Kids Programming–Toy Sleepover

Toy sleepovers are a really fun and cheap program to have at the library.  Libraries have been doing them for a while now, but if you’re like me, you’re starting to run out of ideas (we’re up to our sixth sleepover at this point.)  So I thought I would share some of my best photos I’ve done so far.Chewing Book.jpg

Coloring Books.jpg

When we do pictures, we usually try to get at least one photo of each toy by themselves doing something unique, and then a few groups shots.  That way each kid gets at least two photos.  We print them out quickly on computer paper, cut them out, and hand them out to the kids when they come back that afternoon.  I post all of our photos then on our Facebook page, so that everyone can see everyone’s photos.  And it promotes our page!

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Use what you have lying around and try to pose them the best you can.  Shred old materials you were going to throw out anyway.  The crazier they are, the more fun kids will have.

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Don’t be afraid to go too far or to make too big of a mess.  The messier or sillier it is, the more kids will love it.  And make sure you post everything to your Facebook page.  You’re sure to get a lot of likes.


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Hope that gave you some ideas.  Let me know what you want to steal, or give me some of your ideas!!

Lego Club Challenge–Zip Line Racing

Go Lego Go!!  This one is a favorite for my kiddos because it’s definitely not something you do everyday.  After I explained the rules of Lego Club, I told them the day’s challenge.  They first had to build a car, plane, boat, carplane, boatcar, or any other combination.  But they had to work into their design some sort of loop to attach a paper clip too.

There are lots of Legos that could work so kids didn’t really have problems figuring it out.  I went around to each table and explained it again just in case anyone was stuck.


Setting up the track in my room is actually pretty easy.  I have a large coat rack at the back of the room that’s attached to the wall.  So all I have to do is tie some string to the coat rack, measure out the string for my tracks to make it kinda even, add some pulleys, and then tie all the strings to the leg of some tables.  You might have to get creative if you don’t have a similar setup like my coat rack, but it doesn’t take a whole lot of distance or height to make it work.


This time around I did four tracks (MORE is BETTER) but that turned out to be harder to manage.  People were able to race faster, but getting kids to hook up their vehicles, then getting the parent volunteers to drop at the same time was a bit of a hot mess.  So I would recommend only doing two lanes.


So anyway, once kids were done building, they could practice on the track, but only one at a time.  Otherwise they start racing each other and it’s too distracting for everyone then.  Once they were ready, I would attach their paper clip to a pulley; from there I would try to bend the paper clip to make their vehicle face forward so that it actually looks like it’s flying.  It doesn’t really have the same effect if it’s flying sideways.


I would tell them to wait to the bottom of the track to catch their piece.  Most of them made it down the track just fine, I told them to add weight if it didn’t make it all the way down.  And if it exploded when it hit the table leg from going to fast, I would tell them to make it a bit sturdier.  Kids LOVE it when their cars explode though, so no one ever follows that advice.  Although I did have a few kids try to make bumpers for when their car hit the leg of the table.


If there test drive was successful, I told them they could either try to add more weight to make it go faster or they could build a garage for their piece.  We built and tested for about 40 minutes, cleaned up for 5 minutes, and then spent the rest of the time racing.  Great fun!!  Thanks to Little Bins for Little Hands for inspiring the idea.



Tween Programming–Emoji Party

Emoji Day lands right on July 17th, so it’s a perfect summer reading program event.  Why do emojis need their own day??  No, I’m seriously asking–why do they need their own day?!  *sigh*  Regardless, it’s a great way to get tweens and teens into the library.  We did a lot of pretty simple crafts that kids loved; some I took off Pinterest and I’ll try to give credit for them, and some I came up with to fill some time.

Emoji Coasters

This one is really simple to do.  Get a box of bathroom tiles; I got a big box for about $10 and they have lasted me for years.  I’ve used them for comic book coasters a few years ago, so you can definitely use extra tiles again.  Cut out your design, making sure that you leave a little white border.  That way, your paper won’t snag and tear off your tile.  Then it’s time to use some modern podge.

Emoji Coaster.JPG

When mod podging, I put a small even layer down first, lay down my paper and smooth it out without ripping it, then immediately add a small even layer right on top.  Keep an eye on it and try to get rid of any bubbles that form on your paper.  Use a clean brush or else you’ll get little dirt specs that are hard to get rid of.  After that dries, put on at least one more layer.


When you’re done, put on a tile sealer, since mod podge and water don’t like each other.  The sealer I got was fairly cheap; it’s water resistant, not waterproof.  The better your tile sealer is, the more poisonous it becomes, so you’re actually better off cheaping out.

Emoji Magnets

Simple enough.  I drew a design and painted it (be responsible and don’t use whiteout like I did) then I just cut it out with my hole punch.  You can also just print out some emojis if that’s easier.  But kids will definitely want to make a few!!  Got the idea from Surznick Common Room.

Emoji Magnet

Emoji Fortune Teller

I whipped this up really quick in Microsoft Publisher.  It’s suppose to work like a Magic 8 Ball; ask it a question and throw it to see what it says.  I used 11 x 17 paper, so each square would be 3.5 x 3.5 inches, but you could probably shrink it easy enough.

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Emoji Book Title Quiz

Really proud of this one.  Stole the idea from a Buzzfeed article, but came up with my own book titles.  It’s good for the kids that finish up everything early so they have something else they can be working on.  NO ONE will know all of these but that’s okay, the idea is to just give kids something extra to do if they’re bored.  Here’s the first page:

Emoji Book Title

The answers are:

Cat in the Hat Comes Back
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Polar Express
Call of the Wild
Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
Dragons Love Tacos
Secret Pizza Party

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Answers for Page 2:

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
Number the Stars
Bad Kitty
Magic Tree House
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Go Dog Go
How to Train Your Dragon
Island of the Blue Dolphins

Emoji Cookie Decorating Contest


This was 100% Miss Gloria’s idea, and it worked out really well.  We wanted to add some sort of food element, but not spend a bunch of money on big sugar cookies.  This worked out just as fine.  She bought a couple tubes of frosting and we had the kids go to town.  Sugar goes great with more sugar.   We tried to make it a “contest” so that kids wouldn’t eat their cookies right away.  That part didn’t really work out, but it at least no one ate theirs immediately.

So that’s it!!  Overall it went great!!  We set up about 6 big tables and they were all packed.  Some tables finished projects faster than others, so we ended up just going from table to table and walking them through projects, which actually worked out better.



Library Etiquette and Memes in Marketing

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Don’t be like Philip!  This was one of the first photo projects that we ever undertook.  After seeing a seminar by Ben Bizzle, I really got inspired by trying to branch out with a little bit of “meme marketing”–the idea here being that if you advertise your product in a funny way, you’ll engage more with your audience.  I’ll let other people smarter than me talk about the need to market a library and just get right into what we did.

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So I got the idea from old “Goofus & Gallant” comics my sister and I made fun of as a kid, and also from the “Duke & Dimwit” scenes from Bioshock Infinite.  After the initial idea, I collaborated with Phil and Gloria and we all came up with this series of photos.  Every week we would post one of these photos around 1:30 PM.  Depending on your area, that seems to be a perfect time to post.  It’s the time right after lunch when people get a little bored at work, before they hit that second wind.  By doing it in weekly installments, we were hoping people would “tune in” to see the next one.  And some patrons actually did!!

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So the project basically had two goals:

  • Teach patrons about the rules of the library.
  • Increase traffic on our Facebook page.

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One thing that stuck with me from Bizzle’s presentation was that your Facebook page shouldn’t be used just to promote programs.  That gets boring pretty fast; it should be engaging in some way.  According to a NY Times article, the average person spends about 50 minutes on Facebook a day, but (in my opinion) will only spend about a second looking at what you posted.  So adding a visual component to any post, especially if it’s original, will increase that time substantially.

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Increasing our traffic was slow at first (you can’t expect 40 likes in one day,) but after a few months, we definitely noticed an increase in traffic.

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Since then, I’ve always tried to have some sort of photo element in my posters/Facebook posts, like this:Poster--Juggle

Posts and posters like this aren’t just more eye-catching in the library, but become A LOT more noticeable on Facebook.  But more importantly, it got us thinking outside of the box–what else can we be doing to promote our services?

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As Ben Bizzle put it, if you promote your programs only in the library, you’re only going to be selling to the people IN the library.  It’s time to branch out!!

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Lego Club Challenge–Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger Hunt!!  This one took a little bit more prep than usual, but it’s totally worth it.  I started out by looking through all of my Lego buckets for some unique items.  Hats, animals, jewels–things that stand out and that kids always want to use in their piece.

After that, I went to Google and started looking up pictures for all these different items.  The GREAT thing is that basically every single piece is going to be on Google Image somewhere since they often get sold individually, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding photos.

Then I took all those photos and made a quick name tag for every item.  When we get to the “Scavenger Hunt” portion of the lesson plan, I think it’s really helpful to have a good picture and a basic description of what it is.

Name Tag.PNG

After that, I taped all of my pieces to their name cards so that:
A) Kids wouldn’t lose them.
B) I wouldn’t lose them.


I prepped about 40 of them, in case I had a lot of kids or in case kids lost their special piece.  It all took about 4 hours of prep, so not too bad.

So then it was time for Lego Club!!  After our normal rules, I explained that everyone would get one special Lego that they would have to hide in their piece.  But there were some extra rules:

  1. You can’t hide your special item under anything.  It has to be out so that everyone can see it.  So the goal is to hide it, but not cover it.
  2. No trading pieces.  I knew that this would lead to confusion later.  Besides it doesn’t really matter what you get, it only matters how well you hide it.
  3. Don’t detach your special piece right away.  We don’t want kids losing them and I don’t want to spend an hour looking for ONE thing.
  4. Don’t throw out your name tag.  They’ll need it for the end!!  I had copies of all of the tags, so that wasn’t a big deal.

So kids built a piece for about 45 minutes to hide their special item, then we cleaned up everything extra.  I set up some tables along the back, so that kids could take their piece AND their name tag and place it on the back table.  After that, we spent about 10 minutes running around and trying to find everyone’s special items.  A LOT OF FUN!!


Kids seemed to need more parental help than usual, but everyone had fun and they all turned out REALLY good!!  Here’s a few the kids made–can YOU find all the secret items?





Tween Programming–Escape Room in the Library

Library Escape Rooms are really big right now, so I tried to design this program so that any library can try to duplicate it.  Because making something like this is kinda daunting–where do you even start?  From what I’ve read, starting at the end is the best way to do it.

I didn’t want to my kids to actually “break out” of our room; I thought that would end badly.  So I thought that the end would be unlocking a suitcase that had candy bars.


So then I had to figure out where to put the key to unlock the suitcase.  So I got an idea from a library call number scavenger hunt.  I hid the key in a hollowed out book.  These are easy enough to make, and there’s probably a million pins about it already on the Pinned-Interest.


Next, I made a fake call number for the book and stuck it out in the stacks in our nonfiction section.  The call number was “J 793.735 DOY.”  793.735 is the Dewey call number for “riddles.”  Pretty cool, right?


So the final puzzle was actually NOT in the escape room, but I made sure to tell kids that the key to the suitcase was hidden somewhere in the library, and they had to solve the puzzles to find out where.

Still working backwards, I figured that now that each puzzle that was solved would now unlock a part of the call number.  Miss Gloria thought it would be a good idea to do only three puzzles, so I broke the call number into three chunks for the three different puzzles we would have.  Each chuck is color-coded, and matches the color on the sign where that number would go in the call number.  This was to try to make it easier on the kids.

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Going off of the book idea, I figured our room’s theme would be “Crazy Librarian’s Office.”  That way, we don’t have to go out and buy a bunch of props, we can just use what we have lying around.  So we brought up an extra desk and furniture from the basement, and dressed it all with office supplies and junk to make it look busy.  Then we just hid all of our clues.

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I decided that the office belonged to Miss Petra.  She’s an old and mean librarian–and of course she loves cats.  Because she kinda has to, right?


Still working backwards, Miss Gloria and I came up with the three puzzles that would unlock the three chunks of the call number.  I mapped out the plan like this; the end is at the top:

Escape Room Layout

Miss Gloria wanted to do one that number related and one that was word related, so we came up with using different kind of locks for different puzzles.

Puzzle 1

The “79” of the call number was locked in a box with a number combination.  The combination would be the numbers of a broken clock–from what I’ve heard this is used a lot but your kids won’t know that.


To know that, we would have the kids use a UV light to search the room.  If they looked at the portrait of Miss Petra on the wall, they would see “Time is the Key = Clock”  written in invisible ink around the frame.  We hid the UV light in a desk drawer with a clue attached to it that said “Use me to see in the DARK” so kids knew that it was important.


Puzzle 2

The “3.7” of the call number was locked in a box with a letter combination lock.  The answer was “BOOK.”  To figure that out, they would have to put together a puzzle that said the word “BOOK” on it.  For this we got a blank puzzle, wrote on it, and then hid them around the room.  It was just more stuff to find!!


Puzzle 3

The “35” of the call number was locked in a box with a padlock.  The key to that was hidden under Miss Petra’s chair with duct tape, so if they got this clue they could figure it out:

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Goldi-LOCKS!  So to get that clue, they had to open a separate box with a separate key.  We hid that key in a dragon puppet, way back in the mouth so you would probably miss it if you were just searching really quick.


So in order to figure that out they had to find one of these bookmarks, which had “DRAGON” spelled out in sign language.  I hid three around the room in different spots.  And once they found the Sign Language Chart, they’d be all set.IMG_7886

If you take a look at the poster I made for the event, you’ll see that I basically GAVE my kids all the clues they needed right away.  WHAT?!  M. Night Shyamalan moment!!

Escape Poster

So that’s it.  Really low cost, the only thing we really bought was the letter lock, the LED UV flaghlight, the blank puzzle, and the invisible ink pens.  Everything else we had lying around.  So it’s a cheap and fun program to do.

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We did it for three different groups of kids, 30 minutes each with a 5 minute reset time.  Overall it went very well for my first escape room.  But I definitely found out a few things.

First off go over your rules with every group.

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They’re pretty self-explanatory.  I found it helpful to set up a separate table (the Clue Table) by the front of the room that kids could place important items and puzzle pieces on.  Overall, kids followed the rules wonderfully.  But I also started talking about the rules AFTER I started my timer.  That way, explaining the rules was on their time, and the faster we got through them, the more time we had.

As far as the actual game, it turned out that the puzzles were both too easy and too hard…if that makes any sense.  They figured out some of the puzzles right away, like the puzzle word lock and the “DRAGON” puzzle.  Super impressed by that!!  The chair puzzle and the Dewey number puzzle took a lot of help.  So next time, a lot more puzzles, but make them a bit easier, or maybe more clues for more difficult puzzles.

Also kids had a hard time working together.  Due to the popularity, there were more kids than we planned for and our tour groups were pretty big, which makes communication harder.  Mostly kids did okay working in a group, but a few kids would start working on a puzzle/clue that was already finished.  So I tried to fix this by bringing everyone in for a puzzle recap.  We would huddle around our “Clue Table” and talk about some of the things we found really quickly.  If something was already solved, I would point to it and some of the kids would tell me what it was and what the clue pointed to, so that everyone would know it was a dead end.  It was a great way to get everyone back on the same page.

And the last thing I would suggest is have a Reset Checklist.  Setting back up really fast is stressful, so have a checklist of where everything important needs to go back, what you need to lock, and where the keys need to go.  I thought I could just remember everything, but by the third group I was getting burned out and forgot to lock something.  It turned out fine, but it’s just a good way to make sure things go smoothly.



Storytime–Transportation Stories

Kids love trucks.  Shocking right??  In other breaking news, the sky is blue and pie is delicious.  So when I do storytime, I usually devote at least one week to the subject of transportation, because of the high interest and the huge amount of great material out there.

My storytime has a wide age gap, anywhere from 6 month-5 years.  So I always plan on only two stories, one geared for the younger kids that’s simpler and one geared for the older kids, usually with some sort of movement involved to keep younger kids engaged.  Then we usually do three rhymes or songs, and then an activity at the end.

First here’s the best books I’ve been run across:

Books with SoundsSound Cars

Sound recognition is important but also just fun to do.  These books also work for younger ages, so that’s a plus.  Steve Light’s “Go” series does a great job talking about more obscure vehicles and the sounds they make.   “Toot Toot Beep Beep” makes for an easy flannelboard.  And “Moo!” is the best, it’s just one word said a bunch of different ways, so it’s a good book for emotions too.

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I try to make my books as interactive as possible for those kids that don’t want to sit still.  “In the Driver’s Seat” is especially good at this.  The audience has to constantly turn left and right while reading; it’s currently out of print but it’s always been a hit for my Pre-K school visits.  “Old MacDonald had a Truck” and “Tip Tip Dig Dig” are also really interactive, kids can just do the actions that the trucks are doing.

Other Great BooksCar Stories.jpg

“Tiny Toad Mows Tiny Island” is good because it talks about basically every type of transportation.  “Fire Engine No. 9” is a fast, energetic story that can have some interactive elements in it.  “Freight Train” is a classic and makes for an easy flannelboard AND it’s available in big book.  But my kids just want NOTHING to do with this one.  “Race Car Count” is colorful and includes counting; I was able to find all the cars online, laminate them, and then stick them up on my flannelboard, so we were able to count them all.  But one of my favorites to do is “Let’s Go for a Drive.”  Most of the Elephant and Piggies are really hard to do, but this one only requires a few props, the biggest is the sail for their pirate ship, which was easy enough for me to make out of an old map:


Songs and Rhymes

Ahhh Jbrary.  You make life so much easier.  I’ve used both of these for transportation storytime and kids have loved them.

We’ve also have sung “Wheels on the Bus” but instead of doing wipers and things like that, we let animals on the bus.  I’ve always asked kids which animal should be on the bus, and every once and awhile you get something funny like a giraffe or a unicorn; then we have to quickly figure out what they say on the bus!!  After we sing about that animal we let that animal off the bus, by making the doors go open and shut.  So we then we sing that and put a different animal on the bus.  We do this a few times, and then we have to race back to the library by singing “Wheels on the Bus” as fast as we can.  Kids love that part.


We usually end on a simple activity that often promotes some sort of sensory awareness.  Most of the times when I do transportation storytime, we’ve ended by doing a car wash.

It’s just a bunch of wash tubs filled with warm water, some cheap matchbox cars, and some sponges.  There’s some basic sensory awareness going on, but it also promotes sharing.  Giving a car back is asking a lot of some kids; to help them out, we tell them to “park it” back in the box.


But I borrowed our latest activity from STEM in Libraries.  Their “STEAM Storytime” had kids repairing broken paper plates by taping them back together.  That’s such a great idea that I repurposed it to fit a transportation theme.

So I started by printing out a bunch of coloring sheets, cutting them up into simple evenish squares, and then putting each broken truck into individual baggies.  After storytime I told my kids that we’ll be coloring fire trucks, but that the trucks are a little broken.  So they’ll have to first put them back together and then color them.  Miss Gloria thought it would be much easier if the kids used gluesticks instead of tape, and that seemed to work great.


I did this activity for a Pre-K school visit, and the kids really liked it.  But what I learned is to not make it too hard (I might have made a kid cry) and to walk them through the activity really quick, by saying, “What does a fire truck have on the bottom?” Tires!  “Right and they go on the bottom!  And what does a fire truck have on the top?” A ladder!  “Right and that goes on the top!”  There were still kids that needed help, but most of them figured it out.  Sharp cookies!!