Our guide to virtual Christmas fairs
Virtual fairs are looking like the way to go this year,
and we're here to show you how to make yours
A virtual fair has enormous potential. So many Christmas fair
elements can be tweaked to work online, and it'll give you the
chance to revamp anything that's become set in its ways. With no
space limitations, worry about buying enough burgers and less
cleaning up at the end, you can concentrate on making the elements
of your fair enjoyable for all. A virtual fair has no geographical
limits so anyone can take part, including far-away relatives and
How does a virtual fair work?
Like a physical event, a virtual fair is about having lots of
different things to do throughout the day. There's all manner of
resources available for whatever activities your planning,
Zoom - Ideal for interactive fun,
use for workshops, storytime with Santa and quizzes. Be aware that
the free version does limit calls to 40 minutes, so plan around
this or find out if any parents or local businesses can set up your
meeting via a paid account.
YouTube - A great place to upload
pre-recorded content, which takes the pressure off on the day and
means supporters can enjoy at their leisure. Videos can be
'unlisted', meaning only those with the link can find them, and
they don't show up in search results.
Facebook - Perfect for running
competitions, you can upload albums of submitted images and then
ask supporters to 'like' their favourites for a public vote.
Facebook Live is handy for launching your event, plus you can keep
followers updated throughout the day with regular posts detailing
what's happening and how they can take part.
WhatsApp - If you have parent
WhatsApp groups, encourage families to use these to share what
they're up to, enhancing the social element of the day.
Patchwork - Patchwork 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.
Get it at no cost with the code FREEFORSCHOOLS.
With these fantastic free resources, you can recreate many of
your favourite Christmas fair activities, plus add in some new and
exciting things to do. As with a conventional fair, remember there
should be time slots and number limits for live activities such as
those on Zoom to keep everything manageable.
Keys to success
Because a virtual fair has fewer limitations than a physical
one, it can be easy to lose focus. The most important things to
Make it interactive: Invite people to
take part in activities, enter, competitions and join video calls.
You don't want a passive audience. If yours is a large school, you
may wish to hold some activities in smaller groups such as year
groups or key stages.
Make it inclusive: Offer some free
elements where anyone can take part, such as an art or colouring
competition. Everyone should be able to have some fun without
worrying about money.
Make it varied: As with any fair, a bit
of everything is more exciting and means there's something to
appeal to everyone.
Getting the message out
Shouting about virtual events is crucial, as they're easier to
forget without the physical prompt of needing to actually go
somewhere. Get the message out to your school community through the
school website, emails and newsletters. Reach out beyond the school
gates by embracing social media. Don't just plug it on your own
pages - utilise pages and groups that cover your local area and
beyond. Could news websites or radio stations promote your
TOP TIP: If you have a shopping affiliate scheme in place,
include this in your written advertising to take advantage of
Christmas purchases. If you don't have one, it's easy to set up and
costs the PTA nothing.
Bake off - Ask competitors to get baking
and send in their photos to be judged. You may want to set a theme,
type of bake, or let their creativity run wild. Offer prizes for
fun flavours and daring decoration.
Pet show - Proud pet owners send in
photos of their pusses, pooches and more. To add to the
festivities, ask for them to be photographed in a Christmassy
setting. Awards can include best dressed, best rescue pet and most
Christmas trees - Families send in photos
of their decorated Christmas trees. Award prizes for the most
colourful, best design and tallest tree.
Art - Ask children to create their own
pieces of art based on a theme such as silly snowmen or winter
wonderland. It could be a drawing, painting, sculpture - even
sewing or knitting. As well as sending in photos for judging,
pupils could display their creations in their front windows to
create an art trail.
TOP TIP: Voting for virtual competitions
can be done by a small team of judges, such as the PTA chair and
headteacher, or images can be displayed online for the community to
vote for via 'likes' or a poll. If you're awarding multiple prizes,
you'll need an album for each category, and entrants will need to
specify which one they are entering. To make it easier, nominate
one category for a public vote, and let your judges decide the
rest. Ensure parents know how their images will be used and that
they give their consent.
Name the teddy - Snap up a good-value
cuddly toy from a supermarket or toy shop (or better yet, ask for a
donation). 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.
Lucky Lapland squares - Source a map of
Lapland and digitally divide it into squares. Participants have to
guess the square in which Santa has hidden the presents! The
winning guess gets a prize. If you want to award more than one
prize, ask where Santa lives or where the elves sleep at night.
Create your list of names or numbers in a view-only Google
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.
Where in the world is Santa? Display
zoomed-in images of global landmarks and run a quiz challenging
people to identify the locations - award prizes via a draw.
Guess the teacher - Ask staff to send in
photos of themselves in a Christmassy disguise and ask players to
guess who's who. Correct entries are entered into a draw to win a
TOP TIP: Use Google Forms to collect the
answers online. 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!)
Workshops - Activity stalls are always
popular, so recreate the fun with online workshops. Find an arty
parent who can run a children's craft class online - think cracker
making and bauble painting - and sell the items required in
advance. Purchase kits in bulk from a supplier such as Baker Ross.
Jingle trail - Invite families to
decorate their windows, gardens and houses with a festive flourish.
It could be anything from a Christmassy drawing in the window to a
scarecrow elf in the garden. Create a map which can be sent out
virtually for a suggested donation.
Silent auction - Rather than raffling off
any prizes you've hunted down, a silent auction has the potential
to raise much more. Entrants bid only for prizes they genuinely
want, with the highest bidder winning. If items for your raffle are
scarce, hold an auction of promises instead with useful rewards
such as gardening services, a car wash or bike servicing on offer.
Websites such as JumbleBee and PTA Events allow you to run a silent
auction for a fee. For a free service, try auctionofpromises.com. You can also post
each lot on Facebook, and ask for bids to be placed in the comments
below. Be sure to turn off comments before you compile your list of
winners. Announce the winners during your fair.
Entertainment show - How about a clown,
magician or scientist to wow your audience? Lots of entertainers
have taken their business online, so book a big virtual show to
finish your event with a bang or multiple shorter ones to be
enjoyed throughout the day.
Balloon race - Eco-racing runs virtual balloon
races using real weather data and geographical positions.
Supporters each buy a balloon, which they can decorate and alter
before launch, before following it through its realistic flight
path. Schedule the launch to be during your fair.
Scavenger hunt - Come up with around 10
tasks for children to complete. They can be as simple as finding
something that's purple, or more complex, such as asking players to
take four photos that together tell a story. Use a mix of easy and
more complicated challenges to engage different age groups and keep
Storytime with Santa - Santa can read a
festive story to children via video call. Sell hot chocolate kits
and marshmallows in advance to be enjoyed at storytime.
Festive sketches - Ask participants
(including the adults) to have pens and paper at the ready. Set a
timer for two minutes, announce the title of the drawing, and shout
GO! Each person has to complete their masterpiece in the time
allotted and show the rest of the group. This activity works best
in smaller group sizes.
Raffle - Find out how to move this fundraising
Hampers - If requesting donations, make
sure everyone is aware of the deadline and allow for items to be
left untouched in the school or PTA member's house for a few days.
Ask local companies to donate in exchange for publicity. Collect
items together in themed hampers and use as raffle prizes.
Jolly jars - 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
Refreshments - Take orders for afternoon
tea in advance and deliver fresh to supporters' homes on the day of
your fair. If there's a baker in your community, get them
What to charge
If you're not using an online system such as Patchwork, 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.
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