Christmas fairs still won't be what we're used to this year, and what you can do will often depend on access to the school. Whether your fair is in-person, outside or virtual, there are lots of ways to adapt your games and stalls to work with the times.
Adopt an animal
Ask for donations of good-quality soft toys or source free ones on a classified ad site such as Gumtree. Put them through the washing machine, attach a name tag around their necks and put all the names in a hat. Children pull out a name and win the corresponding animal.
VIRTUAL FAIR: Photograph the teddies with their nametags attached. Hold a raffle where the first prize is the largest teddy, working down to the smallest.
Let children choose a numbered envelope with a card inside which tells them what prize they have won, or that they've been unlucky. Keep it simple by having small prizes or tokens for other stalls (i.e. free cake from the cake stall), or secure bigger prizes such as vouchers for local attractions. How much you charge will depend on the prizes offered. Keep swapping the cards around.
VIRTUAL FAIR: Fill 25 envelopes with prizes. Some may be small like a chocolate or lollipop, while others may be a shop voucher, a coupon for a workshop or mini artwork. Avoid physical money in the current climate – if you do want to do a cash prize, do it as a PTA I.O.U. Raffle them off as mystery prizes.
A variety of badge making machines can be purchased online, from smaller versions ideal for use on year stalls to more expensive, sturdier alternatives. If you don't want to invest, see if your local Lions or Rotary club has one to lend. Simply cut out images the correct size, and use your machine make badges for visitors before their very eyes. Make badges using your school logo or get visitors to draw their own. Price according to how much the badges cost to make.
VIRTUAL FAIR: Run a design competition to get some exciting festive designs, which you can then turn into badges and sell online.
Ask for biscuit donations from a local supermarket, or encourage volunteers to bake a few batches each. Use Christmassy cutters. For the decorations, use icing sugar and food colouring to make colourful icing. Put the icing into special squeezy bottles to prevent it from drying out. Offer participants a selection of mini-sweets and sprinkles in small bowls to complete their masterpiece. Charge 50p per biscuit.
VIRTUAL FAIR: Put together decorating sets containing some biscuits, a tube of icing, plus sprinkles and sweets. Sell them online and send home with children.
Susan Farrell Smith: 'Our best seller is a 'bottle bag grab'. Ask people to donate bags full of bottles containing liquids such as shampoo, sauce, juice, washing up liquid and wine. Seal the bags at the top and charge participants £1 for a bag. They may get a Fruit Shoot or a bottle of wine!' Remember that if you have alcoholic prizes, only over 18s can play, but you could run a child-friendly version too with different drinks for 50p a bag.
VIRTUAL FAIR: Raffle bottles off online, and then send prizes home with children if child-friendly, or deliver to homes if alcoholic.
Ask for cake donations from supporters and local businesses in the lead up to the fair. Price according to size and intricacy.
VIRTUAL FAIR: Take orders for a festive tea to be delivered to people's doors. This could include Christmas cake, mince pies, hot chocolate and even mulled wine. Parents order their food online in advance, and it's delivered fresh to their home on the day of your fair. If there's a baker in your community, get them involved.
Chocolate/sweet jar tombola
Ask parents to donate boxes of chocolates or jars of sweets in the months running up to the fair (you could hold a non-uniform day and ask children to bring in goodies). Stick raffle tickets on top of each prize and use the same numbers – plus more – in the tombola. Spin the tombola and let the player pull out a number. The player wins whichever prize corresponds to their number.
VIRTUAL FAIR: Raffle prizes off online and send home with children.
Christmas jumper stall
A year is a long time, and the jumpers that fitted pupils last year will likely be too small now. Hold an appeal for unwanted Christmas jumpers and accessories and sell them on at your fair.
VIRTUAL FAIR: Photograph all the jumpers and post them online. Families can pick which they'd like to buy and pay via PayPal, Stripe or your usual payment system.
Decorate a Christmas jar
'We ask pupils to fill a jar with sweets and decorate it in any way they like. It can be any size jar and any sweets they choose. We also ask them to create a Christmassy decoration on the jar, and award prizes for the best-decorated. These are put on a tombola stall, and there is a prize every time. We charge 50p a go. It's all profit for the school and a fun stall for children.' Shirley Smith, PTA member, Rosemellin CP School, Camborne (300 pupils)
VIRTUAL FAIR: Send jars home asking pupils to decorate and fill them. Collect them far enough in advance to leave them untouched for a few days, and then raffle off online. Award prizes for the best-decorated.
Elfridges/secret Santa shop
Buy a variety of reasonably priced gifts, such as socks, smellies, keyrings and boxes of chocolates or request donations of similar items from your school community – maybe in exchange for non-uniform day. Lay out the items available in different price bands, so children can choose and then wrap a gift for a parent or other loved one. If children are entering the secret Santa shop without a parent or carer, make sure the volunteers running it are DBS checked.
VIRTUAL FAIR: If your school will allow, take payments online and provide a selection of gifts for each class or year group bubble to choose from and wrap. Provide a list of who has paid what, so teachers can make sure children end up with the right number of gifts of the right value.
Guess the address
If you have any bakers on your committee, ask if they can make a gingerbread house – otherwise assemble one from a kit with plenty of sweets for decoration. Much like 'name the teddy', players must pick from a list of addresses (e.g. 3 Elf Avenue, 12 Snowball Lane) to determine where the house is located. The winner gets the house.
VIRTUAL FAIR: Post a photo of your gingerbread house on Facebook and ask participants to guess the address in the comments. Use a random number generator to select the winner.
Guess the teacher
Collect baby photos from staff or take photos of staff members in a Christmassy disguise. Create an answer form and ask players to fill it in with their guesses. Correct entries are entered into a draw to win a prize.
VIRTUAL FAIR: Post the photos on your website or social media (with permission from participants). Create an answer form using a website like Google Docs for players to fill in.
How many presents are in the stocking?
Fill a stocking with exciting wrapped prizes, the sort you would put in a hamper. Display it at your fair, asking visitors to guess how many presents are inside. To increase numbers, you may want to individually wrap some little things like lollies. The winning guess receives the stocking and all its contents! If there are multiple guesses of the same number, pull them out of a hat.
VIRTUAL FAIR: post a photo online of your stocking, and ask people to email in their guesses.
Lucky (Lapland) squares
Print out a map of Lapland and divide it into squares. Pick a winning square (which is the secret location where Santa has hidden the presents!) and charge a fee to guess which square it is, taking down a name and class or contact number. At the end of the fair, reveal the winner and award a prize.
VIRTUAL FAIR: Source a map of Lapland and digitally divide it into squares. If you want to award more than one prize, ask where Santa lives or where the elves sleep at night.
What's the name of the snowman or reindeer? Find a plush cuddly toy and a clipboard with a selection of names – you could ask the school to provide a list of pupils' first names on a numbered spreadsheet – children will often choose their own name or that of a friend! Use a website, such as random.org to generate a number which will determine the winning name. Announce the winner at the end of your event.
VIRTUAL FAIR: Create a list of names and upload it online. Ask participants to email their guess of the toy's name. The winner receives the toy.
Pin the nose on Rudolph
'It's the same concept as 'pin the tail on the donkey', except we have a big Rudolph face with a big red nose on which the children can pin! We are fortunate that one of the dads made us a big wooden Rudolph face one year, and we use it time and time again. The children win if they get anywhere near the nose area or get a penny sweet for having a go. They love it!' Natalie Corcoran, Telford Infant School PTA, Leamington Spa
VIRTUAL FAIR: Create a colouring page of Rudolph without his nose. Ask children to colour it in and add in his infamous hooter, before submitting a photo via email. Award prizes for the best.
Julie Caines: 'We bought four battery-operated pig toys from Hawkins Bazaar. We marked lanes with tape on a table and held races! We charged 50p a go. The piggies were a bit expensive at £15 each, but we made our money back the first time we did it which isn't bad. We make around £50 each time.'
VIRTUAL FAIR: Stream racing via Facebook Live, asking people to guess in the comments which pig will win. Enter those who guess correctly into a prize draw. As outlay on this is expensive, we advise to only do it virtually if you already own the equipment.
Salt dough decorations
Bake some salt dough decorations before your event and charge children 50p-£1 to decorate them. Remember to put a hole in the decorations before baking. To keep things tidier, thread the ribbon through after they've been decorated and have dried. Provide materials such as glitter, sequins and gems with PVA glue, or paint if you're happy to get a bit messier.
VIRTUAL FAIR: Take orders for salt dough decorations in advance. Send them home before the fair with some materials like ribbon and gems included, charging £1-£2 depending on what's in the pack.
Decorate some partially-filled water bottles to look like Santa. Challenge players to hold the bottle by its neck and flick it into the air. The aim is for the bottle to rotate fully so it lands upright on its base. If they can do it, they win a prize.
VIRTUAL FAIR: Ask families to send in videos of their attempts to be made into a compilation, ensuring they're happy for these to be shared. Enter all entrants into a prize draw. Encourage them to decorate the bottles too, awarding a prize for the best.
Soak the teacher
VIRTUAL FAIR: Usually this would be a summer activity, but with some tweaking it can work virtually this Christmas. Seek out some willing staff members. Supporters can sponsor them to pour a bucket of water over their heads or be sponged by their family members in their gardens. Make sure it's warm water and then have towels and dry clothes ready so no-one gets ill if it's a chilly day. Have a more important member of staff being elected to be soaked for every monetary milestone reached. When your top target is achieved, it unlocks the head! The videos can be shared on Facebook.
'Hang a variety of socks on a line or clothes horse and put small items into each sock (i.e. a marble, comb, penny). Players have to guess what's in each sock and write down their guesses (create a pre-printed sheet with name, telephone and description of each sock). The winner is the person who guesses all the items. Pull names out of a hat if there is more than one person who guesses all correctly.' Sarah Ellis, Friends of Garvestone Community Primary School, Norwich
VIRTUAL FAIR: In a dark room with a strong light, takes photos of the shadows of several different items. Post these online and ask participants to fill in a Google Form guessing what each thing is. Award prizes to the winners or do a draw. You could even award the items as part of the draw if they're exciting enough!
Display Christmassy icons around your fair, inviting children to explore and find them all. Sell forms for 50p-£1. Children have to fill in the name of the stall where they found each icon, receiving a prize when they return the completed form.
VIRTUAL FAIR: Post a list of scavenger hunt items for children to find around their homes. Make them quite vague so everyone will have something that fits. It could be something that makes a noise, something festive, something green, something cuddly and so on. Entries can be submitted by emailing in a photo of the finds. These can be entered into a prize draw if you wish.
Water into wine
A few months in advance of your fair, ask parents to bring in their used wine bottles (complete with screw tops). Fill the wine bottles with water. Ask for donations of wine from local supermarkets or parents, and wrap all bottles in newspaper – use a ratio of roughly one bottle of wine to five bottles of water. Make sure anyone who plays is over 18. Aim to get a minimum of 200 bottles in total – at £1 a turn, profits will be limited by the number of bottles you have.
VIRTUAL FAIR: Raffle bottles off online and deliver to homes or ask parents to pick up from school.
Where in the world is Santa?
Display photos of landmarks from across the globe, zoomed in close, and run a quiz challenging people to identify the locations. Award prizes to those who get five or more correct answers.
VIRTUAL FAIR: Post the images online and ask for guesses via a Google Docs form or email address. Award prizes via a draw.
Wildlife-friendly reindeer food
Sprinkling reindeer food out for Rudolph on Christmas Eve is a lovely tradition for many families. Ensure they're doing it responsibility by selling eco-friendly food. Many of the reindeer foods PTAs sell contain products that can be dangerous to wildlife, such as 'edible' glitter. If you're making your own, ensure it's a recipe from a reputable source such as these ones from the RSPCA. You can also sell pre-existing bird food mixes like these from the RSPB, bought in bulk and divided into bags with ribbon and a tag. Who's to say Rudy doesn't love a sunflower seed? Do be aware of potential nuts in these mixes if yours is a nut-free school.
VIRTUAL FAIR: Sell the mixes online and send home with children or deliver to doors.
How to maximise profits
- By offering a variety of games at your fair, you're guaranteed to keep your audience milling around (and spending their money) for longer.
- Encourage visitors to play games by having offers for multiple turns, i.e. 50p a go or three for £1.
Top tips if you're holding online activities
- For guessing games such as name the teddy, create your list of names or numbers in a view-only Google Doc. Share it on Facebook during the fair, and ask parents to comment beneath with the option their child has picked. Nominate a volunteer to update the Doc whenever an option is chosen (either putting a name next to it or highlighting it), so everyone can see what's left to pick in real-time. Contact the winner via Facebook, so no worrying about keeping contact details.
- Use Google Forms to collect answers online for games like guess the teacher. Alternatively, families can print off the answer sheet and submit it as a photo, or fill it out digitally and email (if using Google Docs, make sure the master copy isn't editable – you don't want someone inputting the answers for all to see!).
How to charge
While many of these activities are easier to run virtually than in person, taking payments can be tricky. Normally visitors would spend 50p here and £1 there, but a different approach is needed with online activities.
A great option is Patchwork, which allows you to create a visual and colourful inventory of all of the activities you're running. Participants can see what's available and find out how to get involved, whilst also paying to take part via PayPal.
Alternatively, ask for donations, listing a suggested amount for each activity. Families can keep track and pay what they can afford at the end using your PTAs chosen online payments platform.