So you are the Room Mom/Chair...now what?? Read the following tips and check out
the links to help you make the most of your year and time as the Room Mom!
How do I get started?
Always check with the teacher to see how he/she likes to run the parties. You can
get times, dates and length of parties for information to pass on to your helpers.
Some teacher are very prescriptive in what they want for each party and others might
leave everything completely up to you! (Don't let that scare you though!)
Get yourself a binder, folder, expandable folder. Get organized! Keep a file on
your computer for room mom stuff. Save bookmarks on your computer of possible activities.
Start early– one month to two weeks ahead should be good.
If you are working with another parent or co-chair coordinate times to meet and bring
See more ideas below about getting organized!
The first thing to do is get help from others in the class! Other parents are invaluable.
Each year, I would send home a note to parents to not only introduce myself (and
other co-chairs or room moms) but to ask for help. The letter would include information
about each party. Times, dates, etc. and then would include boxes for other parents
to check for how THEY would be willing to help. See Examples:
After you have figured out who can help and when, send home a confirmation letter
so all parents can add when and what they will be doing for their scheduled party.
Do this soon after the deadline date for the first letter so everyone gets it on
their calendar early. Keep a master list!
To collect $ or not to collect $.....??
Check with your teacher on how he/she or the school dictates money donations. Do
you have to collect? Does the teacher collect or do you? Does the school give the
classrooms money? Or are you to find helpers to supply the goods needed?
As a rough rule of thumb, if your school or teacher typically collects party money,
find out what the going rate is for your school for the amount to collect.
You can either collect for all the parties ahead, collect per party or simply ask
for monetary donations. If you collect money, don't ask for more than is absolutely
necessary. Keep your activities simple.
Usually, though a lot of room mom's have a strong desire to ask for more so that
they can do fun-zy artsy craft-sy things. I am willing to go out on a limb and say
those things are not necessary for a really fun party and can be a way that cost
the parents extra money for stuff that might just end up in the recycle (trash) bin
anyway. Just my opinion, however.
I have found in the years (six) of being room mom asking for donations of food and
supplies to be the most effective (not money). People are usually quite willing
to help when they hear your voice on the phone and you read them a list of supplies
and ask them what they can help with. Some of the worst experiences, frustrating
and costly for me, were when I asked for money from the parents. Though, clearly
it is a individual choice and also how your school and teacher prefers.
Planning for Parties:
Some room mom's find it easier to plan everything and let others help when the party
day arrives. Others find it helpful to delegate certain jobs to others--example:
game coordinator, craft coordinator or food coordinator. Some people have the creative
knack to do activities but just not the time to do ALL the parties. I have had teachers
also set it up that there is a a different room mom and helpers who sign up for one
particular party throughout the year and they are in charge of just that ONE party.
Decide which would work best for you and the teacher.
Important information: Do not share stories about others' kids to anyone. You are
in a leadership role; it is always better to take the high road and leave cute anecdotes
about others' kids at school.
Depending on the teacher/school you might have a specified time limit. Some schools
limit to an hour, some give more time. Whatever your guidelines, keep your party
starting and ending on time.
Always work out ahead of time when the teacher will allow you to come to set up for
the party. Keep it short and simple.
Some teachers will allow you to come a little ahead of time, others feel that the
party set up and clean up should be contained to the "time guides" for the party.
Know your teacher's ideas!
When plotting out what time to get there, always leave a little extra "wiggle" room,
so in case some kind of emergency comes up, you can still get to your party and unload
and set up and not hold up the teacher and class. (That is really not popular!) Don't
forget to count time for parking and unloading! Parking lots tend to fill up on
party days! A wagon is also your best friend on those days!
Plan to get to school about 30 min. before so you can unload and have time to prep
before helpers get there. You might have to wait in the hallway until party time
but you can use the time to get the stuff to the classroom and mentally go over what
you will need to tell people to do.
Tell party helpers when to arrive as well. As a general rule tell them to arrive
about 10-15 min early to go over what will be covered during the party. (Hint: You
can pad that time if you have helpers that might tend to run on a "just-in-time"
When making the party agenda always plot out how long you think it will take an activity
to do. Some activities will take less time, some will take longer. This way you
have a rough idea of how much to plan.
Always plan a little more to do that you think will get done...for the "just in case"
scenario when they finish the party much faster than you thought they would!! (Not
enough to do with a classroom full of sugared up kids...is a really scary scenario...
so plan ahead!!)
Plotting the party:
Look at various ideas on this site or on relevant links to figure out what you can
do in your time frame for the party.
Plan the activities based on the time constraints that you have.
Plan your schedule so that you have the room cleaned up and are leaving when the
party time is over.
HINT: Stations work well with classrooms due to the amount of space (or lack thereof)
unless you are able to secure a larger space. I recommend 3-4 stations for about
10 min each. Followed by food. Or another recommendation is to divide the class
into two groups having only two stations followed by a whole group activity (while
this is going on other moms get the food ready.)
Plan what you will need. Make a list of all the things you will need to do the games,
the craft(s), the food and supplies (cups, plates, etc)
KISS (Keep it Simple Silly-though I think the actual phrase is "Stupid") Plan for
lots of activities but don't go overboard with costs, decorations, etc.
Decorations are nice but what the kids care about is the games and activities...so
a nice decorative table cloth is good. Cutesy food is okay but make sure it follows
the allergy or school guidelines.
Always have extra planned for filler time or the just in case scenario. I like to
have a book to read that goes with the theme and/or a quick game like Twenty Questions
Be sure to use all the helpers who are interested throughout the year. (Keep it
fair for all)
Get contact information for parents from the teacher. Do not share telephone numbers
or personal information with others. If someone needs a phone number, they can use
the school directory or contact the person by other means. All kinds of privacy
issues...just play it safe.
Contact your helpers from your list to see if any can bring in items from your list
(list of supplies and food needed).
Have a list of others you can and should call on to help you ahead of time.
Confirm that all helpers are still able to come to the party about a week to two
weeks ahead. This gives you time to find other help if some have had a change of
Delegate, delegate, delegate! Too often we think we can bring this or do that and
by the end of the year (or party) you are worn out!!
Leave time and enlist students to help clean up. Hint: If you make a game out of
cleaning up you will get more helpers!
Have a folder in which you keep all your room mom contact information. As soon as
you get the paper back that identifies who is willing to help for the year. Make
a list for each party and keep it with your folder.
Check with your teacher about party guidelines. Some schools require any notes that
go home have to be "pre-approved" so always plan that into your time line for each
party. (This includes any "monetary donations" or gifts for the teachers.)
Once you have your list of activities, check with the teacher if those items are
okay. Teachers will have a good perspective if an specific activity will work or
not work with the classroom set up or the students' themselves.
Make copies of directions of games and crafts for helpers so you don't have to do
all the explaining once people get there to help. I have sometimes sent them an
email with the directions (though only some actually read it--it is better than having
to explain things to everyone in a short time before the party!!)
Have your plan and organize your items ahead into baggies of what goes together for
which activity. It may seem like a waste of time and that you will remember what
goes with what...but a little bit of planning helps you to remember everything and
enables you to focus on unloading for the party and delegating jobs to others rather
than still gathering and getting everything ready!
Make an agenda of the party activities with the amount of time you estimate an activity
to take. Have a folder to keep your agenda, whom is to bring what, directions to
games and crafts (though these could go into the baggies with the items).
Call parents to remind them what they have said they would send in several days before
the party. This tends to help so that when you have an ice cream party you have
bowls for the ice cream. Never assume people will remember. People get busy and
forget, so a gentle, friendly reminder in most cases is quite effective for a smooth
You can have items sent in for games and crafts ahead of time (like the week before
the party). Be sure to double check the items so you have everything and you can
get what you still need.
Check ahead of time for the food allergy factor in your classroom.
Some schools have rules for prepackaged only food and others don't mind homemade
food. Check with your teacher before hand and get an idea of what will work.
Also with timing of the party, some kids may be just about to go to lunch or just
coming back. So keep that in mind when planning how much food to bring in.
KISS (Keep It Simple...) Again this rule is quite appropriate for the classroom parties.
Though cutesy things are nice and fun.
One guideline I used for food: one salty, one fruit, and one sweet and a drink. I
would let the parent helpers know what kind of food constraints you have and let
them pick what they wanted to bring.
Non-perishable items can be sent in anytime before the party. Perishable items have
parents bring in the day of the party or make arrangements to see that it gets there.
Sometimes it is helpful to have a parent that is already planning to be at the party
send in these items but not necessary.
When handing out food at the party, don't assume that all kids will want every item.
So it is better to ask them and then put in on their plate. Though you could have
a table set up with food... I find it works better to have a parent helper put the
food onto their plate rather than a school germ infested hand paw the food choices.
ALWAYS GIVE KIDS TIME TO WASH THEIR HANDS BEFORE EATING OR HAVE WET WIPES.
My recommendation is one simple craft.
Keep crafts simple and age-appropriate.
Have a bag for each student to take home their craft in. Big Ziploc work well but
it depends on the size of the project and how "wet" it still is.
Try to make it meaningful so that parents might be more likely to keep it as a memento.
(Gluing a bunch of items together might be cute, but it doesn't lend too much creativity
on the kids' part.) Some of the best crafts I enjoyed as a parent were ones that
the child could show some of their own skills on. The rest... I will be honest,
got pitched. So if you are going to ask the parents to spend money on a craft, make
it a meaningful one. (Just my humble opinion). It might take a little extra prep
time but the kids enjoy it and so do the parents! There are lots of fun web sites
to help you. Take a bit of time and explore them.
ALWAYS TEST OUT YOUR CRAFT AHEAD! To see if your age group will have problems. Do
one yourself and another for your own kid is a good gauge. Let them try it ahead
of time for practice.
Have a model of the finished product!!
Prep, prep, prep. Get organized and do the difficult parts or the most time consuming
parts ahead. (Example if something needs to be spray painted, have that done ahead).
Have all the supplies needed. Make sure you have enough of everything you need.
You can borrow from other parents items you need that is another reason to plan
Organize by groups... groups of like things together to be passed out or put most
all the supplies for each kid in a baggy.
Decide how you will give the directions. Written, have the class do step by step
Copy directions for games ahead so you can have helpers read them the day of the
If parents are sending in supplies, make sure they send them in about a week before
the party, so you can see what you still need and you (or someone) can prep if needed.
Also you can delegate this part!!
Keep it simple, fun and relatively quiet! Space is limited in most classrooms so
pick your activities that would work well in the space you are given.
Plot out a general idea of where each game or idea will take place so you don't have
Party Day dilemma of not enough space for something you planned.
Check with the teacher to make sure certain games or activities are appropriate!
He/She might be able to tell you if something is too hard or will only take a couple
Keep games age-appropriate and directions simple.
Try not to pick running or an abundance of gross motor activities if you do not have
a large space or cannot go outside.
Can do games as part of a station or as a whole group.
Games are best when they are simple and easy for your age group to learn.
Again, if you can test out the game ahead of time and make sure you can explain the
rules so kids will understand.
Make sure you have all the supplies for the game(s).
If helpers are helping by sending in items and if the items are non-perishable, then
have the items sent in the week before the party to assure you have everything you
need. Be sure to double check!!
If items are being sent to the office, notify the office first.
Copy directions for games ahead so you can have helpers read them the day of the
If you are bringing in a lot of stuff... a wagon is your best friend on the day of
Be sure to get there early to do your final organization. Remember that all the
work you did ahead makes for a much smoother run party!!
Have ways that you can get the kids attention.
Introduce yourself to all the helpers as they arrive so they can put a face with
Delegate, delegate, delegate.
Don't be afraid to ask parents to help (that are standing and chatting), if they
would mind doing ____________. Most people just don't know what to do and either
don't think to ask or think you will ask if you need help. (Besides, they can chat
another time or while the kids are eating...you all are there for the kids' party.)
Have parent helpers pick what they will be doing or you assign them. I usually would
ask if anyone had a preference after letting them look over the activities. Some
parents have an aversion to some kinds of activities and others don't.
Stick to your timing schedule.
Have a plan for dividing students into groups if you choose to do stations or relays
of any kind.
FYI: Conveniently (or probably inconveniently for you) students tend to "forget"
what group they were in, so they will come back to ask you (Yikes, who remembers?)
or they have a tendency to "remember" the group that their friend was in...so it
is possible to divide them evenly and still have an odd number in each group) A
way to help to solve this to have three or four designated spots (one for each group)
then as you call out which group they were in they walk to the correct group. You
can kind of keep an on things. Another way is to have slips of paper with a group
already written on it and you hand them a paper and send them to the designated spot.
If you choose to group by numbers, you can have the students hold up their number
on their fingers immediately and send them to their group.
Be sure to fill in or take extra time if needed throughout the party.
Whenever possible, if you have some parents available, have them be working to get
the next activity ready...this is particularly helpful when it comes to the food
aspect of the party.
Leave the room at least as clean if not cleaner, than when you came.
Enlist parents and kids to clean up. Have someone walk around with a trash bag
and let the kids throw away their trash and then have each group work to clean around
their desks... example--"everyone clean up 5 things off the floor or tables", or
"Let's see which table can get their desks back in order the quickest and the quietest."
Be sure to end the party on time. Be leaving when the party was set to be over.
Send home or an email to thank all the helpers and suppliers for each party!
Teacher gifts can be done in several ways. One way, you take a class collection
and get something for the teacher as a group or the other way is to let people give
on their own to the teacher. Typically, gifts are given around the holidays and
the end of the year. Sometimes, room moms also collect for wedding showers, baby
showers, new babies. If you take a collection, check with your school or another
teacher if there is a policy about gifts and sending a letter home asking for money
(monetary donations). A letter home might need to be pre-approved by the school.
Some room moms set an amount that they would like to collect. Others leave it up
to what the givers would like to give and plan the teacher give around what the money
amount actually collect. (I preferred the latter, but either would work.)
Ideas that are useful include: gift certificates to book stores, teacher stores,
malls, restaurants, spas, gas, grocery stores, baby stores, museums, movies theaters,
etc. A grouping of various gift cards to places that the teacher likes put together
in a collection-- say, a flower pot or some other decorative means...this would
require some sleuthing on your part for finding out what the teacher likes. Sometimes
a colleague of your child's teacher is a good resource! A basket of books (new or
gently used) from all the kids in the class (or those able or willing to donate).
Games for the classroom for indoor recess or other times.