My intention had always been to do a pinewood derby. I am sure that does not stem from any decades-old jealously about boyscouts getting to do the cars, and girlscouts having a mall sleepover. Unfortunately, pinewood derby cars are actually expensive so I put the idea on the back burner until I ran across a balloon-powered rocket car in one of the makerlab books.
The instructions called for pop bottle tops for wheels, a cardboard car, toothpick axles, a straw, and a balloon. I figured that was easy enough to get together and I was gifted a big bag of toilet paper rolls to use as car bodies. I put together my sample car and all was well. Until the kids showed up.
Some kids did not understand the instructions on how to put the car together. I had printed instructions, I had verbal instructions, I had a complete example. And I don’t mean the little kids had problems, it was the tweens. So they sat there and didn’t do anything. The kids that did get cars assembled had wheels falling off all the time. It took forever to do 8-9 races. But despite all the setbacks, most of the kids had fun.
But if I did this again I would do water bottle bodies, and get some kind of wheel system because bottle tops and toothpicks were a huge pain!
Activity: Build & race balloon-powered rocket cars
It has been a while since I did fairy tales so I wanted to do a similarly themed program but I wanted to stay a little further from the Disney princess stuff. I don’t have anything against the Disney princess line but I have two Disney-ish events coming up this summer and don’t want to overlap too much. I thought if we made some catapults that Medieval Mayhem would be a cute title and I ran with it.
I started the night letting the kids color and cut their own shields. I has a printed page of different crests and symbols and different colored construction paper for them to glue it onto. I really try to start with the most open-ended projects because families walk in late and people work at different paces, etc. This actually took a lot longer than I anticipated and I pretty much had to call time so that we could move onto our next activities.
Dragon Egg Hunt
Usually I have materials for the program sitting on a table at the front of the room or I pass things out as I go, but I wanted something with a little movement to break up the program so I put the glass beads for the next activity into some plastic easter eggs and dumped them into a box with a bunch of ball pit balls. The kids got to come up and search for the eggs in the “dragon’s nest”.
Glass Dragon Eyes
I happened to run across the glass dragon eye activity on pinterest and I am so glad I did because it is cheap, and looks awesome. You can paint or use permanent markers to draw a dragon eye on the flat side of a glass bead. Then you cover it with a quick brush of metallic paint, and voila instant dragon eye. I gave each kid 8 to do and I probably could have done 10 instead. They did not want to move onto the next activity until I mentioned we were going to shoot mini marshmallows.
Mini Marshmallow Catapults
Before the program I had printed a large dragon out and taped him to one of the walls to provide a target. Then the kids had to build their catapults (jumbo popsicle sticks, rubber bands, and a plastic spoon) and “save” the library from the dragon by hitting it. I am thinking of doing the catapults again over the summer as the kids had a blast with them. And I might have to admit that I may have shot a few marshmallows at my coworkers while testing my catapult. Also I had thought that marshmallow might “stick” to the dragon a little bit but they only stuck to the carpet where people stepped on them. I might consider pom poms next time.
Activity: Paper Shields
Activity: Dragon Egg Hunt
Activity: Glass Dragon Eyes
Activity: Mini-Marshmallow Catapults
We are in the middle of a board game renaissance and I know that board games and libraries should go together like peanut butter butter and chocolate. But I have been striking out in my attempts to have a truly successful board game program. My first attempt at a board game program was aimed at teens. This time I tried to cast a wider net by marketing it as a family game night.
A game night costs virtually nothing as I have a large personal collection of games that I brought to the library for participants to choose from. I have some cooperative games like Forbidden Desert and Pandemic. I have deck-building games like Dominion. I have 2-player games like Morels and HIVE. I have games that support a large number of players like PIT (9) and Tsuro (8). I have Takenoko and Ticket to Ride and Catan and Guillotine and Munchkin. It honestly took more time for me to move all the games into the program room than to play the games.
How can you not want to play a board game with this cute little panda?
The games I remember the kids playing were: Guess Who, Connect 4, Spot it, and PIT (at my insistence)
In the future I need to consider:
1. I did have two families show up and I should consider 6 participants a success. The chess club often gets 2-5 players and no one complains about that, so maybe I am just being too hard on myself.
2. Thursday night programs are not as consistent as Monday programs so I can’t expect Monday stats on a Thursday unless we start doing things every Thursday.
3. While a lot of my games are cool, many are too complex or not familiar for the 1st-3rd grade kids that tend to come to programs. I can introduce new games but I think I need to earn their trust with games they recognize like Candyland and Chutes and Ladders first.
This year we did not book a Santa and the boss-lady wanted to do the theme of Polar Express for our Christmas program. My secret is I don’t really like the book and the CGI movie I find pretty painful so I wasn’t overly excited about this program. I attempted to make a big train out of cardboard boxes and failed. But the Polar Express Movie night was a success because I made a hot chocolate and cookie bar!
I was actually too sick the days before to make homemade cookies so I bought a few dozen to put out. I had a separate cookie decorating program or I would have considered a cookie decorating station. We put out a hot water machine with powdered hot chocolate pre-scooped into cups. Then kids could add in topping like crushed candy canes, whipped cream, chocolate chips, snowflake sprinkles, or chocolate/caramel sauce.
When it was all said and done it wasn’t the cheapest program, but it was fun and pretty easy.