Tuesday, August 16, 2011

School Halloween Party Entertainment and Activity Ideas For PTO and PTA Groups

There is lots for elementary schools to celebrate in October - pumpkins, apple cider, autumn leaves, and of course, Halloween. These exciting fall traditions are perfect opportunities for PTO and PTA groups to plan fun and enriching activities for their students and school families.
Halloween parties are the classic elementary school Halloween event. Many schools, however, have chosen to move away from the traditional school Halloween party in favor of an event that is themed more to "Fall Harvest Time". The "Fall Harvest Time" parties have more of an emphasis on pumpkins, apples, and cider rather than ghosts, skeletons, and witches.
Whichever party theme your PTO or PTA group chooses, hosting a successful October party, requires a lot of volunteer time, organization, and planning. It is important to know that you have support from parents in your PTO group who are willing to volunteer time and resources to make the party a success.
Once you have your volunteers in place, you can begin planning the activities and entertainment for the party. You should also decide whether students will be allowed to wear costumes at the party, and if there are certain restrictions on costumes that they can wear (no masks, no weapons, etc).
Your school Halloween party could include a variety of entertainment options. Our personal favorite is a "Haunted Classroom", where a simple "not so scary" haunted house maze is created by hanging black plastic from the ceiling. Along the way, students encounter teachers who are dressed up in silly costumes and acting out funny Halloween scenes.
Trick-or-treating from classroom to classroom is always a hit with students. You can encourage creativity and class spirit by inviting each class to decorate their room to a Halloween theme.
Many schools hire a DJ to play Halloween music as "entertainment" at their parties. Generally, however, elementary students are going to be more interested in other activities and games than dancing to Halloween tunes. Therefore, the expense of a professional DJ (usually $100+ an hour) for an elementary school party is not necessary. With advances in digital music players, a PTA parent volunteer could easily create a fun play list of Halloween songs on their iPod or computer and have that play during the party.
Halloween party entertainment such as a magic show or puppet show can be a hit with students and parents, but it should not be scheduled at a time that would conflict with other activities at the party. Instead, it is best to schedule the Halloween party entertainment at the end of the party. This will provide you with an entertaining finale to your event, and encourage families to stay for the whole party.
An alternative to having your October party at the school is to have the party at a location that offers a Halloween or Fall themed activity. You will not have to look very far to find a local hayride, pumpkin patch, farm or corn maze that would be happy to host your school group. Many of these locations have already planned "Halloween party packages" that include food, games, and tickets for their attraction or activity. At first it may seem cost prohibitive to have the party outside of school, but if you compare with what your PTO would be spending on food, decorations, and entertainment for an in-school program, you may find that there is very little difference.
As a bonus, PTO and PTA planned parties that are hosted outside of school often are better attended, as you are offering families a unique entertainment experience.
There are many assembly presenters who have school shows that are written with Halloween and Fall time themes and messages. Hiring a Halloween assembly program or show is the easiest and most hassle-free way for a PTO group to bring some Halloween and Fall festivities to their students. A professional assembly presenter company will arrive at your school with everything they need to put on a program, so there are very few resources or volunteer time required.
Halloween and Fall Time assembly programs range from musical reviews and plays by Youth Theater groups to magic and illusion shows. The content of these shows are usually very lighthearted depictions of Halloween, with the focus on "silly fun" instead of anything spooky or scary. Many times, the presenter will also weave Halloween and Trick-or-Treat safety messages into the show.
Unfortunately, there are many horror stories of Halloween assemblies that have had an entire Kindergarten class in tears because the presenter was presenting content that was not age appropriate. Blood, gore, overly-scary images, and swords and knives do not have any place in a show for elementary school audiences, but they unfortunately end up in shows of performers who are inexperienced with entertaining young audiences. Be sure that you are hiring a professional entertainer and using a reputable school assembly booking company to avoid any unpleasant surprises the day of the show.
No matter what Halloween activity your PTO / PTA group chooses to do, early planning is the key to ensuring a successful and headache-free event. October 31st may seem like a long way away at the start of the school year, but with the excitement of back-to-school time, open houses, and fund raising kick-offs, Halloween can sneak up on you. If at all possible, decide on a Halloween planning committee before school gets out in June, or at least by August. If you are planning on hiring a Halloween assembly, the longer you wait to book, the fewer choices for dates and times you are going to have to choose from.

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