Whether you’ve volunteered to be your child’s room mom at her elementary school or you’ve been grudgingly drafted to lead your son’s Scout troop, one of your jobs is to plan and organize activities for the group. It may seem daunting at first, but with planning, preparation, common sense — and a healthy dose of flexibility — you can set up successful activities the kids will benefit from and enjoy. Talk to others who have been in your shoes to get ideas about what has and hasn’t worked before and enlist the help of other parents or the kids themselves to put you firmly on the path of success as a kids’ activity maven.
Planning and Preparation
The key to successful kids’ activities is planning. Even when you think you’ve planned for every detail, anticipate the unexpected and plan for that, too. Whatever the activity, ensure you make all the arrangements well in advance. Get contractual agreements for venues or entertainers in writing. If your activity is outdoors, identify an alternative location in case it rains. Take more treat bags or cupcakes than you need in case a guest brings a sibling or kids show up whose parents hadn’t RSVP’d. Keep a few extra things handy in your tote bag or trunk, including wet wipes, trash bags and an emergency medical kit.
Think about the ages of the kids involved as you plan your activities. A trip to the amusement park sounds like fun, but it quickly becomes a disaster if you get there and find the younger ones aren’t old enough to go on the rides. Field days at school are great ways to encourage physical fitness, but plan activities for different age groups to keep the kids engaged, minimize the chance of injury, and provide them opportunities to succeed. Hiring a clown or balloon animal entertainer for a kids’ party is bound to please young guests, but their teenage siblings will probably be bored to tears.
By the Numbers
Select activities that are not only age-appropriate but also are a good fit for the size of your group. A big community park with plenty of playground equipment is a good choice for a class of 30 kindergarteners, but the same class will dissolve into an unruly, whiny mass if they have to “wait for your turn” in someone’s back yard where there are only two swings. Your teenager may want to invite 20 friends for her sleepover, but if her bedroom can only accommodate six, you may want to direct her to consider another activity.
Money and Other Considerations
It’s easy to fall into the “keeping up with — or surpassing — the Joneses” mentality when planning kids’ activities. Be realistic about what you can afford and plan accordingly. Tell younger kids what the options are and give them a choice of one or two games, venues or outings for a birthday party or field trip. Kids in a Scout troop or youth group often like to be involved in choosing and planning activities, but require them to be involved in the fund-raising, set-up and clean-up, too; activities mean more when the kids have some skin in the game.