Kids Programming–Giant Candy Land

We’ve done this twice now and I think we’ve perfected it by now.  This is one I helped out with, but Gloria and Jess did most of the heavy lifting on this one.  I helped out a bit here and there, but it was the equivalent of licking the spoon when you’re making a cake.  It’s helpful but not essential.

So Gloria saw the idea on Pinned Interests and wanted to bring it here.  To make the squares, Gloria got a bunch of plastic table clothes from the dollar store; the colors we used were purple, blue, green, yellow, and red, which aren’t all the colors that are in the actual game but it worked out fine.  She cut out squares that were 18″ x 18″  so she got six out of each table cloth.

When she was ready to set out the floor she laid them out in a zigzag, alternating the colors.  I then went around and taped each square to the floor to make it last a bit longer.  We tried to make as many of the stops as possible, since that’s what makes the game so special.  Each stop had a candy bucket, and kids could take ONE piece of candy from each stop they passed.  Make sure to emphasize one piece at the beginning.  We had kids with so much candy that you could hear all their plastic wrappers crinkle when they walked.

Candyland Route

While playing each group of 5-6 kids was given a dice with the five colors on it (purple, blue, green, yellow, and red) and a “Pick a Card” spot.  If they landed on one of the five colors they would advance to that color.  If they landed on “Pick a Card” they would pick from 20 oversized cards that I made.  5 of the cards had an icon that represented one of the different stops, like a lollipop for the Lollipop Woods.  If they got that, they had to go to that location and keep going.  5 more of the cards had two colored squares on them, so if you picked that you advanced to two spots of the same color.  The other 10 cards had single colors on them, meaning if you picked one you just advanced one spot.  I think we had ten dice total, five we made and five we were able to borrow and then modify.  We usually gave each group two dice to make it go faster.  Each group usually had at least one adult so I handed the dice to them so they could kinda monitor their group.

Cards and Dice.JPG

So they would go along the track until they reached the end.  The first stop was the Peppermint Forest; Jess made a really simple design for the candy canes.  They were cardboard cutouts painted red with white tape for the stripe.  She wiped up about eight of them to make it an actual forest.  This candy bucket was filled with peppermints.  I dressed up as Mr. Mint because being Lord Licorice would be WAY too hard.

Peppermint Forest.JPG

Next stop was the Licorice Castle and the candy bucket had licorice in it that kids could eat.  I made that easily enough out of pool noodles and a box; I modeled it after our final Candy Castle to make it easier to store, but more on that later.

Licorice Castle.JPG

After that, kids went to the Lollipop Woods, which we borrowed from another library.  To set this up we put wrapping paper rolls on some dowels to stand them up, and then topped them off with balloons.  The candy bucket here was filled with Dum-Dums.  Miss Gloria was awesome to dress up as Princess Lolly.

Lollipop Woods.JPG

Next two stops were the Nut House and the Cupcake Commons.  These ones were borrowed too and weren’t as impressive, but no one really noticed.  Since it’s so prop-intensive, we plan on slowly adding to our different stops over time.  For these stops, we just had regular candy due to nut allergies.  Sorry Grandma Nutt.

The last stop was the Candy Castle.The only instructions I gave Jess were that it had to be easily compacted to fit in our basement and it should be big enough for kids to hang out in.   Jess ran with it and it turned out amazing!!  The four walls are cardboard with masking tape to make it look like a waffle cone.  They all compacted so we can easily store it against a wall downstairs.  To make the four castle turrets she scored a regular piece cardboard, which means that she cut only the top surface of it and left the the back intact.  So she made a bunch of scoring lines and curled it around to make a the turret. To make the ice cream toppers, she used (I think) a plastic bag, stuffed it with tissue paper, and tied it around a dowel with a felt flag at the end.  Last she added sprinkles, everything is better with sprinkles.

Candy Castle.JPG

I’ll finish this up soon!!


Kids Programming–Greek Hero Training Camp and Story Time

This could also work as a Percy Jackson party.  We decided not to call it that so we could also focus on telling the stories too.  The idea behind the program was to replicate the success of our Dr. Seuss Birthday Party and have an event that was half stories and half activities.  And as usual we had a blast coming up with some funny promotional stuff.

Greek villians

We had a really great event so let me walk you through it!


Mr. Mark and I started out by telling/acting out two different Greek myths.  The first one was Hercules and his Twelve Labors.  It was surprising easy to act out, since we picked out the easiest ones to perform.  First thing I did was find a decent Hercules book, photocopied the pages we wanted to do, crossed out the parts that were too graphic or too long, and the just added whatever we needed to make the story flow better.  We then taped it to the book to make it look like we were simply reading the story.


So we settled on five labors we were going to tell.  We tried to make them as funny as possible, just like when we do our Dr. Seuss story time.

We started with the Hydra since it’s one of the most famous ones and it turned out to be the funniest.  I made it easily enough with pool noodles, fake vampire teeth, and monster eyes.  It was around Halloween so everything was real easy to find at the Dollar Store and it all cost under $10.


As Mr. Mark was telling this part of the story, I would hit him with one of the pool noodles.  Then he would cut it down, and I would hit him with two more.  We kept doing this until I was pelting him with six noodles, and he burned them with a cardboard torch that Jess made.  The kids loved this part of the story more than anything else so it was great!

Hydra Fight.JPG

The next myth we did was the Stymphalian Birds.  I just flew around him with a bunch of bird puppets as he was describing how vicious they were.    The third time I flew around with a puppet I picked the moose, and the kids thought that was hilarious.  He also explained that the birds would poop on people (no really, that’s in the myth.  Weird right??) so I ran around the top of the kids’ heads with my bird puppet and they kids loved that part too. Hercules got rid of the birds by making noise, so we had the kids yell really loud to get rid of them.


Next myth was the Erymanthian Boar.  Mr. Mark talked about how ferocious the boar was, but when I brought it out it was a little pig puppet.  I hit him with it for a laugh.  In the myth Hercules chases the boar up a mountain to get him cold, so we just ran around and I made the pig shiver.


Next myth was the Stables of King Augeas.  Mr. Mark explained what a stable was and how disgusting these ones were.  So he talked about diverting the river to clean out the stables and I sprayed him with some squirt guns.  Kids liked that part too.

Last myth we did was the Golden Apples of Hesperides.  We held out apples and Mr. Mark explained that they were guarded by the daughters of Atlas, and I pretended to be Atlas by hoisting a giant beach ball over my head.  We finished up and went into our next story.


The second story we did was Theseus and the Minotaur, and we did this one pretty fast.  I was Theseus and read a little bit of the background of the Minotaur and the Labyrinth.  Mr. Mark gave me the Golden Thread and the sword–we didn’t have a wig to make Mark into a woman so we used a mop head and the kids loved that.


The rest of it was me walking through the maze with the thread that I taped off earlier.  Mr. Mark finally came up behind me and we fought quickly.


That all took about 30 minutes, so now we were ready to move onto the Hero Training Camp.


The goal was to complete all of the tasks to pass the Hero Training Camp, and they could do them in any order.  It tested all the attributes that great heroes have.

The Test of Agility was trying to throw a spear pool noodle through a hoop.  Simple enough and kids loved it.


For the Test of Speed, kids strapped on some wings that Jess made to their shoes.  Then they ran a simple obstacle course as fast as they could.


For the Test of Teamwork, one kid would be blindfolded and have to walk through the maze that we made on the floor.  Their buddy would have to tell them which way to go to get out!


The last two test was the Test of Strength.  Mr. Mark brought out his Tug-of-War rope, and it turned into parents vs. kids.  That was really fun to watch!  So if kids did all four challenges, they got a medal that they got to design.  Not sure where we got these ones from, but I’m sure you can find or make something similar.



In addition we had a few crafts that kids could make.  We had a coloring station set up with markers, string, and a hole puncher so kids could color the Medusa mask I made (with an assist from Jess.)  Feel free to use this if you’d like.  Circ staff was nice enough to cut them out ahead of time, which was a huge time saver.


Next to that was a maze I made, so feel free to use this too.

Minotaur Maze

Last thing was a Cyclops Origami that I found on YouTube.  I made my own instruction sheet here if that’s helpful.

Cyclops Instructions.jpg

Cyclops Kid

That’s it!!  Very little prep and a great program overall.

Kids Programming–Captain Underpants Party

Last year, we fortunate enough to have Dav Pilkey come to our city to promote the first “Dog Man” book.  Normally we have our author events at the library, but this was so big that we had to host it at the high school auditorium.  It was pretty crazy and the biggest event I ever got to be a part of.  I got to hug a giant Captain Underpants!!


To celebrate, I hosted a really simple party a week before the event to try and get kids pumped up.  Some of these ideas were taken from other sites so I’ll try to give credit where it’s due.  Started out by handing out nametags and everyone got to change their name using Professor Poopypants’s Name Change-O-Chart.


Then we moved on to the actual party!!

Designer Underwear Competition

undies sheet.jpg

Kids loved doing this, and probably could have spent the whole time doing this.  After they were done with their designs, we hung them on a clothesline and judged which ones we thought were the best.  Feel free to use my template.  Thanks to One Little Librarian for this one.

Talking Toilet Toss

talking toilet

I’ve seen a few different designs floating around for Talking Toilets.  Mine is super simple and came out pretty well.  All it is just two large boxes painted white.  Then I got two Styrofoam ice chests from Wal Mart, painted them white to make them match the boxes a bit more, and then hot glued them to my boxes.

The idea was that kids would fling underwear into the mouths of the toilets.  I put them on one end of the room, removed the top of the mouths, and asked kids to see how many each kid could fling into the open mouth.  Only–kids are surprising BAD at flinging underwear!!  Even from a pretty short distance, I don’t think anyone was able to do it.  So what we ended up doing was balling them up, and throwing them into the open mouths.  That didn’t seem nearly as much fun though.  So we moved on to the next game.

Plunger Balance


This was really simple too.  I got a few plungers from the Dollar Store, and we took turns seeing how long we could balance a plunger on our hand.  Kids were a lot better at this one–just keep an eye on your plungers.  I had to separate at least one plunger sword fight.

Captain Underpants Bookmarks


Great idea from Crafts by Amanda.  I prepped a bunch of Popsicle sticks by painting both sides of them peach.  I had the kids draw on their own faces (I made them practice first) and then they drew their own underwear and mouths on card stock and cut those out. We glued everything on and then made capes out of felt.  Really simple.

Design Your Own Flip-O-Rama

Kids had difficulty with this one, but I think it’s kinda important to end on.  It’s what make these books so unique!  I designed this print out to be like a card, the outside would be the index finger part, and the inside would be the thumb part.  That might be confusing since it’s different than how the book does it, but this way is more accurate for how you would actually open a card.  If you printed it out right, it should look like this.

Flip-O-Rama example.jpg

Here’s the template.  Feel free to use it.  The dimensions are 8.5″ x 11″ so hopefully you won’t have to fool around with it too much to get everything to line up nice and pretty like mine.

Flip O Rama Page 1.jpg

Flip O Rama Page 2.jpg


My kids didn’t really know what to draw, so I had some old Captain Underpants books they could cut up if they wanted to.  As I’m sure you know, they get beat up pretty fast, so I saved them up for the past couple of months just for this event.  So we spent the rest of the time just working on our flipbooks.

Everyone had a blast, and there was hardly any prep!!

Library Life Hack–Turn Flannelboard Patterns Into Coloring Sheets

UPDATE: As another librarian pointed out, flannelboards can be considered fair use, but making coloring sheets of a individual’s art would be considered a “derivative work” and probably infringing on copyright, depending on the situation.  So what I’ve actually done is gone out of my way to contact the authors of the two books I used for this post, Steven Savage and Sarah Aspinall, and asked them for permission to hand out coloring sheets for my library.  They both agreed…THAT DAY!!  It was insanely easy to contact them and I feel most illustrators will be okay with you using their work for educational purposes.  BUT it’s important to protect yourself and contact the illustrator first.  Don’t contact the publisher, you’ll get caught up in red tape and will most likely receive a no.  Find the illustrator and explain the situation.  They’ll most likely be happy to help you out!!

Anyway, back to the original article:

This is something I wish I would have started doing right away, but it’s a great way to save your flannelboard patterns that you’ve spent WAY too much time on, and make them practical to use over and over again.  I learned the basics of making flannelboards from Storytime Katie back in the day; she came in for a workshop I did and handed out print outs of duck clipart and some flannel to make a “Five Little Ducks” flannelboard.  Around this time I started making coloring sheets of book covers that kids liked like Pete the Cat.  It wasn’t until recently I discovered I could be saving A LOT of time by doing both at the SAME TIME!!

So I’m going to walk you through my process and maybe you can integrate it into yours.  When I want to do a flannelboard directly from a book, I have a few options I try.  We’re going to use “Supertruck” for this example.

book cover.jpg

When finding a pattern, I first I try to find the image online of what I’m looking for.  No need to invent the wheel if it’s already been done and it’s out there.  Wheels are really hard to make it turns out.

If it’s not that easy (and it never is) I try tracing the image off of the cover.  If it’s a nice big image like “Supertruck” it’s going to make a great pattern.

Last option is taking pictures.  Grab an iPad, and take a picture of what you want to flannelize.  Blow it up and print it out.  It might not look pretty, but it’s a great way to get a pattern that’s impossible to find otherwise.

So I go from there!!  I sketch it out or trace it in the center of my paper, finalize the details, then make a bunch of copies.  I cut out each little detail for my flannel.

Making Flannels.JPG

So that part is done.  Now time to turn this into a coloring sheet.  Take sharpie and trace over all those lines.  Erase any extra pencil markings.  You may be able to leave it just like this if it’s big enough and takes up most the paper, but you might want to add some background for your character to hang out in.  For my “Supertruck” coloring sheet, I was able to add some of the buildings from the cover; they don’t match perfectly but that’s okay, kids will be too busy coloring to notice the small differences.


Once your done with that part, sharpie all the lines and erase the extra pencil marks.  Scan it, save it, and print it.  I usually go into a photo editing program to fix any small mistakes and make the black lines pop a bit by playing with the contrast.

Coloring Sheets.JPG

Here’s another recent example with “Penguins Love Colors.”

Penguins Love Colors.JPG

First, I took a photo of a penguin from the book I really liked.  Printed it and cut it out to make a stencil (it looks like a weird Two-Face penguin because I was trying to make it symmetrical.)  Then I printed out some extra copies to make stencils of the the extra parts like the belly and the beak.  A quarter is great for eyes.


So now that I have my penguins made, I’m going to save my pattern by making it into a coloring sheet.  I started by making one big penguin in the middle unaltered and the exact same size; all I had to do was trace the stencil I just made.  I traced in two buddies to make it more interesting.


Then I added some details I didn’t include in my pattern, like the hats and a paintbrush.  Sorry the photo turned out so dark.


I sharpied all the lines, erased all the pencil marks, then scanned it and saved a digital copy.

Coloring Sheet.JPG

That’s it!!  With only a little extra effort, you now have a multipurpose copy of your pattern that kids will be using for years to come.  It will definitely make a great craft to accompany your storytime.  But more importantly, in the event something awful happens to your flannel, your pattern is right there, ready to go.

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!

Copy Machine.jpg


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.

Race Cars.jpg


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.


Breaking Bank.jpg









Fire Extinguisher.jpg

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.

Emoji Fortune Teller.jpg

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

Emoji Book Title 2.jpg

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

Library Etiquette 1.jpg
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.

Library Etiquette 2.jpg

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.

Library Etiquette 4
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?

Library Etiquette 7

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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