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

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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!!

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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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.

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“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!!



Kids Programming–Dr. Seuss Birthday Party

A Dr. Seuss party is a great way to bring families into the library.  We break our event into two parts–a 30 minute story time, and a one hour playtime with crafts and games.  And cake…people will always come if there’s cake.


But first…

The Story Time

Dr. Seuss stories are amazing…but they are SUPER long.  So when doing a story time, it’s important to do stories that are short and engaging.  Me and Mr. Mark, our storyteller, always do three stories for this part, trying to add a new story every single time.  Here’s a list of the best ones to do for a story time.

“Green Eggs and Ham”

We’ve done this one for three years, and it’s a hit every time.  And it’s great for a two person story time.


The way to make it really entertaining is by making it kinda slap sticky.  Like, when I ask Mr. Mark if he’ll eat green eggs and ham in the rain, I spray him with squirt guns.  Kids lose it EVERY TIME!!  Or when I ask him if he’ll eat them on a boat, I put a giant inner tube on him.

“Mr. Brown Can Moo Can You??”

Really simple to do, and it’s interactive so kids can help out.  Also goes pretty quick.


“I Am Not Going to Get up Today”

We recently discovered this one–great to do live.  Jess made the headboard and we just added an air mattress between stories; Mr. Mark just read the story laying down.  Then I would do the actions in the story to try and get him out of bed.  Really slapsticky again, which the kids always love.


Those would be my Top 3 suggestions, but we’ve done a few others.  Last year we did “Sneetches” which was fun to do but it REALLY went over the kids’ heads, even though we shortened it.


But our Sneetch machine turned out amazing, thanks to our circ assistant Joel.

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We’ve also done “I’ll Lick 30 Tigers Today.”  I hung 30 big tiger cutouts on a board, and as Mr. Mark read the story, I would take off more tigers!  It went well, but tell kids ahead of time what the word “lick” means, otherwise kids will think you’re actually licking tigers.  Maybe get some boxing gloves, maybe your high school has some.


And we’ve also done “The Zax,” which went okay but again kids didn’t really get it.  But our bridge turned out amazing, thanks to Joel again.


After that, we clean up really quick and move on to the party.


While Mr. Mark cuts the cake, I go around and explain the different stations that we have set up.

“One Fish, Two Fish” Fish Pond

Easy to set up and make.  All I did was trace out a fish, cut out both sides, and glue it together with a large paperclip by the nose.  Add some white for the eye and use a black marker around the edges and you got some fishies.

Fish Pond

You can give out prizes if they catch one, but kids just like playing with it regardless.  I always tell my kids it’s catch and release.  Here’s my template if you want to steal that:


“Cat in the Hat” Ball Toss

Easy if you have some Cat in the Hat hats lying around like we do.  If not, you can probably make some easy enough with coffee cans.  We stuck some pails in there and kids had fun tossing balls into the hats.  Maybe have a volunteer here because some kids REALLY love to throw them.

Hat Toss

Pin the Heart on the Grinch

Miss Gloria made this.  It’s awesome.  We laminated it to make it last longer.


Crafts with Old Books (Great for Buttons, Coasters, or just Decorations!)

First save all of your old copies Seuss discards and razor out the pages.  There’s SO many things you can do with them.  If you have a button maker, it works great for that.  You can get some bathroom tiles and make them into coasters, though that craft is a bit more complicated.  But kids also just like sticking it on the back of some cardstock and taking it home.

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BUT I ALWAYS tell my kids that we should NEVER cut out pages from books, but since these were well-loved, it’s okay and we are recycling.


Make Your Own Hat or Lorax Mustache

Kids can cut these out and color them any way they want.  Here’s my templates:



Great for photo ops!!

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“Wocket in my Pocket”

Print this out on green paper or cardstock.  These didn’t go as fast as the other items but it’s still great to have.


Extra Stuff

There’s plenty of great craft ideas on Pinterest, so you should have no shorage of funderful ideas.  Check out Target or Party City, since they usually have Seuss stickers, pencils, and bookmarks to give away.

“I am what I am, that’s a great thing to be.
If I say so myself, happy birthday to ME!”

Tween Programming–Star Wars Party

Our Star Wars parties always drew a HUGE crowd, so it’s a great way to bring people into the library.  Miss Gloria and I planned one for the past two years.  They’re fun but can be a lot of work…and can get out of hand.  Learn from our mistakes and our triumphs, young Padawan.

Our program ran for one hour; the idea was for it to be a Jedi Training Academy.  So we we ran a bunch of small activity stations, with one big activity at the beginning to kick it off.  Our kickoff activity was a Death Star pinata!!


The pinata itself was easy enough to make.  Find the largest and cheapest beach ball or inflatable ball you can find.  Then cover it was paper mache, as many layers as possible.  Cut out a small circular hole, pop your ball, and scoop it out.  Fill it up with candy, take the part you cut out, and put it back upside down to create the dimple, then mache over it.  Miss Gloria made ours super cool by painting it gray, used painter’s tape to make the lines, then painted over it with darker gray to create the different segments.

Soooo the idea of a pinata is wonderful, candy and smashing things is a winning combination!!  The practicality of a pinata is another thing entirely.  It takes a lot of work to make, and you’ll probably either make it too strong or too weak.  And doing a pinata INSIDE is usually not a good idea.  Our first year with a pinata was fine, kids lined up and listened with no incident.  Our second year kids were more…free form about what the idea of a “line” meant.  So after that, we decided to not do a pinata again–so make sure your execution is well thought out if you decide to do this one.  Tape out a line ahead of time!!

After that, we walked our kids through all of our stations.  Kids are going to want to try things right away, but I made sure that all of my explanations were done before we set our kids loose.

Lightsaber Training

These were just pool noodles, silver duct tape, and black electrical tape that Miss Gloria used for the detail work.  And of course I had to make Rylo Ken’s crossguard lightsaber. Pretty cheap!!


Kids at this station had to keep a balloon or two in the air for as long as possible.


It’s probably good to have a volunteer stationed here.  Because as soon as you turn your back, lightsaber duels WILL break out.  That’s to be expected, but it can get really distracting if they go on for too long.

Trash Compactor Dive

In this station, kids had to go through a bunch of shredded paper to look for mini cardboard cutouts of Luke, Leia, and Han Solo.


If they found them all, they got a prize, which was usually a Star Wars sticker or pencil (check Party City or Target for what they have.)Compactor.JPG

This was also a lot of fun, but got kinda messy.  A volunteer or staff member basically needs to reset it every single time.  Also it’s a good idea to have TWO copies of each character in the garbage dump to make it go faster.

Target Practice

This was simply kids shooting at cardboard cutouts of stormtroopers.  I asked staff to bring in any Nerf guns that they had lying around.


Last year, we had a lot of younger kids that had trouble cocking the guns, thinking that they were broken, so might need to have a volunteer here too.

Death Star Trench Run

This one was pretty easy to make and set up.  Take a big sturdy piece of cardboard and make it into a Death Star, and cut out the laser hole.  Then make some mini-paper airplanes.


Have the kids stand and try to fly their planes through the hole and blow up the Death Star.  Just make sure your planes are actually capable of flying through the hole.  Otherwise this activity basically runs itself.

Yoda Ears and Leia Buns

Some kids came in costume, but this is a great way to get everyone looking the part.  Just some big brown circles and yarn for the Leia buns, and some green ears and cotton balls for the hair for the Yoda ears.  Parents were great with helping their kids on this one.  Here’s the template for the ear I made if you want to steal that.


Great for photo ops!



Another easy one to set up.  Cut out some droid templates from cardstock.  Then cut out some different shapes and colors to stick on your droid.  Make sure you have orange for BB-8 and blue for R2-D2, but have other colors too.


Here’s the droid template I made if you want to steal that too, you should be able to get four to a sheet:

BB Template
R2D2 Template

Extra Stuff

In the center of the room we had a bean bag toss game, that was kinda like a space battle.  Kids could try to sink each other’s ships!!  Our shelver Shauna was kind enough to draw this for us and we were able to slap it right on top our bean bag toss, but I’m sure you could just print out some pictures of ships and use that for the same effect.


We also had a quote quiz and some Star Wars coloring sheets for kids that got bored.  I made the quiz, and yes you can steal it:


We also did some food, but nothing too fancy.  We had VaderAde, which was just lemonade, and Ewok Treats, which were just teddy grams.  Having the Star Wars soundtrack playing in the background is also a nice touch.

THAT’S IT!!  Lots of work but lots of fun!!