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.