Learn, Share, Grow: Ideas for Creating Successful Family Events

by California State PTA Family Engagement Commission

Family Engagement Friday August 2022

Creating family-oriented events, and making sure every family feels welcome, is a great way to strengthen the engagement of families with school and their kids’ education. 

More than  100 participants from across the state shared their best family engagement tips, tricks, and ideas at the 2022 California State PTA Convention, during a workshop called “Learn, Share, Grow.”  

Here are some top ideas about events your PTA can bring to your school:

Remember to approve all events with your membership and check with your school, and the PTA insurance guide before you start planning. 

Seasonal events:

  • Fall Festival– Have game booths run by grade levels or invite community partners to join the fun and create their own game booths.  Sell carnival type foods (hot dogs, tamales, pizza, etc.) or invite food trucks.  Ask for parent volunteers to work short shifts (30 minutes to one hour) so that they volunteer AND explore the event with their family.  Some PTAs utilize a volunteer swap so volunteers from one school volunteer at another school and vice versa.
  • Boo Grams/ Valo-grams/ Candy Grams– Create a simple card that students, parents, teachers can fill out for the recipient.  Purchase candy, flowers or toys in bulk then attach the cards to the items and deliver them to classrooms on a specified day.  This low-cost activity allows for families, students and teachers to show appreciation for each other in a fun way.
  • Trunk or Treat– Ask for families or staff to decorate their vehicle trunks in creative ways.  They can either use Halloween decor or select a theme (Pinterest has some great ideas for this) to make their trunks a showplace.  Students then walk from car to car and trick or treat.  Make sure you have enough candy by asking for donations of candy from the entire school and/or community partners.  You can extend this activity by having food, music, and allowing students to wear costumes if you so choose.
  • Winter Holiday shop – Give the students a space to purchase gifts for their families at a reduced cost or have them make crafts or art projects that can be used as family gifts.

General family fun:

  • Movie Nights– Whether you do this on your playground as an outdoor event or in your multi-purpose room- families greatly enjoy this!  Be sure that you obtain a license to show the movie, so you are not in violation of copyright.  This event can be free or low-cost. You can provide popcorn or snacks, families can purchase them for a small fee, or they can bring their own treats from home.  If you want to take it to the next level you can have a “drive-in” where students create their own cars to sit in out of cardboard boxes.  This would add a fun arts component to the night!
  • Book Fair– Many schools have a book fair at some time during the year.  One way to turn it into a bigger family event is to have it in the evening and ask  teachers or volunteers to read some of the books that can be purchased.  You can also have a table full of books teachers are requesting for their classrooms or that the library would like for families to purchase.  You can also time Family Literacy Night to coincide with your book fair so that families can purchase books as part of that event.
  • Muffins in the Morning– After morning drop-off invite families to join your PTA for muffins in the morning.  Have coffee and some pastries, highlight upcoming events and the benefits of joining PTA, or invite a special guest to speak to families.  These kinds of opportunities give families a chance to get to know each other and feel more comfortable with the PTA and volunteering. You can simplify with just coffee and juice and include a chat with the principal if available.  
  • Family Campfire– This event can either be around a real fire at a local park or beach or you can create your own “fire” with flashlights and colored tissue paper.  Whether you are using a real or fake fire, the concept remains the same– let’s get families outside to enjoy some time in nature.  Tell campfire stories, sing songs, go on a flashlight hike to see what insects or animals you can find.  You can end the night giving everyone a s’mores kit to make once they get home- filled with graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate. 
  • Glow Night– Head on over to the dollar store or bulk catalog shop and purchase glow sticks, glow necklaces and rings.  Make posters using neon paint and put some black lights around.  Encourage families to wear neon or white clothes so that they glow too!  Have music and games to complete the event. 
  • Family Art Night–  The arts are a great way to have the entire family participate in activities.  Grandparents, siblings, or aunts/uncles or a favorite neighbor or caregiver- everyone can do art!  Some PTAs have partnered with local ceramics studios or paint-night shops for this event while others have simply purchased simple supplies like paper, brushes and paint or construction paper and scissors.   Many PTAs also use this as the kick-off for their Reflections program by adding a table explaining the rules of the program to families.
  • Touch a Truck Event– This event is an outstanding way to partner with businesses in your community as well as local emergency agencies.  Invite various vehicles including dump trucks, construction vehicles, a city bus, garbage truck, police, fire, tree climber, etc. to park at your school and allow students and families to get up-close and personal with these cool forms of transportation.  This can be a ticketed event or free- but it’s a well-loved event for elementary school families. Be sure to follow PTA procedures and clear this with the principal ahead of time.
  • Western Roundup– Families come to campus in their western best to learn some line dancing and show off their best country dancing.  Line dancing not interesting to your community? What other types of group dancing would be?  Learn and do together activities are a wonderful way to include families who might not regularly attend events. 
  • Family Picnic- Invite families to bring a picnic dinner and a blanket to your school’s playground for this event.  Have some music playing, allow children to play on the yard, and maybe invite a food truck or two for dessert or shaved ice to cool off.  Families love a  free event and the chance to get to know their student’s friends. 
  • Board Game Night– Families bring their favorite games to school and teach them to other families.  Make sure to have some decks of cards on hand too– there are lots of games you can play using cards. 
  • Talent Show– Ask students or families to create their own acts for your show.  Singing, dancing, magic tricks, playing an instrument, telling jokes– families have so many talents to share.  Many schools have a theme for their talent show, but it’s not necessary.  Sell tickets and/or concessions or have a free community event depending on your PTAs goals.  Talent shows can be very simple or more elaborate, but the most important thing is to have fun. 

We want to share your great family engagement ideas with other PTAs across California.  Please take a moment to fill out this simple form and share your family events with us.

Plan and Prepare for Your First Association Meeting of the Term

by Leadership Services Commission

Kicking off your PTA year with an association meeting is important and is an opportunity for all your members to be involved.  Your association meeting is the membership meeting and all members should be invited. 

Throughout the year Executive Board members and committee chairs should attend the association meetings to show their support for PTA, respond to questions, and engage members and future leaders. 

Association meetings are different in specific ways from the smaller monthly board meetings that provide, first and foremost, the opportunity for your executive board to plan programs and manage the basic business of your association.

Why Hold PTA Association Meetings?

These meetings are an opportunity to engage PTA members and at these meetings members vote on and make decisions about the programs and budget for the PTA year. 

PTA bylaws require that association meetings be held at least twice per year.  Check your bylaws and standing rules to confirm what is required for your PTA. 

  • PTA bylaws provide guidance regarding the quorum, association, and executive board business. 
  • Standing rules specify current meeting months and days of the week, meeting notice requirements, and when items are referred back to the executive board for a study before association action. 

Meeting and Agenda Planning Tips

Effective association meetings are well planned, welcome everyone’s opinions, abide by majority rule, and foremost, keep the business of the association brief. The president, with the help of Executive Board members, plans and presides at association meetings. Executive Board members provide reports and present motions as recommended by the Executive Board and agreed upon in advance.

At the first association meeting of the year, items to notice and include on the agenda are:

  • Welcome, certify quorum, appoint interim parliamentarian if needed, introductions
  • Minutes (action) of the previous association meeting
  • Financial Reports
    • Treasurer’s Report (presentation) and payment ratifications (action) from the previous meeting to June 30th.
    • Annual Financial Report (presentation) for the previous term.
    • Treasurer’s Report (presentation) and payment ratifications (action) from July 1 to the first meeting
    •  Year End Financial Review (action) for the previous term (1/1-6/30)
  • Calendar and Programs (action) for the upcoming year
  • Budget Adoption and Related Actions
    • Budget Adoption (action), even when approved at the previous association meeting
    •  Release of Budgeted Funds (action) for upcoming expenses
    • Authorizations for upcoming payments (action)
  • If your PTA has only two meetings a year, the nominating committee is elected at this first meeting
  • Welcome and report from Principal or site administrator
  • Vice president and chair reports on upcoming activities, e.g., Annual Historian Report or Reflections promotion
  • Optional – plan for a guest speaker or special program that would be interesting to your whole school community to create engagement with PTA and increase attendance. 

Announce the Meeting 

The list of meeting topics is noticed to members in writing at least 10 days in advance of the meeting using social media and email and/or is posted at school. To expedite the business at the meeting, supporting documents may be shared electronically with members or posted at school with adequate time for member review. 

Meetings may be held virtually or in person at any accessible location. A projected powerpoint presentation will reduce the expense of printing documents.

Whether your meeting is virtual or in person, consider new ways to draw a crowd, and add an activity or ice breaker before or after the meeting. Include refreshments and welcome everyone!

Be Prepared so the Meeting Goes Smoothly

In preparation, Executive Board members should review parliamentary procedure and the motion process and their duties in the Toolkit and Job Descriptions for PTA Leaders. 

  • Be prepared: members may ask for ballot voting (so have ballot supplies on hand). 
  • Remember: it is ok for the president to pause and confer with the parliamentarian or secretary during the meeting.

To expedite the meeting, the president may use the unanimous consent process for noncontroversial motions and/or use a consent agenda. Group consent agenda items according to the vote outcome required, majority or two-thirds. 

It may be helpful for the president and secretary to prepare a detailed agenda script so nothing is forgotten. 

Additional Resources

The California State PTA Toolkit provides practical guidance for conducting meetings:

Our Leaders’ Website is a one-stop resource for local PTA leaders:

You’ll find timely advice and great ideas in these articles on capta.org and the California State PTA blog:

Back to School Week September 13-17

by Heather Ippolito, VP Family Engagement

This coming week National PTA celebrates Back to School Week.  From September 13-17 they are hosting activities and encouraging school sites across the country to hold events to welcome students and their families back to campus.  Visit their website to see a wealth of resources for encouraging families to join your PTA and ideas for how to do PTA activities virtually or in a hybrid fashion.  Also be sure to follow their social media channels so that you won’t miss any of the fun ideas and activities they will be sharing all week long.

The California State PTA Family Engagement Commission has some back to school ideas for you to use now as well– regardless if your community started school this week or a month (or more!) ago — these are events we know work!  We’ve held them at our schools to help students and families feel connected as school resumes.

  • Boo Hoo/Yahoo Breakfast for Parents- The first day of school is hard on parents, especially for our TK or Kindergarten families.  They are having to leave their little one on campus for the first time and it can be a little stressful on both parent and child.  While the teachers are taking care of the kids in the classroom, our PTA hosts a coffee and continental breakfast for parents.  Our principal comes and introduces themself, families have an opportunity to meet other parents, and our PTA shares a little bit about our programming and the benefits of becoming a PTA member.  The event doesn’t last more than an hour on the first morning of school, but it was always a family favorite event. School already started? There is no reason not to hold this to celebrate the first week, month or quarter!
  • Ice Cream Social-  Prior to the start of the school year, we invited families to campus for an ice cream social.  We bought giant bags of popsicles and ice cream from either the cafeteria or a warehouse store, set up a table on the school playground, and allowed families, students and our PTA to mingle.  The kids loved the opportunity to see their friends and play, while the parents greatly appreciated the sense of community they began to form with other families at school. School already started? Everyone in your community will love ice cream on the second week, or the eighth just as much as the first day.  
  • Family Picnic- Our school held a family picnic on the Friday after the first week of school.  We encouraged families to bring blankets, chairs and their dinner to the school playground.  PTA had music playing, we invited an ice cream truck or a mobile shaved ice company to park near the school, and we sometimes put out games like the parachute or giant connect four for kids and families to play.  It was a wonderfully low-key way to chat with other families, for kids to show their parents the cool playground that they had been exploring all week long, and oftentimes our administration or some teachers dropped by. School already started? Picnics can happen anytime!
  • Have your Mascot welcome the kids to school on day 1- Most schools have some sort of costume that goes along with the school’s mascot.  Ask for a parent volunteer to wear it on the first day of school as the children arrive.  This is a great photo opportunity, it helps ease the anxiety of some children to be welcomed by a friendly face, and you can promote your PTA by asking them (or their assistant) to hold a “Join PTA” sign with a QR code that links them to your membership site.  School already started? Your Mascot can bring the party any day of the fall semester!

Note:  Try to have your back-to-school events be no-cost or low-cost.  You don’t want price to be a barrier to attendance at welcome back events– this is a chance for all families to feel welcome on your campus.  These give-back events are for relationship building and to help our children and families feel comfortable at school.  They shouldn’t be for fundraising.

If your school isn’t allowing on-campus events this fall many of these things can be held in a local park, community center, library, or other non-campus location.  Or modify your event to make it virtual: Coffee with the Principal (on Google Meet) or a drive through ice cream social with student made signs on the vehicles, or even a socially distant ice cream social!. This may mean a little extra planning on your part, but the returns in helping families and students feeling connected to one another and to your school will be worth the investment of your time.

Test Scores Can Help Jump Start the Learning Process

Register Now!

California State PTA Presents:
A Zoom presentation by Educational Testing Service and Metametrics
September 2, 2021 – 4-5pm


We often think of test scores as the ending point of a student’s learning, a “final score.” But test results can actually be the start of learning. In this presentation you’ll learn how to use the results of state testing to find just the right tools for continuing your child’s progress in reading and math. 

Register here and attend on September 2 from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m.

During the presentation, which will be facilitated by California State PTA President Carol Green, experts from ETS and Metametrics will explain the Lexile and Quantile Framework. If you look at the 2021 Student Score Report, based on tests most students took at the end of last school year, you’ll see Lexile and Quantile measures. (You’ll find them on page 5 of this sample Student Score Report.)

You can use your child’s Lexile and Quantile measures to find their reading and math levels. The California Department of Education has arranged for all parents to have access to a set of free family-friendly tools, including Find-A-Book and Math@Home, that enable you to match learning resources and activities to your child’s learning levels in both reading and math. 

These two parent guides will give you the basics.

Lexile: https://lexile.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Lexile-Parent-Guide.pdf

Quantile: https://www.quantiles.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Quantile-Parent-Guide-1.pdf


But even better, register for and attend our September 2 presentation.   


by Mary Perry, California State PTA Board of Managers

All over California, the back-to-school ritual has begun. This year, of course, that ritual is so different. For many students and families, it’s the first time in more than a year that in-person school has even happened.

We hear a multitude of opinions about how to keep schools safe. Governor Newsom issued an executive order calling for universal vaccinations and/or Covid testing at every school. We also have a minority of people agitating against taking safety precautions at all – no vaccines, no masking, no social distancing.

Does it all have you feeling anxious and confused?

There are some great resources available to help you and others in your PTA conquer that anxiety. 

Thankfully, the California Department of Education, the California Department of Public Health, and the U.S. Education Department are all providing solid, research-based information that can guide your actions. And in every case they have created resources directed to parents that are clear, relevant, and informative. We are trying to collect many of those resources on our California State PTA Covid 19 page, but frankly it’s hard to keep up with all that is happening. So in this blog I just want to give you the latest.

Get Vaccinated
The California Department of Education is going all in on encouraging every school staff member, every parent, and every student age 12 and older to get vaccinated. On August 11, State Superintendent Tony Thurmond hosted this Facebook Live session to do just that. [link: https://www.facebook.com/CAEducation/videos/980031342834502/ ]  The main advice: make a date to vaccinate!

Research on COVID and Kids
One of the most informative (and comforting) pieces of information I’ve seen is from the California Department of Public Health. Dr. Naomi Bardach is the lead for the CA Safe Schools for All project and website. (The parent page is also available here in Spanish.) She recently summarized research that is giving health experts confidence about schools reopening. Her key points:

  • Children get COVID19 less often and are less ill than adults
  •  Children most often get COVID19 from a household adult, even when attending school
  •  Schools can operate safely and successfully when key safety measures – such as masks — are in place

Dr. Bardach also explained why kids in general are less likely to get Covid-19 or to get a serious case if they do become infected. Our bodies have these ACE2 receptors, which act like doorways to let the virus into our cells. Adults have developed a lot of these receptors but children have fewer, and the younger a child is the fewer receptors or doorways they have. The virus just doesn’t have as many places where it can enter a child’s body.

Return to School Roadmap
The US Education Department has created a Return to School Roadmap, with a web-page specifically for parents. Their Parent Checklist provides straightforward advice on how parents can make sure their kids are safe as school reopens. The key items on that list include:

  • Make a plan for eligible children to get vaccinated
  • Talk to your school about health and safety protocols
  • If your child isn’t eligible yet for a vaccine, talk with them about strategies to keep them safe at school
  • Make a plan to access safe transportation to and from school
  • Talk to your child’s teacher about your child’s needs

A crucial concern for kids and adults is the impact that the pandemic has had on our mental health, sense of security, and trust in the future. Those social and emotional issues, and what we all can do to address them, will be the subject of another article soon.

Until then, get informed, stay calm, and make a date to vaccinate!

The CDC is Asking You to Help Raise Awareness About Immunizations

By Mary Perry

Vaccinations are a hot topic right now, thanks of course to COVID-19. But long before the current pandemic the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) designated August as National Immunization Awareness Month. 

To help schools and families make sure every child starts school healthy and immunized this fall, we are sharing a wealth of resources created by the CDC especially for school communities.







An unfortunate result of the pandemic is that many children missed check-ups and recommended childhood vaccinations. CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend every child continues to receive recommended vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These are challenging times, but you have the power to help keep your child healthy.

Making sure that your child sees their doctor for well-child visits and recommended vaccines is one of the best things you can do to protect your child and community from serious diseases that are easily spread.

The CDC has prepared great information for both adults and kids about Covid-19 vaccines specifically:

In addition, be sure to check out and share this comprehensive guide to well-child visits and recommended vaccines.

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