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Stall ideas for all ages

Keep all your visitors happy - from toddlers to adults - with this selection of stall ideas, as recommended by PTAs...

Under 5s

FACE PAINTING is popular, but always has long queues, so keep designs simple. A pink cat, pirate or tiger will work well, especially as they are suitable for both boys and girls. Once you have mastered these to speed, you can try a few more! Recruit a few volunteers and draw up a rota that allows people a break. Charge between £1-3.

HOOK-A-DUCK Fill a paddling pool with water and float ducks with eyelets on their backs and numbers on their bottoms (purpose-made ducks are balanced so as not to tip over). Participants hook the duck out of the water - the number on the bottom corresponds to a prize. Alternatively, have two lightweight ducks in a tray of water. Draw a 'finish' line across the bottom and get two players to blow their duck using a drinking straw - the winner is the first across the line.

CUPCAKE DECORATING Purchase packs of plain sponge cupcakes, or appeal to your local supermarket or parents for donations. Separate toppings such as sprinkles, mini Smarties, and dolly mixtures into bowls. Have different coloured icing, in squeezy bottles to make life easier. It might not be a huge profit-maker, but it's always a hit!

TEDDY TOMBOLA Lisa Schofield: 'Teddy tombola is one of our best stalls! We ask families for donations of soft toys, ideally in good condition. We then charge £1 for five tickets. If we have enough stock, we give a prize every time. If not, we offer consolation prizes for those that draw blank tickets. The children keep coming back for more!'

BOUNCY CASTLE Claire Cayless: 'We hire a bouncy slide and two bouncy castles for £250. We charge £3 per wristband for unlimited use and still make a profit. Have a five-minute bounce time per group.'

5 to 9 years

TIN CAN ALLEY Rachel Pearce: 'This was the most popular game at our fair! We displayed six tin cans in a pyramid and had three beanbags. People were asked to stand behind a chalk line and see if they could knock them all down! The children loved it and kept coming back to see if they could win! We had two pyramids going at once and would recommend having two helpers to pick up all the cans off the floor each time.'

YUCKY DIP Paul Compton: 'We use green jelly in big bowls and fill it with bugs from a pound shop. Children have to dive in and dig one out - they love it and get really excited! We charged 30p a go. Have a clean bowl of water and some towels at the ready for cleaning up afterwards.'

LOLLY LOTTERY Zoe Bullock: 'Cover a cardboard box in wrapping paper and push lollies into it. Mark some of the lolly ends with a coloured pen. We charge 30p a go. Children get to keep the lolly but those with coloured sticks win an extra prize. Our last "Lolly Lottery" made a fantastic £140!'

BALLOON POP Blow up balloons (allow one per pupil) and place a raffle ticket inside, with numbers that relate to a prize. Place notes in others saying, 'Have another go!' or, 'You've won a treat from the cake stall'. Tie your balloons to a gazebo and cut each one down as it's selected. Provide a sharpened stick or let the children stamp on their balloon until it pops! Charge 50p per go.

JAZZY JARS Tina Canning: 'Get the children to fill a clean jam jar with sweets, pens, stencils, stickers, or small toys. Affix cloakroom-style raffle tickets to the lids. Have people randomly select a ticket and charge £1 per go. We have around 400 jars. Distribute plastic cups instead of glass jars.'

10 to 16 years

SOAK THE TEACHER Julie Caines: 'Only a couple of teachers volunteer but it's worth it! Put a plastic tablecloth on the floor to catch the sponges - this stops small stones from getting picked up by the sponges. We give the teachers chairs to sit on and safety goggles to wear. We charge £1 for two sponges and offer a whole bucket of water for a much higher price! Set the distance at about eight to 10 feet.'

PIG RACING Purchase battery-operated pigs from a toyshop - the ones that walk, stop, oink and snuffle! Mark four lanes with tape on a table and tag each lane with a number. Charge 50p a go and ask people to select the pig they'd like to race. Award a prize to the owner of the winning pig. The pigs can be reused for other events and the only expense is batteries.

CROCKERY SMASH Ask for donations of old crockery or scour charity shops. Stick faces of love-to-hate celebrities onto the plates and stand them on a bookshelf. Place heavy-duty dustsheets under the crockery and mark a clear line, behind which children must stand. Your stall should be manned by adults wearing gardening gloves and safety goggles. Give participants hard balls to throw and charge 50p for three balls. Consider broken or flying crockery when risk assessing this activity.

PHOTO BOOTH Lucy Gammer: 'We charge 50p per printed photo and have these developed at a supermarket for 4p per print. You need at least two cameras, with one person taking the photo and one keeping track of the image numbers. The teachers can then distribute the photos a few days later, once they're developed. Download free printable props to attach to sticks. It's always very popular!'

Adults

WASHING LINE GAME Bev Brackenridge: 'Our biggest earner is our washing line game. We spend a few days contacting local businesses for vouchers and gift certificates - including meals-for-two, beauty treatments, gym memberships, tickets for amusement parks, and so on. We put each prize in a white envelope and peg it to the washing line. Some tickets include a free hot dog or drink. We charged £2 per go and made just over £400 in 90 minutes!'

PUTTING CHALLENGE Sandra McCann: 'We have a £5 note pinned to a six-foot strip of artificial grass, and whoever putts the ball onto the note, wins. We charge 50p for three goes. Last time we had 110 players and two winners. It's always busy and can be played indoors if wet. On the day, I issue an envelope with £5 notes to be given out to winners, and we use the tagline "Drive for show, PUTT for dough!"'

WATER INTO WINE Ask parents to bring in empty, used wine bottles (complete with screw tops) in the months leading up to the fair. Ask local hotels or restaurants for empties, too. Fill these bottles with water. Ask for donations of actual wine from local supermarkets and/or parents, and wrap all the bottles in newspaper. Aim for a ratio of one bottle of wine to five bottles of water. Make sure that anyone who wins is over 18. Aim to have roughly 200 bottles - at £1 a go, profits will be limited by the number of bottles you have.

WELLY WANGING Peter Foreman: 'We charge 50p for one throw and £1 for three. Don't bother measuring as it takes more time, but you do need lots of space away from other stalls. Just use a marker, like a flag, chair or tent peg, for the furthest throw. Each time the marker is reached, take down the details of that thrower so an ultimate prize can be given.'

BARROW O' BOOZE Maurice Snell: 'Our "barrow o' booze" does well, with donated bottles of alcohol assembled in a wheelbarrow. Cloakroom tickets are sold for £1 each and one lucky winner takes the entire barrow home! We use a standard garden wheelbarrow, with straw under the bottles. We wheel the barrow around the fair to drum up interest. Last year we made over £200 profit!'

All ages

CAKE STALLS are always popular, and if you have all your sweet treats donated, there won't be any costs, either! Position your tea and coffee stall near your cake stall, and scour local charity shops for old-fashion cups and saucers. Have a seating area where parents can mingle.

BBQ Louise Clive: 'Our BBQ is always very popular and receives great feedback. We cater it ourselves using two gas BBQs - one for sausages and the other for burgers. It's important to ensure there is no cross- contamination, surfaces are wiped down, and aprons and gloves are worn. We have four helpers cooking and serving food. Go for thinner sausages, as the fatter ones take longer to cook!'

CANDYFLOSS Helen Wagner: 'Candyfloss always sells well. Find a selection of colours and flavours, and buy bags and sticks in bulk. We bought 1,000 bags for £50 (less than 5p a bag) and 500 sticks for £20 (4p per stick). Buy a couple of large sacks of sugar - we buy two 5kg bags for a school of 650 pupils - from a wholesaler. Place any remaining sugar in sealed containers and keep them for your next event. Provide gloves and aprons as it
gets everywhere!'

PIZZA Lynda McCallum: 'We asked our local Domino's Pizza if they had a mobile pizza stall. They were happy to help and it cost us absolutely nothing! They sold slices of pizza for £1 each, of which we earned 50p. They sent two members of staff, a mobile stall, and a supply of pizzas. When they were running low, they contacted the local store and had extra pizzas delivered. We ended up earning £60 for no effort!'

ICE CREAM If you decide to invite an ice- cream van to take a pitch at your event, charge a flat fee of around £100 rather than asking for a percentage of profits.

Tips and tricks

  • Encourage children to go on the bouncy castle BEFORE having their face painted - otherwise they can end up quite messy! Read face painting tips and advice.
  • Syreeta Oakes told us, 'Hire the equipment for an extra hour after the fete ends, and while the PTA clean up, their children can use it. A little thank you that goes down a treat at our school!'
  • When booking big headline attractions, bear in mind that you may need to book at least 12 months in advance. Find PTA event suppliers in our directory.
  • Nicky Wooster says, 'We have runners to pick up floats and cover loo breaks, but we also give each external stall holder two complimentary drinks vouchers as
    a thank you.'
  • You will need a TEN to sell alcohol. If running a stall with alcoholic prizes, a TEN is not required - read our quick guide to event licensing.
  • If you have access to a freezer and enough volunteers, make bigger profits at your event by selling ice creams yourself.
  • Serving food that doesn't require cutlery or plates is a great way to keep down costs! Read our top 10 summer fair refreshment stalls.
  • Clare Powell says, 'Have an arena with performances, including dancing or music. This works as a great focal point and guarantees attendance by performers and their families.'

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