Tuesday, July 22, 2014

TweenStop is on Maternity Leave!

Our baby, Sophie Adrian, has arrived!  We'll be back with more 'tween programming ideas in January 2015.  Until then, let's hear it for the 'tweens!  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Make-It! Build an Antenna

Ready to play with tools?  We hosted an antenna-building workshop and gave 'tweens the chance to do just that.  Our goal was to transform wire coat hangers, wood, screws, washers, and small transformers into working television antennas.  We used these instructions.  I'll be the first to admit that this program was out of my comfort zone.  I know nothing about televisions or antennas or transformers.  Thankfully, I know how to follow directions, and I know how to ask for help.  I spent a lot of time doing both of these things in preparation for the program.  Ultimately, I was able to build a sample antenna that actually worked! 

We limited enrollment to 15 'tweens, and we asked each young builder to bring an adult to help.  Having the adult helpers was absolutely essential.  To my surprise, the program didn't fill up; we had a total of 6 kids, plus accompanying adults. 

In the spring, I contacted our local high school's technology education program to find a student to help me prepare for and facilitate this event.  I did this for a couple of reasons:  first of all, I'm having a baby, and the program was less than a month from my due date, so I wanted to be sure that if another staff member needed to step in, there would be someone on hand who was an "expert" on the project.  It's also nice to offer this type of opportunity to teens, and a lot of 'tweens eat up the chance to talk to teenagers. 

My very patient, project-oriented husband went with me to Home Depot for some serious supply shopping.  The high schooler and I generated our own step-by-step instructions and prepared materials by cutting and bending the wire hangers and marking the points on the wood where the screws would go.  The program itself was only an hour long, so having these steps done ahead of time meant that families could realistically finish the project before they left. 

As participants arrived, they picked up instructions, selected materials based on a list on the instruction sheets, and got to work building.  We had a small TV so they could try out their antennas, but because this program was held in the basement, we didn't get great reception.  Next time, I would have a try-out-your-new-antenna station on the main level of the library. 

The project was demanding enough to require the effort and attention of both child and adult, which meant that they had to work together, like it or not.  Of course, they liked it, and they were proud to leave the library with their newly built TV antennas!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Garfield Fans Unite!

 On June 19, we celebrated the birthday of everyone's favorite lasagna-loving cat.
We had a bean bag toss...
coloring sheets, a trivia quiz, and fill-in-the blank comic strips...

 as well as party favors (Garfield bookmarks), snacks, Garfield & Friends on the big screen, Garfield books for browsing, and a speed gift-wrapping game. 
Our Garfield books are well loved by patrons of all ages, so this event was a natural fit for our library.  It was so popular that I'm considering purchasing a Garfield costume for next year! 
I had planned to serve lasagna and cake at this program, but we asked for sign-up so we could find out about food allergies.  Am I ever glad we did that!  Knowing in advance the types of allergies we'd be working with (including tomato, gluten, and dairy) helped me to purchase party-worthy snacks that everyone could enjoy. 
Participants were free to choose any combination of activities, in any order, and stay as long as they liked during the 45-minute program.  Having a self-serve structure helped eliminate waiting in line for one-person-at-a-time stations (like button making and the gift wrap game); there were plenty of things to do, and everyone had the chance to try every activity, if they chose to do so. 
The gift wrap game was surprisingly delightful.  I bought several rolls of birthday-themed gift wrap on clearance at Target, and I brought in two small boxes and a Garfield pin (which I had serendipitously found in a drawer a few days prior to the program).  We started with both boxes wrapped in gift wrap, one of the boxes containing the pin.  I had a volunteer staff the gift wrap game table; she timed kids as they unwrapped both boxes, moved the Garfield pin to the other box, and wrapped both boxes back up.  Simple?  Yep.  But they LOVED it.  I think the fact that we were encouraging them to use gift wrap and Scotch tape with abandon helped a lot. 
The button-maker was, as always, a hit.  I purchased a one-inch American Button Machine personally six years ago, and it has been a fabulous investment.  I highly recommend them!  We had a volunteer at our button station, and he helped each participant choose a Garfield or Odie graphic and transform it into a piece of wearable bling. 
Many happy returns of the day to Garfield!  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Beanie Baby Adoption Zone!

Last year, we stopped giving physical prizes (aside from books and gift certificates) during SRP.  Naturally, we were left with a closet full of loot.  One of the treasures in the closet was a tub brimming with Beanie Babies.  Of course, we had no choice but to offer a Beanie Baby Adoption Zone program. 

The set-up: I made simple adoption certificates with spaces for participants to fill in their names and their new pets' names.  I also made "My Pet" sheets, with space for a drawing of the new pet and spaces to write interesting tidbits about the pet, such as favorite foods.  We provided pencils and crayons, as well as pipe cleaners and pony beads for making collars.  I gathered up a bunch of pet-themed books and had those on display.  The Beanie Babies themselves were spread out on our long window ledge in the Storytime Room.  We hung a fabric curtain in the room for our portrait studio corner. 

The structure: We had participants sign up for one of three half-hour sessions on a Saturday afternoon.  Each session was limited to 15 children, and we didn't have to turn anyone away.  This program was open to ages 5 and up, and our oldest participant was 12.  We started with a read-aloud of "Let's Get a Pup!" said Kate by Bob Graham.  Then each child got to choose a Beanie Baby (I called letters of the alphabet, and kids with corresponding first letters of first names got to choose; we had about 5 kids choosing at any given time, so it went quickly).  Then kids had time to fill out their adoption certificates and "My Pet" sheets, make collars, and visit the portrait studio to pose for family photos. 

The verdict:  This was a really fun way to use up some supplies we had on hand!  Once everything was set up, the program itself was very smooth to run. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Read It and Eat Book Club: Spy School

Read It and Eat is our monthly book club for 'tweens.  Read more about Read It and Eat here

What We Read: Spy School by Stuart Gibbs

What We Did: While the kids ate, we discussed the book.  Then we created our own secret agent ID cards, took turns trying out a laser beam obstacle, and got silly with a disguise relay.  For the relay, we split into two teams, and each team had a pile of disguise elements, such as a hat, a pair of costume glasses, a wig, a bow tie, etc.  I set up cones at one end of the room, and kids took turns putting on all of their team's costume elements, running around the cone and back to the start line, and handing the costume off to the next person. 

Highlight: The relay was a huge winner!  We could have done this all night and the kids would have been thrilled.  I was a good reminder that kids sit most of the day in school, and they like to move around! 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

DIY Travel Games

Last Saturday, we hosted a DIY Travel Games program for 'tweens.  The event was an hour long, and we limited registration to 15 participants because we needed some special supplies (and because some of the projects involved detailed instructions/small pieces).  We ended up with 13 plus several adults who stayed to help their children. 

We created these projects:

Altoid Tin Tic-Tac-Toe

Velcro Shape Sticks  (We covered our sticks with patterned duct tape before adding the Velcro; each person made a set of seven sticks, and even though this craft is geared toward younger kids, the 'tweens loved them!)

Bubble Wrap BINGO

What worked well:
Having a few adults stay helped a lot!  Also, the one-hour time frame was perfect (a lot of our programs are 45 minutes, but that wouldn't have been enough time). 

Notes for next time:
In the middle of the Tic-Tac-Toe project, I realized that I could have made my life a lot easier by purchasing two different colors of glass marbles and self-adhesive magnets, like the ones at American Button Machines.  This would have eliminated the need to cut out all kinds of little circles of scrapbook paper and glue them onto magnets/marbles. 

I would be tempted to provide small stickers next time, too, for the Bubble Wrap BINGO.  This way, kids wouldn't need to draw pictures or write words or letters under each bubble.  Another option would be to use smaller paper (we used 8 1/2" x 11" cardstock), which would mean fewer bubbles. 

If we had had more time, it would have been fun to decorate bags or carrying cases for the travel games!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Star Wars Origami

Over the weekend (on May 4th, of course!), we offered Star Wars Origami for all ages.  This wasn't the first time we've offered this program, but it was the first time I've really felt like it went smoothly.  We had 64 people come through during the one-hour program (mostly school-age boys... a lot of grown-ups stayed, too, thankfully!); here's how we organized it:

  • We advertised the program for all ages, and we included "drop in anytime" in the event listing so that patrons would know they didn't need to arrive at the very beginning or stay the entire time. 
  • I set up a table with the following supplies, in this order, along with copies of Tom Angleberger's Origami Yoda books:
    • Photocopies of the instructions for the Universal Puppet, C3-PO, R2-D2, and Yoda (all based on the Universal Puppet, all from Tom Angleberger's books)
    • Photocopies of the instructions for the 5-fold Yoda and the Lightsaber, also from Tom Angleberger's books
    • 8 1/2 x 11 paper in green (for Yoda), yellow (for C3-PO), and white.  The patterns we used all call for rectangular paper, which is really handy. 
    • Crayons, colored pencils, and magic markers for adding details
  • I set up an additional table with the following supplies:
Patrons came in and as I greeted them, I pointed out the items on tables and suggested that they start with the Universal Puppet.  The vast majority of participants stuck with the Universal Puppet and the creations that can be built off of that model, as well as the 5-fold Yoda and the Lightsaber.  A few ambitious souls tried some of the projects in the books on the second table.  Younger kids loved having the Thumb Doodles, and the Mad Libs were great for kids who needed something other than origami to keep them busy.  The stickers and R2-D2 stamp provided extra flair for anything and everything! 

The best part: all of our materials are safely packed away in one tub, ready to be pulled out for a future Star Wars Origami event! 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Rainbow Loom Fans Unite!

Toward the beginning of January, we hosted a Rainbow Loom Fans Unite! program.  This event was open to ages 7 and up, and participants were welcome to bring their own supplies.  The library had five looms (which was plenty) and a variety of colors of bands (which we ended up not really needing) available.  Kids and families came and went as they pleased for an hour, many staying the entire time.  We didn't ask for sign-up.  I brought our library's three iPads to the program, and participants used them to access online video tutorials. 

What worked well:
In the promotional materials for this program, I included this line: "No formal instruction will be provided."  This went a loooong way in letting families know that this was not a class; it was a drop-in event that would give Rainbow Loom enthusiasts a chance to create together and share their skills. 

Because we purchased looms and bands for this program, we'll be able to easily repeat it in the future with no monetary investment.  Unless, of course, we want to buy some of the fancy bands (tie-dyed, scented, or camo, anyone?).

What could have been better:
In retrospect, I should have scheduled this event a little bit later in the year.  We had several attendees who had received looms as holiday gifts, and some of them (with their frustrated parents) came to the event hoping to "crack the code" and learn how to turn unsuspecting rubber bands into wearable art.  I was able to help these families make basic bracelets, and other attendees were more than willing to lend a hand, too, but if they had had a few more weeks to try out the looms on their own, they might have had more independent success. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Read It and Eat Book Club: The 13-Story Treehouse

Read It and Eat is our monthly book club for 'tweens.  Read more about Read It and Eat here!

What We Read: The 13-Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths

What We Did: While the kids ate, we discussed the book.  Then we broke into groups of 4-5 people each, and we completed the marshmallow challenge.  This challenge fit well with the book because of the building element, and because the book features a marshmallow machine. 

The kids were happy as clams working in groups on the marshmallow challenge!  Bonus: it was easy and cheap to prepare. 

I would totally, totally recommend this activity for a book club!  The book was a good one, too; it was a quick read with lots of pictures and tons of silliness, and we had a great discussion about which genre it might be considered. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Minute to Win It for 'Tweens

We've done Minute to Win It 'tween programs a couple of times, and they're always a big hit.  We don't require registration, so we never know how many to expect.  This means we have to be ready for any size group!  Here's the plan that has worked well for us:

  • Select your games.  Search online for "Minute to Win It Games for Kids" and you'll have more than you could ever ask for.  Games we've had success with include:
    • Defying Gravity, Breakfast Scramble, and Tweeze Me from this site
    • A Bit Dicey and Nose Dive from this site
    • Stack Attack from this site
    • A game I might have made up or might have found online: tape the rim of a plastic cup to the edge of a table.  Start at the other edge of the table and have the player blow 3 Ping-Pong balls into the cup using a drinking straw.  Extra challenge: use a balloon instead of a straw!
  • In your advertising, mention potential allergens that are being used.  For example, we let families know that petroleum jelly and Tic-Tacs would be involved.  I don't even know if it's possible to be allergic to Tic-Tacs, but it's pretty easy to include a sentence like "You won't believe what's possible with Ping-Pong balls, petroleum jelly and Tic-Tacs!"
  • Write up very simple instructions.  I like to put the instructions for each game on a single piece of paper, like this:

  • Gather materials!  As much as I don't love the dollar store, it was a great source for dice, Ping-Pong balls, disposable bowls and cups, tweezers, drinking straws, cotton balls... almost everything we needed, actually.  I recommend having enough materials on hand to run five identical stations at the same time.  For example, if you know you need five Tic-Tacs, two bowls, and a pair of tweezers for each Tweeze Me station, grab at least 25 Tic-Tacs (plus some for "just in case"), ten bowls, and five pairs of tweezers.  For the consumable products (the ones that can only be used one time, like drinking straws and popsicle sticks that go in kids' mouths), buy more than you think you'll need.  You'll be glad you have the leftovers next time you do the program!  Also make sure to have a stopwatch or a clock with a second hand. 
  • Set up the room.  We've had success with setting up five tables in a semicircle, and setting up lots of chairs, audience-style, in front of the semicircle.  This allows kids to participate in the activities at the tables while everyone else watches from the chairs (or the floor).  It's nice to have five kids playing each game at once, so that all eyes aren't on just one player. 
  • Distribute supplies.  Before patrons arrive, put the supplies for all of the games at each of the five stations.  Put them off to the side, where they won't be in the way.  Put those sandwich bags to work!  Bag up six dice and a handful of popsicle sticks for A Bit Dicey, and place all of the cereal box puzzle pieces for Breakfast Scramble in another bag.  Go ahead and tape a plastic cup (for the game I might have made up or might have found online) to the edge of each table.  Basically, do anything you can do to prepare before the kiddos arrive.  Also put a stack of instructions for each game at each table, in the order you'll be playing the games.  This is helpful so that kids can quickly look at the instructions before their minute begins... just in case they forgot.  Which they very well could.  I forget things all the time.   
  • If you have the time and resources, have some upbeat songs ready to go for during the games.  We used some Beach Boys songs and "Twist and Shout" by the Beatles... mainly because they were already on my iPod. 
  • As kids arrive, invite them to sit in the chairs or on the floor.  Explain the first game, and make sure to note that everyone who wants to play each game will have a chance, but that five people will be playing at a time.  Ask for five volunteers (or choose based on shoe color, first letters of names, birth month, etc.), station each one at a table, set your timer, blast the music and GO!  After the minute is up, give a round of applause, remind players to reset their stations for the next players, get five more kids at the table and repeat.  When you've gotten everyone through the first game, introduce the second game.  As you talk, move from table to table, shuffling the instructions so that the directions for the second game are now on top, and placing materials for game #2 front and center on the tables.  Whisk away materials used in game #1. 
  • If you run out of games with time to spare, invite kids to add their own twists to the games you've played.  They'll have plenty of ideas! 
  • If you run out of time and haven't gotten to all of the games, who cares?  Just keep those for next time!  This is a nice teaser for kids, too, so they'll be on the lookout for the next Minute to Win It event. 
  • After the program, keep your materials!  Grab a tub and load in the copies of instructions and any materials you can use again.  Even if you play different games the next time, you'll be glad to have some basic supplies ready to go. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Read It and Eat Book Club: Tuck Everlasting

Read It and Eat is our monthly Monday night book club for 'tweens.  Read more about Read It and Eat here

What We Read: Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

What We Did:
While the kids ate, we discussed the book.  Then we created our own "magic water."  I brought in small plastic bottles with caps (about the size of a hotel shampoo bottle; you can buy these at drugstores or order them from American Science and Surplus) and food coloring, as well as blank address labels and pens. 

Kids filled their magic water bottles with water, and they added any combination of food coloring.  They wrote notes on the address labels; some of them said things like "Do Not Drink!  You'll Be Sorry!" or "Drink for Everlasting Life... But Think Twice!"  They stuck the address labels to the bottles and went on their merry ways.  As families intercepted their children, I made sure to tell them not to drink the water in the bottles (not because I didn't want them to live forever, but because I hadn't washed the bottles ahead of time and I'd rather not accidentally poison anyone). 

The kids loved writing labels for their magic water, and it was really fun to see what they came up with. 

During the project, I overheard one book club member commenting to another about how Mae's prison escape in Tuck Everlasting is a lot like Andy's escape in The Shawshank Redemption.  So true!  Rainy night... tricky prisoner putting tools to good use... stumped prison guards...

Not So Hot:
If I would have been really smart, I would have just bought small bottles of water from the grocery store.  That way, we could have skipped the step of filling the bottles with water (though that was a thrill for the participants), and they could have drunk the magic water... if they dared. 

Sanity Savers:
This program lasts an hour, which includes eating dinner, discussing the book, and doing an activity or two.  It can be really tough to know how long an activity is going to take, and I was surprised that making magic water filled the time.  I had a second activity lined up (making advertisements for magic water), but since I hadn't sunk a lot of time into prepping for the back-up activity, I didn't mind at all that we didn't get to it. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Read It and Eat Book Club: Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Magic

Read It and Eat is our monthly Monday night book club for 'tweens.  Learn more about Read It and Eat here

What We Read:
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Magic by Betty MacDonald

What We Did:
While the kids ate, we discussed the book.  Then we learned three simple magic tricks:
The magic tricks!  The kids were psyched to learn the tricks, practice them, and take all of the supplies home to share them with their families. 

Not So Hot:
The book got mediocre reviews.  Since it was published in 1949, some of the material is dated.  The Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books were some of my favorites as a child, so I tried not to take personal offense. 

Sanity Savers:
Each person got a gallon-sized ZipLoc bag to put their magic trick supplies in and take home.  The only things they didn't take home were the crayons, juggling scarves, and pennies.  If I were a little braver, I would have also brought permanent markers so the kids could write their names on the bags before we started learning the tricks! 


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Percy Jackson Celebration and Movie

We've hosted this program twice; it's a great spring break or winter break event.  It takes about two and a half hours, and during school breaks, a lot of families in our community are looking for things to do that are substantial in terms of the time they take up.  Also, we're able to accommodate a lot of kids at this program; whether we get 20 or 60, the prep time is about the same. 

We start off with Greek-inspired projects.  My two favorites are Olympic Torches and Paper Plate Pottery.  For the pottery, we use gold and silver Sharpie markers (use a disposable tablecloth!), and I set out books featuring photos of ancient Greek pottery.  The torches are really simple: roll a large piece of paper (we even used newspaper once) into a cone, tape the edge into place, and stuff red and yellow tissue paper inside. 

Greek-style snacks follow the projects: olives, stuffed grape leaves, cucumber slices, and feta cheese.  We do the projects and finish the snacks before the movie begins to save on clean-up time at the close of the program. 

Participants are asked to register for this program so that we can have an idea of the number of snacks and project materials to prepare, and so that we can ask about food allergies. 

After we've cleaned up the art projects and snacks, we settle in for one of the Percy Jackson movies.  Two hours later, we say our good-byes, and kids go home ready to show off their torches and pottery. 


Monday, March 17, 2014

Celebrate Kanani!

Our "Celebrate Kanani!" event was planned in honor of American Girl character Kanani, who lives in Hawaii.  After reading the first chapter of Aloha, Kanani, it was time for activity stations:

  • Make a lei using straws, string, and mini cupcake liners
  • Hula hoop-a-rama (usually when I want to do incorporate something like hula hooping into a program, I tack on "-a-rama" to the end or "extreme" to the beginning, so I don't have to call it a contest but it still sounds like fun)
  • Limbo
  • Decorate and write postcards from Hawaii
  • Make a tissue paper hibiscus (Hawaii's state flower!)
We played Beach Boys music in the background. 

We offered two back-to-back sessions; the first was for kindergarten through second grade, and the second was for second grade and up.  The few minutes between the sessions gave us the chance to break out a few extra art supplies (glitter!) for the older kids.   

The Best Part:
I love station-based programs!!!  Participants get to circulate around the room at their own pace, choosing the activities they want to do and spending any amount of time on them. 

In a Perfect World:
I would have added a photo station, with some kind of ocean backdrop and a surfboard.  And I would have added an "ocean in a bottle" craft.  I also would have served pineapple, but since we didn't ask for registration, I didn't have food allergy information. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Read It and Eat Book Club: the Basics

We started our Read It and Eat book club for grades 2-6 in January of 2012.  The club meets one Monday each month during the school year from 6:00-7:00pm.  Kids bring sack dinners, and the library provides drinks and fresh fruit for dessert.  While everyone eats, we discuss a book that we've read ahead of time, and we spend the last 30-35 minutes doing an activity related to the book.  When I can, I like to choose physical activities and projects that get kids working together with one another. 

Logistical Details:

We ask participants to sign up for this program.  Once they sign up, they're welcome to come to as many meetings as they like (in other words, they don't have to sign up every month), and they can sign up at any point during the year.   We can generally expect 20-25 kids.  We ask for a phone number or email address for each participant at sign-up. 

I create a list of meeting dates and titles for the entire year, and it is distributed in August.  I make sure to include a line on the handout stating that dates are subject to change.  We've only ever had to change one date, and we knew about it several months in advance, so we were able to give families a lot of notice. 

We make reminder calls/emails on the Thursday or Friday before the program.  A simple email list makes the email reminders very quick! 

Sanity Savers:

Choosing projects that can easily be adjusted for slightly larger or smaller groups is key.  I don't want to waste my time (or anyone else's time, for that matter!) tediously prepping materials for a certain number of kids, only to have a different number attend.

Build in time for clean-up!  We usually pause between dinner and the activity, and I make sure that all straw wrappers, napkins, food tidbits, etc. have made it to the garbage can.  These kids are old enough to clean up after themselves, but they're also young enough to forget if we don't devote time to the task. 

The Best Part:

Kids are hilarious.  They seem to really enjoy having a chance to talk about books (and just hang out) outside of school, and I've loved getting to know them through Read It and Eat. 

The Hardest Part:

The wide range of ages makes selecting books a bit of a challenge.  It's tough to come up with something that's accessible to a 2nd grader but interesting to a 6th grader.  I usually shoot for 3rd-4th grade interest level, even though I'm aware that we're losing some older potential participants because of it. 

In a Perfect World:

I would host two Read It and Eat book clubs each month, one for 2nd-4th grade and one for 4th-6th.