Kid Activities
1000's of Ideas for Childcare Professionals & Teachers!

Lights on After School

July 23, 2010 01:39 by Barbara Shelby


Updated October 2016

The 15th annual Lights On Afterschool...OCTOBER 20, 2016




Lights On Afterschool celebrates nationwide to call attention to the importance of afterschool programs for America's children, families and communities. 
In America today, 1 in 4 youth -- 14.3 million children - are alone and unsupervised after school. Afterschool programs keep kids safe, help working families and inspire learning. They provide opportunities to help young people develop into successful adults. Lights On Afterschool is a project of the Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that all children have access to quality, affordable afterschool programs.
Thousands of afterschool programs in communities nationwide celebrate Lights On Afterschool! Be a part of this effort each year to showcase the importance of afterschool programs and underscore the need for quality afterschool programs for all children.


When you register you receive planning tips and tools, free posters and more!  Join the Afterschool Alliance and afterschool programs across the country in rallying for afterschool programs.  More than 7,500 communities, and 1 million Americans celebrate Lights On Afterschool every year!

Go to the following page to learn how you can participate in Lights On Afterschool. Visiting will give you all the  INFORMATION & DOWNLOADS needed for a successful "Lights on Afterschool" event!


  • Creating an email invite; sample provided
  • How to use or e-invite service
  • Graphics for invitations
  • Sample print invitations from past events


  • Ten Steps
  • Media Timeline
  • Save the Date
  • Media Alert
  • News Release


  • Tips for Getting Sponsors
  • Ways to Give Sponsors Exposure at Your Event
  • Sample Letter to Potential Sponsors


  • Light Bulb Art
  • Graphics & Logos
  • Newsletter Article
  • Lights On Buttons & Other Items
  • Poster
  • Radio Announcer Copy
  • Web Banners
  • Afterschool Fact Sheet
  • Lights On! Fact Sheet


  • Email & Print Invitations
  • Save the Date
  • Media Alert
  • News Release
  • Policy-Maker Invitation
  • Policy-Maker Proclamation
  • Other Proclamation

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The WHO, WHAT, WHERE AND WHEN of Lights On Afterschool...




...Educators and school personnel
...Parents, grandparents and extended family business and community leaders and Policy makers
...Youth organizations: sports teams, school bands, academic and service clubs, volunteers, etc.
...Local celebrities: TV news anchor, radio host, athletes
the community!



  • Student-created and led activities like raps, skits, dance, music and poetry
  • Sell items to raise funds for your program (See Buttons and Bracelets page available for order at 
  • Student demonstrations of afterschool activities, for example yoga, basketball, karate, mural painting, chess, debate
  • Ask attendees to show their support for afterschool by signing on to Afterschool for All: Project 2010 (see instructions at Project 2010)
  • Contests and competitions (kids versus adults or kids versus kids)
  • Short dance and music performances
  • Special guest speakers: parents, local elected officials, the superintendent, mayor, a member of Congress, local celebrities, etc.
  • Presentations by youth about their afterschool experience
  • A snack or pizza dinner
  • Light bulb art decoration by event guests



  • Pick a time that best suits your event goals and plans, such as:
  • During your regular afterschool program hours
  • Evening hours when parents can participate
  • An early afternoon gathering at a museum, city hall, outdoor square or other public place
  • A breakfast or lunch reception that elected officials and business leaders can attend



  • Your afterschool program facility, indoors or outdoors
  • City Hall
  • Public library, park or recreation center
  • Museum
  • Places of worship
  • School gymnasium or auditorium
  • Shopping mall or local JCPenney store


TIP: After reading some of the below ideas--and you would still like some other suggestions--- visit the "Connecting to Families" Social Events Category. There are also directions for making a Light Bulb Piñata in the Paper Maché category.


IDEAS taken from past Events:
The following is a SAMPLE of ideas from around the country for Lights on Afterschool. As you will read—ANYTHING works! Visit the website mentioned above for more than 100 suggestions.

♦ Birmingham, Alabama: A “Lights On Afterschool” celebration was held at Avondale Elementary and Glen Iris Elementary from 3:30-6:00 PM. Events at the different locations showcased WELLNESS PROGRAMS--- offered free glucose and blood pressure testing, and demonstrated physical education activities that involved students and parents. City Council members and School Board members, program participants, families, school staff, and community members attended.


Birmingham, Alabama: Greystone YMCA Birmingham, Alabama: Afterschool instructors worked with students to PAINT A MURAL.


Anchorage, Alaska: 21st Century Community Learning Center at Wonder Park Elementary hosted a Lights On Afterschool Carnival with a LITERACY THEME. Program participants also enjoyed ACADEMIC BINGO and BOOK GIVE-AWAYS.


 Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska: The Base Commander spoke to youth and parents about the importance of afterschool activities. Afterward, the children READ POEMS, SANG SONGS and DANCED for participants. A TASTING PARTY was also held for parents.


Fort Huachuca, Arizona: the School-Age Services program at Fort Huachuca held a SPAGHETTI Dinner for families. The event featured FACE PAINTING, GAK MAKING, a COMPUTER LAB, PAPER BAG PUPPETS, HAIR SPRAYING, a SMOKE HOUSE from the Fire Department, Army Unit EXHIBITS, POPCORN, a COOKING ACTIVITY AND MORE.


Los Angeles, California: The Boys & Girls Clubs of East Los Angeles in collaboration with Rapid Advancement Youth Services, and the City of Montebello featured a student TALENT SHOWCASE, ARTS & CRAFTS, GAMES, PRIZES, EXHIBITS on youth education, employment, and health and safety.


Santa Clara, California: Millikin YMCA, hosted an OPEN HOUSE. There was a KIDS VERSUS PARENTS FLAG FOOTBALL MATCH and LIGHT BULB DECORATING. Organizers provided a HEALTHY SNACK.


San Francisco, California: Savannah Smith, Jump Prep hosted a MOVIE NIGHT for Lights On Afterschool at Rosa Parks Elementary School-- from 6:30 to 8:30 PM. Students, parents and guests WORE PAJAMAS, ATE POPCORN & PIZZA, and WATCHED "E.T.” The school principal greeted guests and community leaders as they entered; a representative from the school superintendent’s office also attended. More than 100 children and parents attended.


Blackfoot, Idaho: The program participants at Snake River Community Center will celebrate Lights On Afterschool by MAKING A QUILT with light bulb designs. Organizers will later DONATE THE QUILT to charity. The event will also include A HAND MADE PINATA.


Buffalo Grove, Illinois: The Champions School Partnership hosted an event that included a VISIT TO LOCAL LIBRARY, STORY TIME AND BOOK MAKING. The children created their own books to take home and share with their families.


Afton, Iowa: East Union and Murray Afterschool Programs - celebrated from 6:00-8:00 PM, with a family PANCAKE SUPPER. The event had a NIGHT-TIME THEME and students DRESSED IN PAJAMAS. Partnering organizations put up BOOTHS with a variety of family-oriented activities that FOCUS ON NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, STARGAZING and other nighttime topics. The event also included a FIRE SAFETY DISPLAY from the fire department, STORY TIME with the principal, and DOOR PRIZES. It was open to the community, with approximately 200 people in attendance.


Louisville: Berrytown Family YMCA, from 4:30-6:00 PM with an OPEN HOUSE. Lights On Afterschool light bulbs DECORATED the facility, and the event included a SHOWCASE OF STUDENT WORK. The youth served as Ambassadors for the evening, giving tours of the afterschool facility and speaking on the importance of afterschool programs. Organizers provided REFRESHMENTS.


Monroe, North Carolina: Benton Heights Elementary School hosted a community OPEN HOUSE for Lights On Afterschool. CHILDREN PERFORMED SONG “Don’t Stop Never Give Up.” Students, family, staff, and community members were invited.


Portland, Oregon: Schools Uniting Neighborhoods hosted “Pumpkin Lights On” in the gym at Shaver Elementary School for Lights On Afterschoolfrom 6:00-8:00 PM. Activities included PUMPKIN DECORATING, GOURD BOWLING, a CAKE WALK, FACE PAINTING, and GLASS BLOWING. Organizers held a BAKE SALE with proceeds going to the Parent Association. The event was open to program participants, families and staff. More than 300 people attended.


Pawtucket, Rhode Island: In honor of Lights On Afterschool, Kids Club hosted an OPEN HOUSE & POTLUCK DINNER--- with parents, school administrators, and town council members.


Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota: The Ellsworth School Age Program provided an OPEN HOUSE WITH REFRESHMENTS made by the children. Parents and children participated in VOLLEYBALL GAMES, RELAY RACE, AND CRAFTS. Children organized TWO PROJECTS TO TAKE TO Veteran's HOSPITAL the following week.


South Londonderry, Vermont: The Collaborative held a Harvest Festival for Lights On Afterschool. The event featured a CHILI AND APPLE PIE -MAKING CONTEST, SCARECROW MAKING, PUMPKIN DECORATING, DANCING, MUSIC, AND GAMES. Organizers read a letter from Senator Bernie Sanders. The event was open to the community and more than 230 people attended.

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Childcare or School Events for Families and Staff!

July 22, 2010 02:58 by Barbara Shelby

  Updated October 2016

Bringing families and classroom/program staff together develops a "Sense of Community…





1. Pizza & Game Night: Pizza can be a variety made by children and staff (Boboli, English muffin and Bagel or purchased by the program. Parents can also sign up to bring a pizza or other goodies! Games can be in the gym (See Gym Games) and/or more quiet Table and Thinking Games.

2. Potluck Dinner

3. Theme Night (Party)

4. Roller Skating Party

5. Ice- Skating at inside rink or outside 

6. Bowling

7. Breakfasts

8. Talent-Variety Show: Open this up to a variety of choices! Showcase children and children with their parents; also include staff members!

9. Drama Production Theater Night - Children perform original or well known skits and plays. 

10. Readers' Theater Performance

11. Carnival or Circus with Centers and Games

12. Parents and Kids Gym Night

13. Family Participation in a Community Service or Earth Day Event


14. Art Show or Art Auction (Below is Silent Auction idea & Spring Art Show)



15. Picnic/Barbecue (See below idea)

16. Create an After-School Experience for  Parent Participation. Use centers and open gym--provide snacks; have parents do what the children do! 

17. Pastries for Parents- Hold this in the evening or during an afternoon at SAC. 

18. Goodies for Grandparents: Any time would be a good time; however, Grandparents Day is the second Sunday in September.  How about doing this in September?

19. Muffins for Mom
For a Mother's Day celebration, Mom (or a favorite person) spends some morning time at the program. Children can give presents and cards they have made. Also offer muffins, fruit, etc. 
20. Mother’s Day Tea

The same as above except in the afternoon with tea and cookies!


21. Father’s Day Happy Hour

Around 4:00 (or later) in the afternoon, fathers have root beer and popcorn with their children and teachers. The children can invite a "Favorite Guy” if Father is not available. During this time the children present gifts and cards that they have made...a great way to get more Dads involved!

22. Ice Cream Social:  Ice-Cream Socials are great family events! Consider adding the below silliness to you festivities:


Ice Cream Eating-No Hands Used!
Give each child a scoop or two of ice-cream in a bowl. Have them sit comfortably at a table ....
The fun is that they keep their hands behind their backs and eat the ice-cream with only their mouths! It's NOT a speed eating contest--just silly fun!

Be sure to Video Tape and Take Pictures!
      • Have Dads participate

'I Scream For Ice-Cream'!  Pair this up with your ice-cream social.
Teach the kids:
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!
Divide the group into teams (number of teams depends on number of youth)
   • Which team can say it the loudest?
   • Have a third party judge...



Two years ago we had a Silent Art Auction. Invitations went out well in advance to everyone the children knew...For more than a month children were involved in all types of art projects: drawing, paint, fiber, batik, water color, ink,  clay and jewelry making.


We matted the children’s  art and displayed it from 5:00 until 7:30.

• We indicated the opening bids in dollar amount. Families wrote down their offers and put it in a slotted box next to the items.

 • Soft music played; we had water, cider, cheese and crackers. A few parents also brought cookies (Lots of visiting, and chatting! too!)

 • Make sure the children are there to get their family to bid on their things! IT WAS FUN AND THE CHILDREN HAVE ASKED WHEN WE CAN DO IT AGAIN--but we'll wait a couple more years to repeat it. Cassie in Michigan



A very large program in Montclair, N.J. (38 staff and 225 children attend daily) offers a PAJAMA CLUB!

On Friday nights, staff members operate a pajama club for all students and their siblings, 3 years of age and older. The pajama club offers parents a night out from 7:00 pm–10:00 pm -- twice a month for a charge of $12 per child, paid in advance.

Children are encouraged to come dressed in their pajamas for stories, art, and music. Every month, the club “travels” to a different country and explores it together. Local restaurants have begun to offer discounts for families whose children participate in the club. (Parents dine out while children are at the club!)




One of the ways Tasha in California has connected with parents is to "give them a night out" a few times a year! I imagine parents love her for it! Where can you go out and pay child-care of $10.00 for four hours? 

From Tasha ... I have had Parents' Nights Out, in which we charge $10.00 from 6 pm -10 pm. For one ‘Night Out” Example: Instead of having a party for Halloween during our program time, I had a Halloween Party during a 'PARENT'S NIGHT OUT'. 55 out of 100 students attended and about another 10-15 students from the school came (they paid the 10.00 fee). I then used the money to pay for extra things on site for parties, etc. -- A WIN WIN!

Tasha additionally wrote: We also have a 'Parent's Night Out' during other times of the year --such as a 'Sweetheart’s Ball' to celebrate Valentine’s Day. This gave parents a chance to go out for the special day. There was lots of participation because my kids loved dancing.


Family Picnics
We invite families to come to a local park and ask for volunteers to bring different items. (Plates, utensils, napkins, desserts, hot dogs, buns, chips, drinks, etc) We post a sign up sheet for all to see... and Set up centers, play games, music, eat, dance, have fun!!!


Community Get Together
Something we do is choose a place that will donate a percentage of all the proceeds for a night (for us it's 15%) to our organization.
All the center families get together; enjoy some pizza, laughs and have conversation! It's great for moral and also a great way to bring everyone together to support the center/program!




As suggested by Roberta Newman in” Building Relationships With Parents and Families in School-Age Programs, 2nd Ed., have a White Elephant Auction Night - Each family contributes a usable item (or a mystery object) that they no longer want. One person serves as a "goofy" auctioneer and others bid on the treasures until all are sold. Proceeds can go to purchase an item for the program.




BRAG NIGHTS (This child care center has regular Parent Events)
 From Shutterbug1410
I think that Parent-Teacher meetings are often hard for parents to attend or they just don't "feel like it"---so I came up with the idea to combine the meetings with a "Brag Night". I use these as a VITAL key in my program.

For the first 20 minutes we watch a VIDEO PRESENTATION of the kids playing and at centers, activities, games, etc. from the past month as well as SHOWING OFF photos, artwork and the projects we have been working on.

Next, we TALK about what the THEME UNIT will be for the next few weeks/ month, etc. and talk about ways parents can GET INVOLVED --as well as opportunities to go on field trips, etc. that they can take advantage of...

During this time we also set up a "PROJECT TABLE" for the children to enjoy while we go over normal things such as center policies, etc.

We also enjoy REFRESHMENTS together! We serve coffee, etc. but I always include a few things that the kids have on a regular basis, such as fun snacks that go with their theme, etc. This gives the parents a chance to see what we eat.

It always turns out well and the parents love seeing their child in their environment as well as with their friends... and they love getting together with other parents and their teacher!




help connect your program and staff memebers to the families you serve. Make them as interesting, upbeat and complete as possible. Click here  for Tips, Ideas, and Articles to include in your News!



SPECIAL TIME OF THE YEAR IDEAS for Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer... 


SEPTEMBER-- GOODIES FOR GRANDPARENTS: Any time would be a good time; however, Grandparents Day is the second Sunday in September.  How about doing this in September?


SEPTEMBER--BEGINNING OF THE YEAR POWER POINT SLIDE SHOW... The first couple weeks of school, snap photos of students in all ACTIVITY AREAS—such as working and playing with other kids, team building activities, outside and gym play, etc. Include this with the slide show. Make sure you get ALL children in photographs! The presentation can be included with a question and answer session… Light refreshments- such as cookies and punch- are always a nice touch. This idea is from the Back to School Category. See other ideas ...


OCTOBER--'LIGHTS ON AFTER SCHOOL--- In 2014 it is October 23---There are also many ideas in the Lights' category that will work for Family Social Events. Click here



Weeks ahead Post and Hand-out a Save-the date. Invite parents to attend and have them sign up to bring in foods traditional to Thanksgiving.Serve: Turkey, sweet potatoes, vegetables, cranberry sauce, pies, fruits, etc.



Estimate the amounts you will need—and put out a sign-up sheet with how much you’ll need. Example-
1. __________________
2. __________________
3. __________________ 

Parents then sign up for their choice. Be sure to tell them to bring their contribution ready to go and serve! The program can provide juice, water, sturdy plates, napkins and utensils.

***Think about this! Time is short for us all--however-- there are many excellent food stores that make good turkey breasts, chicken pieces, potatoes, fruit, etc. Inform families their contribution does not need to be home-made!

Craft Activity: For the Feast, make themed place-mats and decorations the weeks before... See Thanksgiving pages




Invite families to see how children spend their time!


What is needed?
   • Invitations made by the kids or computer
   • Materials to make snowflakes;
   • Balloons/helium; ribbon
   • Hot cocoa/warm cider, cookies and treats;
   • Special friends and family.

Begin to prepare for “Winterfestwhen you return to school after the Holiday break. Early February would be a good time to hold it.
Make invitations NOW. Invite families and VIP's to join for an evening of fun, music, and treats to eat.


→ Start the event after dinner time but provide goodies that parents can sign up to bring.


  • If your budget is low—you can also include items such as hot cups, napkins and utensils.
  • You can provide the cocoa and/or warm cider punch and water. 

Set up “centers” for the event. Each group or team of children with an adult facilitator can choose what they want to do.

  • One group may want to invent winter theme carnival games for guests to enjoy.
  • One group may decide on an easy craft project or two and have everything prepared for their guests to create the projects with them.
  • One group can facilitate gym games.
  • If your group is large group, you may need another center. 
  • Another idea is to have an area with “quick” table games or some of the circle games you play. How many centers are set up depend on the size of your program.
  • Guests rotate through the centers.




After an hour of enjoying individual activities in centers, gather in a large area for a sing along led by the children—this is also goodie time!




  • Maybe hot cocoa and warm cider punch? Have a yummy treat table which can be supplied by a previous sign-up sheet with family donations. Be sure to instruct families to have all snacks and treats ready to serve and eat.

Each team can make their own decorations for each center, but have all children decorate the main gathering room.

  • Children can make a variety of snowflakes from tissue paper, doilies or cut-outs.
  • The day of the event fill balloons with helium. Hang some of the snowflakes and balloons alone and float some balloons attaching snowflakes to them with different lengths of ribbon. If the ceiling is not too high, let these go in the room and they can float to the ceiling. A nice ideas is to hold your sing along under souvenir balloons/snowflakes with children's name on them!


Individual songs can simply be led by the children or different Teams. You can sing to Cd’s, a piano or keyboard. Maybe the music teacher can join the celebration and assist?!!! Just have fun!



BLACK HISTORY MONTH IN FEBRUARY--Share it with your families! (This would also be a fantastic idea for May! May is "Inventors Month"!)

InventionsIn celebration of this month--challenge the children to come up with unique and useful inventions!

1. Open up your recycled supply area and provide materials such as- pieces of wood, used CD's, milk containers, straws, tape, pipe cleaners, paper clips, yarn, string, paper, glue, poster paint, markers, crayons, elastic, fabric scraps, construction paper, pom-poms, rubber bands and safety pins.
2. Children can work individually or in small groups; Give them plenty of time to brainstorm ideas.
Challenge children to come up with unique,  creative, and useful items.
3. The kids may need more than one day to complete their projects; however, when complete- share the inventions with the group. 

• What is it?
• What does it do?
• What materials are used to make it?

5. SHARE IT...This is an activity that takes time and thought. Honor the children's work by inviting parents and visitors to view the display. A written description of each "invention" would also be a good idea.

This would be a nice "sharing with families time"; it could be held through-out the program afternoon or as social time after the program ends. Add punch and cookies and have a social event...

If awards are given out, be sure that each child or group recieves one--the most unique, smallest, largest, useful, fun, amusing, original, helpful, practical, handy, amusing, entertaining, most materials used, least materials used, colorful, heaviest, lightest, etc. (Look up synonyms for descriptive words)



MARCH--How about a St. Patrick's Party with a GREEN ICE-CREAM BAR? Consider making it an ICE-CREAM SOCIAL FAMILY EVENT...


  • Pistachio and/or Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream; lime sherbet 
  • Green M&M's 
  • Green Gummy Worms 
  • Green Sprinkles 
  • Green Shamrock Cookies 
  • Green Maraschino Cherries 
  • Chocolate Syrup 
  • Whipped Cream


Set up the ingredients in bowls on a buffet table for the families to create their own sundaes. YUMMY! Play some of the fun St. Paddy games from this site!




This will need to be starts weeks before Earth Day which is April 22… Display photography, sculpture, drawings, pastels, etc., as well as crafts, toys, and nature projects made by the children. FOCUS EVERYTING ON THE ENVIRONMENT or MADE FROM RECYCLED MATERIALS.


    • Set up your "Exhibit" and Hold a FAMILY EVENT after school. You can also invite school classrooms to walk through and view.

    • Serve refreshments/snacks with an Earth theme...Ideas for snacks are in the Earth Day-Every Day Category.



Families enjoy their children's art as well as their children's titles and writings. Consider a springtime sidewalk art show to share children's explorations with art and writing.

Involve children in mounting and displaying the artwork on the sidewalk or along a hallway.

Put up a clothesline and help children hang their mounted works with colorful clothespins. Try attaching children's names to the clothespins for easy recognition. Ask children to draw "invitation cards" sent home to families with the date and time of the event.

Serve some easy refreshments...
Make a video of the event as families enjoy the art and writing...




For a Mother's Day celebration, Mom (or a favorite person) spends some morning time at the program/school/classroom. Children can give presents and cards they have made. Also offer muffins, fruit, etc. 

The same as above except in the afternoon with tea and cookies!


MAY IS INVENTORS MONTH...Also check out the Inventions Idea above in February's Black History Month! May is Inventors Month! The inventions activity for a Parents Event would be awesome!





Around 4:00 (or later) in the afternoon, fathers have root beer and popcorn with their children and teachers. The children can invite a "Favorite Guy” if Father is not available. During this time the children present gifts and cards that they have made...a great way to get more Dads involved!


I used to have fun with the following idea at our Father's Day/END OF THE YEAR PARTY EVENTS. (Sorry, I don't remember where I first saw this--but it's fun! Cassi in Michigan) This would also be fun at a large family get together.

Get together a few families and play the FATHER'S DAY/CHILD GAME. Divide into four father/child teams. Ask the fathers to leave the room while the children sit in chairs. Ask the same four or five questions to each child about their fathers. Bring in the fathers and ask them the same questions. Will the father and child have the same answers? Switch places and see how well the father's know the children. Award a red rose to the winning father/child team.

Question Ideas: Favorite color, movie, candy bar, color of toothbrush, memorable moment with you, best friend, hobby, talent, food, animal, cartoon, pizza topping, ice cream topping, restaurant. Most embarrassing moment. Favorite holiday.




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