Before the party
It’s always a good idea to talk to the teacher before you start planning your party or purchasing items. You may plan everything ahead of time and then come to find out that a student has an allergy or that certain decorations aren’t allowed. Here are some good questions to start with:
“Do any children have food allergies?" Usually the teacher will have been notified if any children have food allergies.
“Are there any decorating restrictions?" Most teachers recommend not bringing balloons because of possible safety issues, but if they are allowed – they make for quick and easy decorating!
“How long will I have to set up before the party?" The answer to this question is really important. This will determine the type of party that you will have. If you have only a very short time, you will have to limit your decorations and serve easy and quick party foods, etc. Most of the time, the teachers will take the kids outside and allow you about 10-15 min. for setup. This is also a good time to make sure that you will have parent helpers!
“Do you allow holiday-specific themed parties, or do you prefer general holiday parties?" Some schools/teachers prefer to stay away from the specific holiday and steer more towards the general season, so be sure to check with your teacher. Even if they want you to stick with a seasonal theme, you’ll probably be able to throw in some holiday ideas too. Example: your teacher may want you to stick with a fall theme instead of Halloween, but you will probably be able to put a Ghost Lollipop into their gift bag, etc. Just make sure to check on any restrictions.
“Are there any food items that aren’t allowed?" Some schools/teachers prefer no soda pop for a party, and sometimes frown on wrapped hard candies – so be sure to check if there are any rules/preferences.
“Are classroom supplies available to use for the party?" If you need to use items like glue sticks, tape, or scissors for your party craft – don’t assume that the teacher will let you use the class supply. Check with her first to see if that is okay – if not be sure to bring your own supplies. This question also applies if you want to play music during the party. The teacher may have a CD player in the class, but be sure that you will be able to use it!
Even though you are the room rep, you will still need other parent’s help for the party – so be sure to ask for volunteers to bring items, and to help you with the party itself. Be sure to send home reminders!
Make a party plan including a schedule of what you want to do. Purchase and prepare all supplies that are needed. If you are doing a craft, I recommend pre-cutting and sorting the supplies into a zip lock bag for each child, and putting a basket with glue/scissors, etc into the middle of each table. It makes it much easier to pass out the craft supplies if they are already prepared in individual baggies! Assemble goodie bags or any take-home gifts ahead of time as well. Use class-par to help plan your event and to gather your food ideas, crafts and party games.
Setting up party
Try to get to the school a little bit earlier than planned. The parking lot usually fills up fast on party days – so the earlier you are – the closer you get to park, and that makes a BIG difference when you are lugging all the party stuff around. Party supplies, crafts, food and juice boxes can be heavy and cumbersome – so bring along a rolling cart or a wagon to make the trip from the car to the classroom a breeze.
Most teachers take their students out of the room during your party set up – but be prepared if that doesn’t happen. You can bring along themed coloring pages and markers or crayons, or have music or a movie playing. Just be prepared – in case!
Ask your parent helpers to be there early to help you set up. I recommend passing out all the food and drinks first – so when the kids come back in, they can sit down and start eating right away. Set up the rest of your activities and decorations.
***Be sure to make a plate for the teacher!!!*** This should be a relaxing and fun time for the kids and the teacher!
During the party
Class parties are fun and memorable for kids, so be sure to bring along a camera to catch those memories! The pictures can be shared with the teachers and parents – or even put in a school newsletter! Try to find music to go with the party. It really helps set the mood and the kids love it. You can also use the music as a quick back-up game if needed (musical chairs, dance/freeze, etc. )
Have a parent helper go around with a trash bag during the party to clean up after the kids, and another parent assigned to help with refills or seconds. The kids should usually eat first, and then play a game (if planned). While the game is going on – you can clear the desks for a craft or activity if you have one set up. If you are doing a craft – make sure to write the child’s name on it so they don’t get theirs mixed up with their neighbor. If you want to do two things, but only have time for one activity ( either a craft OR a game, but not both), then you can set up two stations and have ½ the class do the game while the other ½ does the craft; then have them switch. You can find TONS of free crafts and games at www.class-par!
You should be the one in charge of how things progress during the party and make sure that things move along. This should be a fun time for the teacher, but if there are discipline problems – you should probably refer the student to the teacher and let her take care of the problem.
Party getting too loud or out of hand? Bring a book along with you that relates to the holiday or season. It’s good to have as a back-up in case your class gets too rowdy. You can call them to sit in a circle and read a quick and interesting story to them. They’ll quiet down pretty quickly, but will still be having fun! Check the reading list on class-par for great book suggestions.
Watch that clock! Make sure that you are finishing up on time. Most class parties take place during the end of the school day, so you will need to wrap up the party on time to allow students to get their backpacks ready and lined up for dismissal.
After the party
Make sure the children have their goody bags and/or take home projects as they leave to go home.
Use extra trash bags to pick up all the trash and leftover food. If you have extra un-opened juice boxes – save those for the next party. Wipe down desks and tables and clean up the floor, and take down any decorations you brought. The teacher will appreciate it if you put the classroom back the way it was before you got there (maybe a bit cleaner!). Be sure to send thank you notes to the parents who helped during the party!
Pam Lester is a former art teacher and mother of 2. She is the creator of http://www.Class-Par , http://www.TheIdeaBox.com , and http://www.SundaySchoolCrafts.com .