teachers to be alike in their needs.
Be as organized as possible at the beginning of the school year, and you will find that all the other parents will sign up to help more, and follow through with the commitments they have made to help.
Send out recruiting and commitment letters as soon as possible. Seeing a commitment on paper is so helpful.
Ask one parent to "Chair" each different party. That gives others the chance to be involved, and doesn't put undue burden (financial or time) on one individual.
For each party, fill out our "Room Party Checklist", and send one copy to each volunteer on the list two weeks prior to the party. The party "chair" can then follow up with a phone call a few days before the party. Never assume that everyone will just show up as planned!
Organize a binder or folder to gather the class list, parent list, notes from the teacher, filled-out "recruiting" forms, Room Party Checklists, and any other correspondence.
Practice your delegating skills and most of all, take the time to enjoy seeing your child in his/her classroom!
Know that every teacher has different expectations. Some teachers will give you a party plan, laying out all the details for you to execute. Others will await the party as anxiously as the children to see what fun you have prepared for them! ALWAYS check with the teacher first.
Fill out a Room Party Checklist for each party. You'll feel more organized and the party will be much more successful.
If you are chairing the party, plan to arrive half an hour before the party is to commence. Unload all of your props and goodies as close to the classroom as possible without disrupting the class.
Make arrangements with the teacher to have the classroom available for set-up 15 minutes before the party starts.
Ask all party volunteers to arrive 15 minutes prior to the start of the party to set up, and finalize plans.
Start and end the party on time.
Don't assume that pre-school siblings will be welcomed. Check with the teacher first.
Bring everything you will need for each game and craft. Don't assume that the teacher will have masking tape or a glue gun if you need those items.
Bring along a large plastic trash bag, and some paper towels. The teacher will appreciate not having an overflowing trashcan, and the school custodian will adore you!
When planning parties for younger children (under 10), or if you are working with a limited amount of time, we recommend you divide your activities into "stations". Recruit enough parents/helpers to work at each station, and divide the children into small groups—four to five in each group works best. Have the party guests spend no more than 10-15 minutes at a station, then blow a whistle, or ring a bell and have everyone rotate.
Select a couple of games, a craft, and then read an age appropriate book to the group while the snack is being prepared and served. Always plan two or three extra games or an extra craft just in case you finish faster than anticipated. (See our "Room Party Game Tips"…perfect for speedy kids!)
When awarding favors and prizes, make sure that the party ends with identical treasures in everyone's hands!
Always plan to have extra snacks available so that the teacher, school principal, and parent helpers can enjoy them also.
Check out our Room Party Tips for Crafts, Games, Snacks, and Favors for some general ideas, and our holiday party tips for ideas for a specific party.
Always add a few decorations. Simple table decorations can make all the difference in the world in the fun quotient! Balloons, streamers, curling ribbon, and plastic tablecloths are inexpensive, but go a long way in making a room look festive.
Don't forget the camera and film or video camera.
Above all else, be flexible, and have fun! Our precious children and the important events we celebrate with them should be savored and treasured.
Classroom Decorations for Teacher's Rooms
Party Occasion: _________________________________________________________
Teacher Name & Grade: ______________________________________________________
Party Chairperson (Phone #): ________________________________________________
Budget: _____________________ or Parents will contribute: __________
(Parents volunteering to help with the games, craft, book reading, and set up/clean up need to attend the party, and have all necessary items for their assignment. Parents contributing paper goods, snacks, decorations and favors can send the "contribution" in to the chairperson prior to the party if they are unable to attend.)
Make sure that the craft you choose is age-appropriate, and appealing to both genders. Your craft can do double duty…as a perfect party activity, and a terrific take-home party favor!
Allow approximately 10-15 minutes for a craft to be completed. If the craft will take longer than the allotted amount of time, prepare several of the steps prior to the party. This can include cutting, painting, or assembling all the needed materials in a separate baggie for each child.
If the craft will need time to dry, label a paper plate with each child's name, and place the item on the plate. They can be sent home the following day, or at the end of the day of the party if they have dried completely.
Always cover the work surface with newspaper, or tablecloths. Our disposable plastic tablecloths work perfectly because you can use a color to match your theme, and then just roll them up when the party is over. Clean up should always be this easy!
When using items such as glue guns, never leave the children unsupervised. (Tacky glue can be used as a substitute, but will take longer to dry.)
Set the craft up as a station, and rotate the children. Break the class up into 4-5 smaller groups, and allow them to spend 10-15 minutes at each station. (One craft and 2-3 games). By the time the party is over, all the children will have participated in all the activities.
Remember that every finished product is perfect just the way it turned out. It may not come close to resembling the perfect sample you prepared, but each child should be made to feel proud of his/her accomplishment.
Visit our "Ideas for School Holiday Parties" tip for craft suggestions specific to each holiday, or try one of the following standbys that work for any occasion:
Decorate frames to match the theme of the party. These can be made of Popsicle sticks, craft foam, old jigsaw puzzle pieces, or you can choose one of our inexpensive frames and add beads, bugs, bells, or…just about anything with a little glue! Take a picture of each child at the party, and send the picture home at a later date if a Polaroid™ camera is not available.
Sponge paint t-shirts, baseball caps, or note cards, using clean kitchen sponges cut into shapes to match your party's theme.
Make friendship bracelets
Create necklaces out of sweetened cereal ("O" shapes).
Create paper bag puppets
Make a craft related to the holiday at hand that the children can give as a gift to a family member.
Check out the All
Occasion Store to find goody bags in assorted sizes and colors. Let
kids decorate the bags with markers, stickers, die-cut shapes, wiggle
eyes, pompoms, etc.…they love to be creative!
Keep the games short, simple and age-appropriate. Games should last no longer than 10-12 minutes each.
Keep the directions simple…the children will be wound up and ready to party. For most, listening is something they are only required to do while class is in session!
Set the games up in "stations", and rotate the children. Break the class up into 4-5 smaller groups, and allow them to spend 10-15 minutes at each station. (2-3 games and 1 craft). By the time the party is over, all the children will have participated in all the activities. Advise the parent helpers that they should keep playing the game until time is up.
Have at least one parent supervise each station, and have one parent monitor the time. The monitor parent can flick the light switch, ring a bell or blow a whistle when each group should rotate.
Typically, the group will come together for snack time.
When playing "elimination" type games (such as Hot Potato), make sure you have something for the eliminated children to do. They can become game helpers or the cheering section for those who remain in the game.
By the time the party ends, all the children should have identical prizes and favors in their treat bags. Everyone is a winner!
Always have an extra game or two planned. Some games take much less time than planned. Other games work perfectly with some groups, while they are complete flops with others. Here are a few that require minimal advance planning:
Divide the children into teams. Give each team a baggie filled with ice cubes. See which team can melt it the fastest. (The ice can't go into anyone's mouth!)
The classic games of tag or dodge ball (best played with a beach ball) are always a hit, especially if you are in the gym or outdoors.
Fill a bottle or jar with jellybeans or M & Ms™, and let the children guess how many are inside.
Play freeze dancing. Have the children dance while the music is playing, then turn it off suddenly.
Whoever continues to move after the music is turned off is eliminated. Continue until all but one of the children is eliminated. Allow the eliminated children to become "Movement Monitors"
A quick treasure hunt with simple wrapped candies or small novelty toys is a good party standby.
Play old favorites such as telephone, Simon Says, Bingo, limbo, or 20 questions.
Adapt simple games like "Duck, Duck, Goose", Hot Potato, or Pin the Tail on the Donkey to your theme. Change the words to match your party occasion. For example, for Halloween, you might play "Pumpkin, Pumpkin, Ghost", "Pin the Wart on the Witch", and pass a ghoulish skeleton!
If you are playing a game that involves the entire group, play it at the beginning or the end of the party.
Each teacher has his/her own preferences as to how they wish to organize their classroom. Above all else, as a room parent, work with the teacher and all your efforts will have the most benefit for your children. We have compiled a list of questions to ask your teacher, and they should minimize your stress and pave the way for a very successful year.
Can you provide a classroom list so that all children can be acknowledged? (Important for planning party favors, food & craft planning, and # of helpers to recruit.)
Do you have a listing of the parents along with phone numbers/email addresses?
Do any of the children have food allergies or other special needs?
How do you prefer to be contacted with questions…email, phone, note, in person during lunch or recess?
Do you have any preferences for the party in terms of structure? For example, some teachers prefer to have one game, one craft, a snack and a book, while others give the room parents free reign.
Would you prefer that we feed the children at the beginning of the party, or the end?
Do you have a schedule of parties/dates for the year in which you will involve parents and/or need assistance? (Halloween/Harvest, Thanksgiving Feast, Christmas/Hanukah or Holiday, Valentine's Day, President's Day, St. Patrick's Day, 100th Day of School, Spring/Easter, Cinco De Mayo, Mother's Tea, Dad's Night, Grandparent's Day, Earth Day, End of School Year Celebration – don't panic at the length of this list – most classrooms have an average of 5 parties per year)
What are your thoughts on having pre-school siblings attend the parties?
Is it okay to set up the room before the parties begin?
Can we rearrange tables and chairs for the parties?
What is the time frame for each party?
Are there any school policies we should be aware of in our planning?
Is there any PTC/PTO money available for the parties, or should each family donate money or "goods"? Are there any families with financial needs to consider?
Do you have a schedule of field trips for the year, and the number of parent helpers you will need for each?
What other "projects" will you have for parents to help with? (Cutting, special projects, making copies, organizing book orders, helping with centers in the classroom, compiling a classroom/individual photo albums, cooking days, etc.)
When is your birthday?
Match the color of the beverage to the occasion – orange or green for Halloween, red or green for Christmas, etc.
Freeze club soda in ice cube trays. Let the kids add them to their drinks – they'll love the instant fizz!
Use 3"-4"die-cut shapes to match the holiday. Punch two holes into the shape (vertically), and slide it on to the straw. Use craft foam in place of paper to make this a take home favor.
Add-ins such as little umbrellas, fruit skewers or licorice "straws" mean big fun for kids.
Freeze fun theme related items into ice cubes. Plastic spiders, small gummy hearts, or a lemon wedge…be creative.
For children in Pre-school and grades K-2, fill cups only half full. They can always have more, and you will reduce the number of big spills.
In order to avoid using cups and a punch bowl, serve juice boxes or squeeze bottles instead.
Check with the teacher prior to the party to make sure that none of the children have food allergies.
Serve two snacks at each party. One can be on the healthier side, and the other can be fun junk food.
Always plan to have extra snacks available so that the teacher, school principal, and parent helpers can enjoy them also.
Visit our "Classroom Parties" tip for easy snack suggestions specific to each holiday, or try one of the following standbys that work for any occasion:
Bite sized fruit is always a hit - grapes, strawberries, melon, or banana wheels. Add a spoonful of peanut butter for dipping!
Cut cheese, melon or simple sandwiches into shapes to match the theme of the party using varying sizes of cookie cutters.
Anything dipped in chocolate and covered with sprinkles is a winner at a school party. Try dipping strawberries, frozen bananas, or pretzel rods.
Crispy Pops are guaranteed to bring lots of ooh's and aah's. To make 16, you'll need 1-12 oz. bag of Nestle's TollHouse Chocolate Chips™, 16 ready made Crispy Treats, 16 pretzel rods, and some colored sprinkles. Cutting little holes with a knife, stick the pretzel rods into the narrow end of the Crispy Treats. Melt the entire bag of chocolate chips for one minute in the microwave, and stir. Dip the end of the "pop" into the melted chocolate then sprinkle with festive sprinkles. Set pops on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper, and refrigerate until the chocolate sets. Cover the crispy treat portion with plastic wrap and tie with satin or curling ribbon.
This snack doubles as an activity, as children decorate their own sugar cookies. Have a station set up with plenty of sugar cookies cut out in shapes to match the party's theme on individual plates, along with different colors of frosting, sprinkles, and other goodies. This has worked equally well with 2 year-old preschoolers and with 5th graders.
Cupcakes are a wonderful standby. After frosting the cupcakes, add a small toy favor to match the occasion.
Remember that presentation can make even simple store bought treat look WOW. Package each snack in a plastic Baggie or plastic wrap, tie the baggie with curling ribbon, and attach a colorful tag with a warm greeting!
Each school and classroom has its own "policies" regarding how the classroom parties are financed. Basically, one of the following three procedures is typically used. Your teacher will be able to advise you, but remember to be flexible. In addition, don't feel you need to bear an unnecessary financial burden in order to make your party picture perfect…children are very easily pleased!
Some PTA/PTO organizations allocate portions of their budget to be distributed evenly among all the classes in the school for classroom parties. The money is distributed to the teacher at the beginning of the year. The teacher then decides if he/she will turn all of it over to the head room mother, or if she will determine how much will be spent on each event and give direction prior to each party.
At some schools, the head room mom or teacher sends a memo home at the beginning of the year, asking each student to contribute to a "classroom party fund". The amount of the contribution can range anywhere from $2.00 per student to $10.00 per student. Some parents may still supplement the parties with snacks or favors. Always work with the teacher to determine the amount, as she will be aware of any special financial needs. No child should ever be made to feel embarrassed.
Many classes do not ask for a one-time financial contribution, but rely on the participation of parents at each party. The head room mom appoints a chairperson for each party. The party chairperson then recruits parent volunteers to donate snacks, beverages, favors, decorations, or paper goods, etc. for the party. Some teachers/room moms request that each parent plan to make 2-3 "donations" through the year. The busiest of parents will make time to send items to a party, even if they are unable to attend.
Some of the great tips above are provided by Everything Elementary
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