50 Ideas To Make the Room Mom Experience Rock
Like many school volunteer opportunities, the room mom gig isn’t something grown-ups instinctively know how to do just because they are parents. Being a room mom can be tricky—you need to know how to work with different personalities, relate to kids, run a craft project, organize volunteers, calm kids down, collect donations, and buy or make teacher gifts. You also need to be comfortable when things don’t go according to plan— and learn to live with a newly developed Pinterest addiction.
So it’s a good thing that being a room mom is also so rewarding. You’ll feel great knowing you are making a difference at your child’s school. You get to see your kid up close and in action with his peers. You’ll get to know the teacher. You’ll make new friends.
We know you’re going to be a success! But we wouldn’t let you start your room mom journey without some help! So we’ve rounded up 50 ideas, covering everything from talking to the teacher to crafting shortcuts, that we think will make the difference between your having a so-so year and an awesome one!
Here you go:
1. Don't be too hard on yourself. You are going to make mistakes, but that’s OK.
2. Introduce yourself to the teacher. Ask to set up a quick meeting (in person or on the phone) to talk about how she likes to work with room parents. Check out our handy list of questions you should ask the teacher.
3. Accept that you may not like your child’s teacher (or vice versa!) but you can find a way to work together. Sometimes, you’re going to need to put on a good game face! So smile and be nice, especially when you’re thinking that what you really want to do is put super glue on her chair.
4. Let family members know you are taking on the room mom job, and ask them to forward coupons from craft or discount stores to you.
5. Troll the clearance racks for party and craft supplies. You know how when you see a pair of shoes you love on sale and don’t buy them, and then you want to kick yourself when you go back the next day, only to discover they are gone? Well, the same applies to party and craft supplies. If you see something on sale or clearance—get it!
6. Get a parent contact list from the teacher. Send a friendly note to introduce yourself and provide your contact information. (Don’t ask for stuff in your first note.)
7. If the teacher gives you a list of emails, create a group email and keep it updated throughout the school year.
8. Learn the names of the students in the class. Learning parent names is helpful, too—and if you are bad at remembering names, bring along name tags for parent helpers at class parties. You can wear one, too. Say it’s to help the teacher and the kids!
9. Get basic craft supplies, like scissors, a glue gun, tape, and construction paper. This is now your “toolbox” for the year.
10. From here on in, never throw out a toilet paper or paper towel roll. You'll need them more often than you know and we have tons of ideas on how to use them.
11. Set up Pinterest and Instagram accounts! There’s a whole room mom community out there where you’ll find tips and ideas. Don't forget to follow HomeroomMom.com!
12. Ask the teacher for important dates for the school year. Create a calendar that includes party dates and other special events. It isn’t too early to schedule fall events, like the Halloween party, with the teacher.
13. At back-to-school time (and after your first introduction note), send out a notice to parents asking for helpers. Ask folks if they would like to assist at classroom events or send in donations of treats. Keep these two lists handy for parties.
14. Ask the teacher what the policy is on food in the classroom. (You may find food isn’t allowed.) If you can provide party treats, ask her for a list of approved foods. And for a look at how food rules are changing, check out our Then and Now post.
15. If parents ask you for dirt on the teacher or help in getting the teacher’s ear, you have the right to say that’s just not something you do.
16. When talking with parents, find out about their interests and hobbies. The conversation you have with a dad about woodworking at the back-to-school event could come in handy come spring when the class makes birdfeeders and you need expert help!
17. Decide how you will raise money to cover costs for events. If you aren’t sure, ask the teacher for advice. Some room moms put out a request for the year, asking the parents donate a one-time amount of, say, $25, while others ask for donations for each event. If you do an up front collection, make sure you have a system (like a simple spreadsheet) and save receipts so you can track expenses.
18. Think about the type of crafts you’d like to try this year at classroom parties. Test out the craft before you bring it to a class party. (Perhaps your own kids can be the test subjects!) Better to know ahead of time if the craft is too complicated, or if it takes only two minutes to complete.
19. Always overplan for a party. You’ll be lucky to have a full hour, but plan like you have two. It’s always better to have too much planned than to be stuck with extra time.
20. A photo booth is a really easy way to bring a lot of fun to the party. All you need is a simple background (like a plastic tablecloth), crepe paper, or Christmas tree lights, and props. Then start snapping photos with your phone. You can email them on the spot to parents. We have fun (and free) downloadable prop templates that will make this even easier for you!
21. Learn a few songs (silly ones work best), and be willing to run a sing-along if everyone finishes their party craft and snack early.
22. If you don’t want to sing, bring along a few books to read to the children if the party wraps up early.
23. Don’t wear fancy clothes to class parties. Or, make sure you have an apron. Chances are, you’re going to get glue, paint, or cupcake frosting on your clothes.
24. Always send thank-you notes to parents who help you.
25. When giving the teacher a gift from the class, say it’s from “the class’’ and don’t just include names of families who donated money. Yes, it’s a little frustrating, but it’s the right thing to do.
26. Understand that you’ll have ups and downs on this room mom journey. There will be times when being a room mom is awesome and moments when you’ll want to kick yourself for taking the job.
27. Try to be organized. For some, this comes naturally, but for others, it will be the hardest part of being a room mom. Find a system, whether it’s using tools like Google Drive (where you can share documents) or an old-fashioned paper planner, that will help you track what’s happening.
28. When party planning, avoid specific references to religious holidays. No one wants to feel out of place or like they can't relate.
29. Get involved with the parent group at your school. The PTO or PTA may need your help from time to time, plus it’s a good way to keep your finger on the pulse of the school. Our sister site, PTOToday.com, has everything you need to know about parent groups.
30. Start collecting recyclable materials around your house for class projects. Often, stuff headed for the trash bin can be turned into fun crafts. See tip 11 for one of the best materials around.
31. Unless the teacher has a specific rule about how many parents can attend a class party as helpers, don’t be strict. If parents want to come, let them—even if they don’t help you all that much. It gives them a chance to be with their child.
32. Remember no one expects you to be Martha Stewart and produce perfect decorations and crafts for parties. It’s about the kids, and all they want is to have fun. Think of it this way: You don’t want to spend your time struggling like the poor folks on the Pinterest Fail site.
33. There are many time-savers out there. Take advantage of them. For instance, why bake cupcakes from scratch when you can transform store-bought ones? Deck them out with sprinkles or other decorations! Not only will you save lots of time, but a few folks in the crowd will think you’re a cupcake master!
34. Ask the teacher what kind of crafts would work best for the age group. She may suggest something that you don’t think is “cute enough,” but trust her. She knows where the kids are developmentally and what will work best for them.
35. Be willing to try open-ended activities. Bring in basic supplies, like construction paper, yarn, paper towel tubes, glue sticks, and crayons. Encourage the children to make their own creations.
36. Teacher gifts and teacher appreciation are an important part of your job. You will likely need to come up with an idea, collect money or supplies, and present the to the teacher. We’ve compiled some great gift ideas and have free gift tags to download. Chances are, you will need to do a gift at the holiday season and again at the end of the school year.
37. If you aren’t sure what will make a class party fun, be willing to think outside the box, or in the box, as it may be! Check out this idea for a party in a box!
38. Think of Halloween, Christmas/winter holidays, and Valentine’s Day as your big three holidays. We have plenty of craft and snack ideas for those.
39. Depending on the teacher, you may be asked to perform tasks beyond parties. The teacher may invite you in as a guest reader, for example. And we happen to have a guest reader cheat sheet.
40. The end of the school year will be hectic and, at times, annoying. You’ll find it’s a perfect storm; you’ll be caught up in your room mom duties, while also tending to your job as a mom, helping your own kids finish out the year. Hang in there, knowing that this really is a special time for the kids. We have lots of ideas to help, like the ones you’ll find in our end-of-year party post.
41. Try to connect with other room moms at your school. You’ll get support and ideas—and maybe even make some new friends.
42. At class parties, keep your phone in your pocket to take photos. Share them on social channels for the parents who weren’t able to attend. (Always check with parents before using any photos of their children.)
43. Be willing to be silly. Try wearing a costume to the Halloween party. The kids will love it! (The mustached one on the left is Shannon Soares. She's a contributor here at HomeRoom Mom.)
44. Speaking of pockets, make sure you have a permanent marker tucked in one for getting kids’ names on crafts. Hint: If it is a project involving glue or paint, try to get the name on the craft ahead of time. If it’s a delicate item, put the child’s name on a piece of masking tape and gently attach it to the craft.
45. Invest in a few good muffin tins. Turns out, they are truly multipurpose. You can use them for individual snacks (for transporting to school and serving) as well as for organizing craft materials.
46. Ask the teacher how else you can help in the classroom. You might find that organizing a big classroom cleanup with a few other parents is an awesome end-of-year gift. Check out what some teachers said when if they would appreciate help cleaning their classroom!
47. Multitask when it comes to activities with a "snacktivity." Of course, this depends on your school's food policy, but if you're allowed to do so, making treats can be both fun and filling for the kids.
48. Healthy snacks can be fun, too! Not every veggie tray or fruit kabob needs to be boring. Try assembling your veggies in a design that complements the holiday (like a turkey for Thanksgiving) or popping a watermelon slice or frozen pineapple ring onto a popsicle stick.
49. Keep notes throughout the year. If you choose to be a room mom for a second time, you’ll have a ready-to-go playbook.
50. Pass it on! If you see a new room mom next year, share some of your own tips. You’ll make her life a whole lot easier!