Games add a relaxing element to a back-to-school night, allowing parents to feel comfortable as they get to know the teacher and surroundings. Effective games give the families a glimpse of life at school, from locating specific features to doing a learning activity. Short games that are entertaining and serve an informational purpose get parents and kids ready for the school year.
Ice breaker games get the parents talking so everyone gets to know each other. For mingling, games that require parents to find another person with something in common work well. For example, cut strings in different lengths with pairs that are the same length. The parents mingle, looking for the other person with the matching length of string. The pairs then share information about themselves. A circle game is an option if you want to focus on names. The first parent says her name and something she likes. She might say, "My name is Pam and I like pizza." The next person says Pam's name and interest before adding her own. As you go around the circle, each person says all of the previous names and interests. Most ice breaker games are easy to adapt to fit the back-to-school night format.
A scavenger hunt helps the parents become familiar with the location of things in the classroom or the entire school. This activity works particularly well if the students are also at the event. The kids and their parents become more comfortable with the classroom layout to make it easier on the first day of school. The scavenger hunt list should include key locations within the classroom, such as the student mailboxes, group gathering area, calendar and homework turn-in spot. If the game includes the entire school, the list might include spots such as the office, gym, music room and library.
Guessing games add an entertaining twist while helping parents get to know the teacher and classroom better. A bulletin board display with pictures of teachers as babies or kids is a classic game option. The parents try to match the teacher with the childhood picture. If the open house happens after school starts, the kids can get involved in the game. Each child draws a self-portrait for display. Each parent tries to guess which self-portrait belongs to her child.
An academic theme to the games allows the teacher to introduce some of the concepts she'll teach in class. If estimation is on the schedule for math class, an estimation game with objects in a jar is an option. The parents use estimation skills to guess how many of the object are in the container. For a language game, parents might receive letter tiles to make as many different words as possible using only those letters. If the teacher uses games in the classroom to teach concepts to the kids, those games can go out during the back-to-school night for parents to play.