Parents of preschool through grade school age children have at some point been asked to be a room parent, or volunteer of some sort with classroom activities. If you are a room mom, or someone who volunteered to help, you might be feeling a bit stressed this time of year. Among all the gift shopping, decking of the halls, cookie baking, and preparing for family visits, it can be overwhelming if you are also in charge of the classroom holiday party. Many times I have heard parents say, “I really want to help out, but I am just not creative.” Does this sound like you? If it does, don’t panic. I’ve got you covered.
I have been a room parent for the last three years, and see at least two more in my future. In addition, I have been in charge of running the room parent coffee talk for the parent group at my children’s school for the past two years. During the meetings I discuss the role of the room parent and share ideas for the various parties and teacher appreciation events throughout the year. I think it’s safe to say I have planned quite a few classroom parties, which is lucky for you because I am sharing my ideas here with you today.
First things first. Get in touch with your teacher. You will want to find out a few important details before you can start planning: are there any children with food allergies in the classroom, are there any decorating restrictions, what is the time frame for the party including set up, what are the rules regarding goodie bags and food choices, and is there a specific theme your teacher had in mind or is a general holiday party preferred?
Once you have the answers to all those questions it’s time to start planning. What I always tell my room parents is that you should never limit yourself to the ideas I tell you alone. Use them as a jumping off point. My hope is that one of my ideas will lead you to another. So, to help you out I have compiled a few ideas to help you make your Christmas party be a success.
FOR PRESCHOOL CLASS PARTY
• Pin the carrot on the snowman: just like the title suggests, this game is similar to pin the tail on the donkey. All you need to make this game is white poster board, orange and black construction paper, and a sharpie marker. You will draw out a snowman shape (large circle on bottom, medium circle in middle, small circle for head), you can either do this as three separate pieces or one big piece. Then take the black paper and cut out squares for the eyes and circles for the buttons on his body. Lastly, you will draw a carrot shape on the orange and cut it out. Then trace this shape repeatedly for the number of children in the classroom. Be sure to number these pieces so you know who got the closest.
• Snowflake bean bag toss: to make this game you will need the following supplies: blue fabric, white fabric, fabric glue and bean bags. Bean bags can be purchased at any local party store for a pretty decent price.
First you will want to cut out a 22″ x 28″ piece from the blue fabric. Next, cut out three squares in three different sizes (I suggest 12″ x 12″, 8″ x 8″, and 5″ x 5″) from the white fabric. With these three pieces you will be creating snowflakes. To do that, follow the steps on how to make paper snowflakes in the Grade School section below. Once you have your snow flakes you will glue them to your white fabric with your fabric glue, alternating sides.
To play, have the students stand behind a line, marked with tape, and toss the bean bags. The goal is to have the bean bags land on all three snowflakes. You have two options in running this: you can have each child go individually, or you could split them into teams and have them alternate turns. One toss equals one turn. This might make the game go faster, as well as insuring all students get a turn.
• Christmas carol freeze dance: You will need a CD of Christmas music and a CD player. At our preschool they have a CD player in which they play music for the kids each morning. Your child’s classroom may have something similar, so I would ask your teacher if she does and if you would be allowed to use it for this activity.
How it works: you start playing Christmas carols and have the kids dance in their spot. When the music stops they have to freeze (like a popsicle). Ages 3-5 are a little young to understand being “out” if they move, so we have adapted it to everyone participates and we run the activity for a certain time frame, say 10-15 min. This is usually long enough to be fun, but not too long to lose their interest. *If you wanted to use this for older children, just have the kids sit next to the wall when they move.
• Santa Hats: this is an easy craft for preschoolers. You will need red, white, and black construction paper. First you will measure each child’s head and cut out a black strip of paper to size. Staple it together in a circle so it fits on the child’s head. Next you have triangles cut out of red paper (to make it more floppy, you can cut the triangle in a slight curve at the top). Make sure you have enough for each child. Then have circles and cloud like shapes cut from the white paper. I recommend cutting out all the pieces beforehand, so all the students have to do at the party is glue them together to assemble the hat. Last step is gluing the hat to the headband.
• Decorate Gingerbread Men: For this craft you will want to have all the pieces pre-cut before the party. Have someone, or yourself, trace out gingerbread men onto brown paper and cut them out. Make sure you have enough for each student. Next you will need to have buttons, foam shapes, circles cut from various colors, craft pom poms, etc. These items will serve as the decorations down the gingerbread man’s belly. To get the squiggly icing look, you can cut white ric rac to size (this is the zig zag looking ribbon found at any craft store). To finish it off, you will need googly eyes, crayons or markers to draw the mouth, and any other decorations with which the students could personalize their gingerbread man.
• Handprint wreath: You can do this craft one of two ways. Option one: trace each child’s hand about 8-10 times in two shades of green construction paper. Cut them out and then glue them side by side, fingers facing out, in a circle to form a wreath. Option 2: paint each child’s hand green and place it down on white paper. Repeat this 8 times forming a circle as you go. Finish off the project with some red circles for holly berries and a red bow. If you wish, you can punch a small hole at top and thread a piece of festive ribbon through it, making the wreath hang-able.
GRADE SCHOOL CLASS PARTY
• Christmas Bingo: You can either download any of the free bingo printables online, download the Christmas Bingo cards I created by going here, or make your own. For markers you can use coins, wrapped Hershey kisses (be careful using food as markers though, make sure they are safe for those with food allergies), red or green pom poms, or buttons in colors red, green, blue, or white. Then write out all the words on strips of paper and place them in a Santa hat, or holiday bowl. Pick one at a time and call it out.
• Shovel the Snow relay race: for this game you will need cotton balls, spoons, and two buckets. Split up the class into two teams. Each team must race to pick up their “snowballs” with the spoon and place them in the bucket at the other end of the room, before the other team. The students each get a turn until all the “snowballs” are in the bucket. It’s really a fun game for children as young as Kindergarten all the way to adults!
• Paper Plate Blind Draw: have the students take a sturdy paper plate and place it on their heads. Then through a series of steps that you call out, have them draw a Christmas related image without looking at their paper. For example: draw a line for the floor, draw a Christmas tree, decorate it with ornaments, draw a star on top, draw presents below the tree. Another options is: draw a circle for the face; draw eyes, nose, and a mouth; draw a hat; now draw a beard. The end result is quite hilarious since the students can’t see where they are drawing. To add a little more fun you can give various points for how well they drew the image. For example: 3 points if your tree touches the floor, 1 point for each ornament that is on the tree, 2 points if the star is above the tree, and 1 point for each present below the tree. If you are doing the Santa image, your point spread could go like this: 2 points for the eyes being inside the circle, 3 points if they are even with each other, 1 point if the hat is above the face, 2 points if the nose is below the eyes, etc.
• How fast can you wrap?: this idea came to me after discussing with my son what he would like to do for a class Christmas party. For this game you will need unused boxes, or blocks of various sizes, and wrapping paper. This is something you could ask each parent to bring in the week before your event. I would recommend going to the dollar store and getting cheap holiday wrapping paper. How you play: give each child their own “present” to wrap, set a timer, and see how fast they can wrap it.
• Paper Snowflakes: Follow these steps to make it a winter wonderland in your classroom. Step 1: fold the squares in half diagonally to make a triangle. Step 2: fold the triangle in half so the pointy corners meet. Step 3 and 4: fold your triangle in thirds. Make sure the sides match up, so you may need to adjust as you fold. Step 5: Cut across the bottom of your paper so it is straight. Step 6: cut designs into the folded triangle using variations of straight and curvy lines. Then unfold and tape your creations to the classroom window. You can do this with various sizes of squares to get really big, medium, and small snowflakes. The mores sizes the better they will look will all together.
• Elf Application: have the kids apply to be one of Santa’s Elves. You can download the Elf Application I made here, or you can create your own. Basically just have the kids fill out the sheet, answering questions to help them look like the best applicant for Santa to choose. This is a really cute keepsake to look back upon when they get older. Plus it helps kids with their handwriting skills, and the younger ones to recognize words and spell.
FOR KIDS OF ANY AGE
Gingerbread houses: If you are feeling really ambitious I totally recommend this activity for your classroom party. It always gets excellent results. For this, you will need graham crackers, royal icing, various candies, and paper plates.
Speaking from experience, I recommend making the houses ahead of time. Remember you are making one for each child, and if you have 20+ kids in your class this can be quite an undertaking. Enter the perfect opportunity to get to know the other parents in your child’s class, and a way for them to get involved. Ask a few of the parents to come over to your house one evening and help make the houses. While you work, you can socialize, eat some snacks, have some wine, and really have a lot of fun. Make the houses are very basic as I mentioned above, you will need one for each child.
Once all the houses are built, all the children have to do is decorate their house at the party. I warn you ahead of time, this can get messy. I also recommend having a few stations with each candy in a separate bowl, as well as a tub or two of the icing at each station. Be sure to write their name on the paper plate once they are finished so you know whose house is whose. Set them aside to dry while you eat, or do other activities. The icing should harden by the time the party is over, so the kids can take their houses home that day.
Royal Icing recipe:
• 3 tablespoons of Meringue Powder (if you can’t find this, or if your classroom has a food allergy, you can substitute powdered egg whites instead. Works just as well)
• 4 cups (1lb.) confectioner’s sugar
• 6 tablespoons of warm water
Mix all the ingredients until the icing forms peaks (about 7-10 minutes with a mixer)
If the icing is too thick just add more water, a little at a time. This makes about 3 cups of icing. You will want to make more the day of the party for the kids to use as glue for putting on their candy as decorations.
Below are the instructions for making the houses.
• (4) Full graham crackers for the two long sides of the house, and the roof (I bought mine at Walmart as they were the cheapest. The kids will not be eating this so they don’t have to taste good.)
• (2) graham crackers split in half for the ends of the house
*This is the amount you will need to make one house. If you are keeping count that is 5 full crackers needed for each house. Calculate 5 crackers per student and that is how many you need for this activity. Note: buy extra to take into account unwanted breakage of crackers along the way.
Step one: Spread the royal icing on the bottom of one of the long pieces and glue it to the paper plate.
Step two: take one of the short sides, spreading royal icing on the bottom and one side, glueing it to the long side as well as the paper plate.
Step three and four: Repeat this until you have all four pieces glued to the plate as well as each other, forming the base of the house. Let dry for a few minutes.
Step five: Spread the royal icing on the top and bottom of the long sides of the remaining pieces. Build the roof forming a triangle. You will want them to look like this when you are done.
Note: Royal icing dries really stiff, so these houses will be very sturdy.
I hope this eased your panic a bit and helped give you some ideas for planning your upcoming classroom Christmas party. If you are still in need of some more ideas, I highly recommend you check out Pinterest. It is a wonderful resource for ideas and inspiration.
Good luck and Happy Holidays!!