Learning Activities for Families While School is Out

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Family Engagement Activities for Schools
Plant the seeds of school improvement in your local schools with activities for your families every week of the school year! Below we have 30 family engagement activities, events and strategies with a focus on the 150 days between National Parental Involvement Day in November and Public School Volunteer Week in April.  

Activity 1. Getting Started

Parental Involvement Toolbox

CDC Parents for Healthy Schools FrameworkOur partner at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) joined with Project Appleseed to release resources on parent engagement in school for the 18th annual National Parental Involvement Day. The guides are provided as a free tool in Project Appleseed's Parental Involvement Toolbox. Drawing from research and best practices from schools across the country, CDC collaborated with key partners to create the strategies found in Parents for Healthy Schools to give schools a framework for parent engagement. There are three aspects of the parent engagement framework in the Parental Involvement Toolbox:

  1. Connecting with parents thru the Parental Involvement Pledge learning compact.

  2. Engaging parents in school health activities.

  3. Sustaining parent engagement in school health.

CDC’s Parent Engagement: Strategies for Involving Parents in School Health (pdf 2 MB) defines and describes engagement between parents and school staff and identifies specific strategies for all three aspects of parent engagement in schools: connect, engage, and sustain.

CDC’s Promoting Parent Engagement in School Health: A Facilitator’s Guide for Staff Development (pdf – 3 MB) helps schools and school groups develop a plan for engaging parents in school health activities. Both of these resources provide the evidence-based framework for Parents for Healthy Schools.

Activity 2. Getting Started

Ask Families to Take the Pledge!

Distribute Project Appleseed's Parental Involvement Pledge learning compact which asks parents to volunteer 10 hours each in their local school and spend 15 minutes each night reading with their children. Sending the Pledge home with students will get a response rate of about 25%--or less. Asking parents to take the Pledge during their parent teacher conference will get a response rate approaching 80%. Constantly ask parents to take the Pledge at every opportunity. Use Project Appleseed's web site as a place in which parents can take the Pledge or Report Card online. The web site will print a hard copy for the school and parent. Once parents take the Pledge--CALL THEM and get them involved!

Family Engagement Activities, Events & Strategies

Activity 3Getting Started

Give Families the Red Carpet Treatment!

Educators can prepare the school for families with the Red Carpet Treatment. This tool is our family friendly walk through process and it is part of the Parental Involvement Toolbox. The Red Carpet Treatment is an opportunity to meet as a team in order to identify ways in which the school can create a more welcoming environment for families. Parents, including parents of children with disabilities, community members, school board members, educators, and administrators are asked to consider looking at the school through the lenses of all of the families who attend that school.

Activity 4. Getting Started

Parental Involvement Checklist for an effective parent-school partnership on Project Appleseed's web site is a great way to start improving your school's parent-school partnerships. Asking the right questions can help you evaluate how well your school is reaching out to parents. Which partnership practices are currently working well at each grade level? Which partnership practices should be improved or added in each grade? How do you want your school's family involvement practices to look three years from now?

Activity 5.

Host an open house at the school for parents and community members. Hold it in the evening or on the weekend so that more people can attend. At open house, ask every family to bring a member of the community to the picnic who did not have kids in the school. It provides parents with an opportunity to see the school first hand and feel more comfortable with the idea of getting involved.

Family Engagement Activities, Events & Strategies
Family Engagement Activities, Events & Strategies

Activity 6.

Breakfast or Coffee & Pastries event to announce a new PTA or to boost membership in your PTA. The PTA is a key organization to connect parents, especially new parents to your school with other parents and community members.

  • Set up tables to welcome families and community members to your school. Make available membership forms to enroll new PTA members.

  • Make special name tags for members that say, “Ask me about the PTA’” or “Join the PTA Today.”

  • Provide “Welcome Bags” with school information, PTA brochures, and goodies gathered from local businesses or organizations. Include a bookmark with the dates of PTA meetings and special PTA sponsored school events.

  • Have a chart with a list of volunteer opportunities so parents can take the Pledge and sign up to help. Man the table with a volunteer to encourage sign-ups!

Family Engagement Activities, Events & Strategies
Family Engagement Activities, Events & Strategies


Activity 7.

Celebrate Reading. Find ways to make reading a fun part of everyday life. Community literacy might be a focus of your National Parental Involvement Day & Public School Volunteer Week activities. Hold storytelling nights, guest author and poetry readings, read-aloud programs, dramatic readings, book fairs and book drives, a read-a-thon or a book report festival, family literacy nights, or other literacy activities for the whole community. Work with local colleges and universities to help get work-study students and other college students into the schools as reading tutors. Older students, such as Girl Scouts, can also work as reading tutors for younger students.

Activity 8.

Issue A Proclamation!

Promote your event with official recognition. Ask your school board, mayor, city council, state representative or governor to issue a proclamation celebrating Project Appleseed's National Parental Involvement Day (Third Thursday in November) and Public School Volunteer Week (Third Week of April) to highlight the value of parental involvement in your schools.

Activity 9.

Family Math Night

This middle school event invites parents and students to visit various interactive stations to work and play together (sometimes competing) to solve mathematics-based problems aligned to state math standards. Students help the teachers to set up each rotation with games or activities, such as: practicing math facts using Pringles cans, playing bingo, arranging tangrams and many others.

Activity 10.

Shine-A-Light Night

Create an event to showcase all of the extracurricular programs at your school (and in your community) such as clubs, athletics and honor groups that enrich classroom learning and provide students new ways to develop their interests and talents. Shine a light on all of the opportunities for students and families to get involved. Examples include sport team demos, cheer groups, band, chorus, clubs, robotics, dance, drama, afterschool programs, and community partnership services and resources.

Project Appleseed Family Engagement Activities, Events & Strategies

Activity 11.

Family Fitness Night

Join with families to identify health promotion projects in the community that could involve parents. For example, invite family members to participate in physical activities at school or in the community, such as runs or walkathons. Kick off National Parental Involvement Day & Public School Volunteer Week with a special welcome for new students and families in the community. Host discussions about how parents can support healthy behaviors at home. Such discussions might be held at open houses and back-to-school nights, at parent meetings, and during parent-teacher conferences.

Reaching students with the message about the importance of fitness isn't enough. Go for the gold with events designed to bring in students and their families too. Involve the Physical Education teachers to plan physical activities in the gym like karate, kick-boxing, aerobics, dance, yoga, Pilates, hip hop, Zumba, and body sculpting. In the main hallways provide information tables work with a local community clinic to bring their bus and provide free health screenings for families. Especially popular with students are the opportunities to try physical activities.

Activity 12.

Mentoring and Tutoring

Launch a community mentoring program where parent volunteers and college students mentor high school and middle school students who, in turn, can mentor elementary school students. Mentoring can involve learning math and science - key gate opening courses for college - going to a museum, community service activities, recreational activities such as a mentor basketball league, tutoring and homework help.

Activity 13.

Use the School

Make school facilities available for use by community organizations that will host activities for students and their parents outside of school hours. The National Policy and Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity (www.nplanonline.org) offers free resources on using school facilities for community use and developing joint agreements.

Project Appleseed Family Engagement Activities, Events & Strategies

Activity 14.

Reaching Out to Parents Over Brown-Bag Lunches

Administrators invite parents and community members to chat and build partnerships while bringing their own brown bag lunch, and to help keep everyone informed about the school and student learning. Topic ideas: Making families feel welcome by conducting a fun team building activity.


Activity 15.

Organize a rally or a parade

Often, communities with large events have a steering committee of various interested community and school leaders, such as the school superintendent, the mayor, school board members, city council members, local business people, and representatives from organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, the YMCA/YWCA, the United Way, the Boys and Girls Club, Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs, and the Urban League.


Activity 16.

Present an honorary award to parents, a community leader or a local government official in recognition of his or her contribution to education in your community. Awards could be based on the level of involvement community members have given to the school. Celebrate with recognition ceremonies for teachers, students, parents, and community and religious organization volunteers who have made a long-term commitment to children's learning to inspire more people to jump in and get involved.

Activity 17.

Inventory Volunteer Interests

Quiz potential volunteers about the talents, skills, and time they are willing to share using the Inventory of Volunteer Interests in Step 3 of Project Appleseed's Parental Involvement Pledge. Invite parent volunteers to lead lunch-time walks, weekend games, and after-school exercise programs in dance, cheerleading, karate, aerobics, yoga, and other activities that show their skills and talents. For example, a parent who is a personal trainer might be willing to volunteer at a health fair, or a parent who is a gardener might be willing to start a school garden.


Activity 18.

Gather Family Opinions

Provide open lines of communication for receiving comments and suggestions from parents on health- related topics, and build the school’s capacity to route this information to the intended persons. Establish multiple mechanisms for gathering opinions from parents, students, and teachers, such as on-site suggestion boxes, annual parent surveys, random- sample parent phone surveys, parent/teacher focus groups, and school-sponsored parent blogs.


Activity 19.

Promote Healthy Behaviors

Suggest ways parents can make family outings fun learning experiences and promote healthy behaviors (e.g., picking fruit or hiking). Ask parents to engage their children in health-related learning experiences, such as cooking dinner and packing lunch together, shopping for healthy foods, and reading labels on over-the-counter medicines.



Activity 20.

Traveling Family Engagement Workshop

Train administrators, staff and teachers to develop family-based education strategies that involve parents.  Workshop on family engagement could be good for your school. Whether you’re a brand-new or seasoned educator or parent leader, we have the evidence-based knowledge you need to get up to speed, perform at your best, and get the most out of parents.  Project Appleseed provides an economical opportunity to bring Kevin Walker - our founder and a national parent leader - to your school community. Mr. Walker will help you engage families in by nurturing relationships with parents and families.


Activity 21.

Home-to-School, School-to-Home Communication

Use Use a variety of verbal and face-to-face communication methods, such as the Internet, phone calls to home, automated phone system messages, parent-teacher conferences, meetings, school events, radio station announcements, local access television, television public service announcements (PSAs), conversations at school, and regular parent seminars to communicate with parents about health topics and issues.


Activity 22.

Offer Variety

Vary the events volunteers can participate in. Invite parent volunteers to lead lunch-time walks, weekend games, and after-school exercise programs in dance, cheerleading, karate, aerobics, yoga, and other activities that show their skills and talents. For example, a parent who is a personal trainer might be willing to volunteer at a health fair, or a parent who is a gardener might be willing to start a school garden.


Activity 23.

Evaluate Your Efforts!

X-ray your efforts to see how they're going. It's important to evaluate what you're doing to find out if you are achieving your aims, and how you can improve your efforts. An evaluation can be as simple as asking people what they think or conducting a short survey. Don't let problems go unattended. If something is not working, get a group together to problem-solve and figure out a better way. Taking the time to reflect on what's happening will be worth it in the long run when you see sustained success and true collaboration in place!


Activity 24.

Involve Parents in Choosing Health and Physical Education Curricula

Yell about your efforts to involve parents in choosing health and physical education curricula with the help of tools such as the Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (HECAT) (www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/hecat) and the Physical Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (PECAT) (www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/pecat)


Activity 25.

Come to School With Your Student Day

This event is similar to one that many secondary schools organize every year where parents and caregivers "shadow" their student at school, spend time in the classrooms observing actual instruction time and join their child for lunch in the cafeteria.



Activity 26.

Celebrate Dads’ Involvement

Fathers want to be involved, but they aren't necessarily going to respond to traditional parent group roles. Use this day to engage more fathers in their children’s education and make sure to welcome any male role models who are involved with a child, such as uncles, older brothers, grandfathers, coaches, and stepfathers.”


Activity 27.

Parent Involvement Policy Meeting

Initiate a parent involvement policy. Start with Project Appleseed's learning compact, the Parental Involvement Pledge. The Pledge provides a great opportunity to convey a school's commitment to involving families and the community. Set up a parent resource center where families can come to get more information on topics of interest and where families can meet and talk with one another and with school staff.

Activity 28.

Brand and Communicate Your School's Event

Name your National Parental Involvement Day & Public School Volunteer Week after your school or community (In Topeka, name the event Topeka Parental Involvement Day and Topeka Public School Volunteer Week). Use a variety of communication methods, such as flyers, memos, banners, signs, door hangers, newsletters, report cards, progress reports, post cards, letters, monthly calendars of events, Web sites and Web boards, text messaging, and e-mail messages to communicate with parents about health-related topics and issues.


Activity 29.

Theme-based Student Essays

Students may participate by writing an essay, poem, or thank you letter sharing how their parent(s) or caregiver(s) have supported them in school, learning, and/or life. These can be shared/showcased with families in a variety of ways on the day of the event.


Activity 30.

Game Night

Ask families to bring their favorite board games to play together. You might also call local stores to donate games for this event. Provide a light dinner or dessert night. Some easy and fun ideas are any type of card games (Uno, Go Fish, War, etc.), Pictionary, Charades, Dominoes, Connect 4, etc.

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Project Appleseed, family engagement, parental involvement public schools

"A 10% increase in parental participation (a form of social capital) would increase academic achievement far more than a 10% increase in school spending."

Project Appleseed, family engagement, parental involvement public schools

This is not an argument against school budget increases, but an argument for paying attention to social capital (Putnam, Sanders 2001). Research repeatedly correlates family engagement with student achievement, yet this strategy is rarely activated as an integral part of school reform efforts (Weiss et al, 2010).  Our program can increase family engagement in your school community!

Project Appleseed's Parental Involvement Toolbox is ourl program designed for educators and parent leaders to supersize and mobilize family engagement.

You get unlimited membershio reproduction rights to our web site content for distribution in newsletters, memos, booklets, pamphlets and more for one year!*

Learn family engagement with our In-person or Online training!. Utilize one of America's most accessible parent and family engagement leaders in your schools!

Download our slideshow: Strong Families, Strong Schools! Family engagement should be an essential strategy in building partnership with parents.