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Need more participation in your school’s activities, fundraisers, or volunteer efforts? 

Ask a mom. 

I spent some time with my kids decorating cookies this week. It’s Summer, and I have some activities planned so they don’t spend too much time on devices or watching TV. A cookie decorating kit was one of them. It was a great way to hang out together for an hour or so on a rainy afternoon. Now I have a dozen huge, colorful, heavily sprinkled cookies on my counter.

“Mom! Can I have a cookie?”

“After dinner!”

BAM! I have just encouraged my kids to eat the yummy, healthy dinner I prepared for them before they indulge in their delicious masterpieces. Not only that, but the whole cookie decorating experience got them up off the couch to spend time together as a family. I like to call that “Mom Motivation.” 

Don’t we all need a little added inspiration sometimes? 

As a volunteer with my kids’ school PTO, that motivation often takes many forms. There are so many ways to give back to schools, whether helping in the classroom, cafeteria, or bus lines, hanging students’ artwork in the halls, or helping to reshelve books in the library. There’s nothing better than the feeling you get when you help achieve a goal by serving others. 

But with parents’ busy lives and teachers’ already-full schedules, sometimes a little extra “oomph” can go a long way. We often achieve our goals as a school, and maybe even encourage volunteer participation, by adding some fun “Mom Motivation” to our activities. 

Here are 7 tips for giving back at your child’s school, while boosting results and FUN! 

  • Sweet Treat. I scream for ice cream! Well, popsicles are more practical in a school. But for almost any event or activity, you can get kids (and teachers!) excited by adding popsicle motivation. It’s a low-cost way to encourage participation.
  • Picnic Lunch. While it’s still warm weather, talk to your principal about the idea of offering lunch outside for the classrooms who meet certain goals. Whether it’s the most books read during the month or the most acts of kindness shown, kids will love the idea of doing something different. As for the food, ask the cafeteria staff about a “sack lunch” option! 
  • Dress Down. PJ Day, Crazy Socks, Sports Jersey Day, School Spiritwear, or Hat Days are fantastic ways to bring energy into the school, especially when they’re tied to school events, such as school-wide testing or the kickoff of basketball season. If your school has a uniform policy, Out-of-Uniform Days are also great!  
  • Positive Feedback. To drive participation in an important school campaign like Safety Week, recognize students who show positive characteristics, such as kindness, empathy, and fun. Print simple certificates for teachers, or better yet – students – to share when they “catch” another student being the “Most Helpful” or “Most Encouraging.” 
  • COFFEE. For parents, providing coffee or getting the local donut shop to donate sweet treats might help bring parents to meetings. If possible, offer a few $5 giveaways at the meeting too.  
  • Give Back. At our Boosterthon Fun Run last year, our PTO agreed to give teachers a percentage of funds their class raised BACK to the teacher in their school account to use for their classroom. They could buy supplies, books for their classroom libraries, craft paper -- anything they needed to better support their class. Teachers loved the idea and the ways it could help them!
  • Not to Supporters. Many schools have a group of local businesses that donate funds or services. Thank these companies on your school’s external sign or send an email to parents from the principal thanking the supporters and sharing links to the businesses. 

If your parent group is struggling to raise money or get volunteer participation, get together for a meeting and discuss what fun ideas can best help reach your goal. Be creative, purposeful, and make sure the idea will help accomplish the goal.

Think of ideas that are tangible. For kids in particular, something they can see, feel, or taste helps them connect their role to meeting the school’s goal. This is huge! Everyone loves the satisfaction of meeting a goal. Kids may not always understand the impact of the school’s needs, but the special treats they receive as a result of their efforts can highlight the importance of their participation. And that’s a win-win for everyone -- students, teachers, and the school!  

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