Monday, December 12, 2011


Usually towards the end of May, I'm pretty fried planning our Summer Reading program and am low on ideas for the first half of June. However, this year I found a lighthouse craft that was easy peasy. You see, a few years ago, my intern used battery operated tea lights for a candle holder program. We had 20 tea lights leftover. I don't like to repeat program like that too soon, so I was looking for another way to use them, espeially since they are not cheap.  After some searching I found this cute lighthouse craft online!

It all made perfect sense- it was June so beach days were soon upon us, and Matawan isn't too far from the shore or a lighthouse.  So we read stories about lighthouses (I was afraid they might not exist but they do!), learned some fun facts about lighthouses, and made our own lighthouses to take home. Some of the kids told me that they were going to use it as a nightlight! Now I have another idea for the rest of those tea lights- we'll be making night lights at some point.....

Candy Olympics

This is a program we did during Summer Reading. I figured it would tie in with the cultural theme since I added Olympics to the title and the olympics are an international event- see my logic?

I actually borrowed the idea from another librarian, but expanded on it. We did gobstopper races where the teens balanced a gobstopper on a spoon with the other arm behind their back. They had to make it to a certain point and back without dropping the gobstopper.  We also had m&m sorting. They were each given a cup with m&ms and had to sort all of them by color before the timer ran out.

The last portion of the program was a Miss Chrissie original: CANDY Bingo, or just CANDY.  I made 20 different boards for this game.  Each box had the name of a different kind of candy. I even tried to trick the tweens by putting Hershey bar and Hershey kiss as well as Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Reese's Pieces on the board. They used the m&ms from the sorting competition as markers. Needless to say, a fun time was had by all. We also repeated the program for tweens, who also loved it.

Festival of Giving

I'll start out by telling you that this is one of my favorite times of of the year at the library. For the third year in a row, we have held a Festival of Giving during the second week of December.  There is something for everyone during this week long event. This year the Children's Room sponsored a Mitten Tree.  We encouraged patrons to donate new, unused mittens, gloves, hats and scarves for all ages. All donations will benefit the Monmouth County Department of Children & Family Services.  For preschoolers, we shared stories about hats, and then children got to make their own hat! For school-aged children, we read stories about mittens and made mitten wreaths. The library is donating a winter item to our Mitten Tree in honor of each child that attended these programs.

Our after hours tween event this month was Popcorn Art. The tweens made snowmen out of popcorn balls. My part-time librarian, Linda, found some fleece from when we made blankets for the teens for Project Linus in years past. She found a pattern online for scarves where you cut slits and then pull the strings and they make a corkscrew style string. They were pretty cool and the tweens LOVED making them. We are also donating the scarves they made to our Mitten tree.

The Children's Librarian who preceded me, Sara, started a Make a Gift program with the teens over five years ago. I've kept it up since her departure, but it is a ton of work. We create an assembly line of ingredients in our meeting room, and then have our teens volunteer their time to make soup mix & cookie mix in a jar.  I buy all of the ingredients ahead of time (and calculate the math!) This year we donated 108 jars to the Matawan Food Pantry.

During the entire month of December we also have a program called "Food for Fines." We'll forgive library fines and waive the fee for a replacement card with the donation of a non-perishable food item or hygiene item.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Tweens- After Hours

After another successful Summer Reading program, we had finally found a regular following of tweens.  Being in a small library, we only have one meeting room, so it can be difficult to schedule programs at a time that is convenient for everyone. Looking back on the concept of a teen lock-in, and how cool teens thought it was to be in the library after hours, I decided to venture into after hours programming with tweens.  We have done one Friday night program a month, and so far it has worked out really well. We ask that an adult remain in the building during the program, and I leave one circulation computer open if anyone wants to check out materials (I don't take fines or make new cards.)

Here's a running of what we have done so far:

September- Pancake Art
We set up several stations with griddles and colored pancake batter. Tweens then got to squeeze out the different colors onto the griddle to make a colorful pancake creation.

October- Halloween Fun
We did a scary story, made vampire pops and did some icky eats- boogers on a stick (green cheez wiz on a pretzel rod), & ghastly ghosts (bread cut out with a ghost cookie cutter with cream cheese).  Check out the cute vampire pops below.

November- Tie Dyeing and other Fabric Crafts
We set up a few colors of tie dyeing using the Family Fun Magazine method. It is so much easier to make a mix of fabric paint and water. No smells and easy to clean up! The tweens tie dyed shoe laces and cloth pencil cases. They also decorated picture frames and door hangers with fabric paint and other fun artsy supplies.

December- Popcorn Art This was one of the harder programs to prep for. We actually made the popcorn balls ahead of time because we didn't want the recipe to flop on us and we didn't know how long it would take to make them. We also prepared another project of making scarves for our Mitten Tree, so it worked out well that they didn't need alot of time to make their snowmen.

This is what they kind of looked like in the end (I got this pic from Family Fun.)  The tweens used Skittles for the eyes and buttons, and Twizzlers for the scarves.

Happy Birthday Sesame Street!

On Thursday, November 10th we celebrated Sesame Street's 42nd birthday at the library!

Linda and I put together a program for children ages 1 and up that included the big book Elmo Loves You, playing instruments to some of our favorite Sesame Street tunes, a scavenger hunt to find some of our friends from Sesame Street that were hidden around the Children's Room, and an unforgettable Elmo craft.

Check out the pictures below to see what a great time everyone had!

Leaping Lizards!

It's been way too long since I've posted, so I'm going to mad post to get some more programs coming your way!

In April, I had my sister bring her pet gecko, Spot, to the library for a "Leaping Lizards!" program for children in grades K-3. We shared the following stories:

Harvey Moon, Museum Boy by Pat Cummings
Lizard's Home by George Shannon

In between the stories we shared some facts about lizards, and then we made a gecko magnet.

After the craft, the children got to ask questions about Spot, feed him crickets (yum!), and some even got to hold him. I am still asked on occassion if Spot will make another appearance at the library...maybe in the future!

Sunday, April 10, 2011


We have these two treasure chests at the library. I have no idea why we have them but I figured we should make use of them- what better way than to do a pirate program!

The two treasure chests had these toy gold coins in them. So I figured that while I was reading some stories, my teen volunteers could hide the coins and then all of our little pirates could go on a treasure hunt and bring all of the gold back to the treasure chests.

The children also made pirate hats, and I made them a sword out of a balloon! Prior to the program, I also purchased some eye patches and temporary tattoos from Oriental Trading for the kids to really look like pirates! And of course...I dressed up like a pirate too, but I think I looked more like a biker or a gypsy:-)

Dino Fun!

Everyone who works with children in a library know that one of the most popular questions you will be asked is "Where are the dinosaur books?" It's really easy to turn this interest into a great program for preschoolers.

A few years ago, my friend Donna gave her daughter a dinosaur themed birthday party. One of the activities the kids did, was to put on dinosaur feet and do an egg race (not a real egg!) To make the dinosaur feet, she used cereal boxes with big feet cut out from posterboard. This month's Family Fun has the same idea, but uses tissue boxes.  So I snagged the idea and had the kids walk like the dinosaurs once did. A suggestion if you are going to try this in your library- do not have children try and walk around in these dinosaur feet on carpeted floor- they will only slide. It is best to do this activity on concrete or tiled floor.

Another aspect of the program was to have children go on a dinosaur egg hunt. After Easter last year, I bought a whole bunch of those plastic eggs on clearance. I also bought some plastic dinosaurs at our local dollar store. I stuffed a dinosaur in each egg, and then made a batch of playdoh to cover the eggs. OK- I didn't do the stuffing and covering- that's what teen volunteers are for! Of course, this required some prep, so we did this the week before the program.

 The day of the program, we read some stories, walked in our dinosaur feet, and went on the egg hunt. Each child could then crack open their egg to find a dinosaur to take home. They each then made a dinosaur puppet (on a craft stick!) to take home.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Yee Haw! Cowboys!

While browsing the Internet for some craft ideas, I came across this great recycled bottle craft to make a cactus.

I like using recycled items for crafts and thought we could do a smaller version with a water bottle. I thought it would eb a great craft to tie in with a cowboy program! I was also a little concerned about the kids painting the outisde of the bottle. So instead, we dropped paint inside the bottle and let the kids shake and roll the bottle around to paint the inside of the bottle.  I also used an Ellison cut to make the cowboy hats for the cactus. Overall, the children really did have a great time making this cactus.

We also read some stories about cowboys and cowgirls! Before we did our craft, each child got to take a chance at trying to lasso one of our meeting room chairs. This was not an easy activity to do, and if you'd like to try lasso-ing with the kids at your library, I would recommend it be an outdoor activity.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring Flowers!

Last week I hosted a program called 'Is it Spring Yet?' for our afterschool crowd.  We read the following stories:

How Robin Saved Spring by Debbie Oulet
Signs of Spring by Justine Korman Fontes

Before and in between the stories, we did some jokes that related to spring. This was the kids' favorite joke:

When do monkeys fall from the sky?
During Ape-ril showers!
We also did a craft to go along with our stories. Since March is National Noodle month, I decided to do a craft with colored pasta.
It's easy to color pasta. I use the alcohol & food coloring method. I put the pasta in a ziploc bag, add about 1/4 cup of alcohol, about 10 drops of food coloring (depending on what color you'd like), and then lock the bag. I kind of move everything around inside the bag so the pasta gets covered. Then let it sit for about a half hour.
The tough part is getting the pasta out of the bag. I brought in a strainer from home and just strained it over a bowl, then dumped out all of the colored alcholo in the sink. Then I let it dry overnight on a plastic tablecloth.
The kids then made flowers out of the colored pasta and stems out of pipe cleaners. Maybe I'm bias, but I thought they turned out great.
Below are some pictures of the kids' flowers.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Playdoh Chefs

Another program Allyson piloted in 2009 was the Playdoh Chefs program. Our library space doesn't really allow us to do baking or cooking programs, which is hard to do these days with all of the food allergies out there. But playdoh is one way we can 'bake' at the library and we now do this as a regular program several times a year.

Allyson tried at her recipe at home ahead of time. Meanwhile, Linda decided that should could make chef hats for all of the children that were attending the program (2 sessions, 15 children each.) She made the hats out of sheets of crepe paper and cardstock.

I also ordered these cute little aprons that also serve well as smocks. The children looked absolutely adorable as chefs!

As I mentioned, we now host the program several times during the year. The chef hats were cute but very time consuming to make so we no longer make them for the children. We usually set the tables up in a "U" shape with the librarian in the middle. There are five ingredients for playdoh, so we put five children at each table so they each have a chance to add an ingredient and mix! The librarian running the program also makes a batch to show the children which ingredients go in the batch at which time. It also gives the kids a little bit more dough to play with. There's also an extra batch in case for some reason one was a dud. Allyson comes up with many wonderful programs, and this is definitely one of my favorites!

Here is the recipe if you'd like to make playdoh @ your library or...@ home!

1 cup flour

1/2 cup salt

1 tbsp oil

1 tsp cream of tartar

1/2 cup warm water and food coloring (put food coloring in same container as the water)

Mix all ingredients in large bowl. Knead with hands. Add more flour if sticky, add more water if crumbly.Keep refrigerated in ziploc bag when not in use!


If you're attending this year's Summer Reading Workshops, you'll most likely stop by my table during our round robin sessions. Lego's are great to tie into programming for this year's Summer Reading theme: One World, Many Stories.  You may be asking what legos have to do with 'One World, Many Stories." Well boys and girls, Legos were invented in Denmark.

In 2009, one of my staff members, Allyson, got crafty and decided to have our preschoolers paint with legos. You can pretty much paint with anything, but painting with legos is pretty cool.  Since MAPL is on Main Street which is very walkable, our director at the time really like hanging things crafted by children in the front window of the library for all to see. We rolled out the large roll of white bulletin board paper and had the kids paint on that, then hung those creations throughout the library.

They also painted a smaller work of art to take home.

This summer we're going to do the program again, but we'll add a surprise at the end with a lego pinata. I found this pinata in the Family Fun magazine. It's a shirt box that's painted. You can cut down paper towel rolls or toilet paper rolls and use them as the connectors. The best part is that there is no trying to shove a bunch of stuff into a little hole of a pinata. Open up the shirt box- put all of your goodies inside, and then hot glue the box shut. Based on past experiences with pinatas, I think I'll be adding some strings to the bottom for the children to take turns pulling since that usually lessens the chance of the children accidentally whacking each other when trying to whack the pinata.

Other libraries are now offering a regular lego program for school aged children. Most libraries provide the legos so that everybody has the same amount, and then give them a challenge. For example, during one session they might build a castle and at another they might build a ship. While donations might seem like a great way to go, I've been hearing from a lot of librarians out there that legos are very difficult for people to give up. It might be worth it to just shell out the money and buy a few sets for the library to use.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Fancy Nancy

Little girls love dressing up and what better way to do it at the library than to be Fancy Nancy! We hosted this program twice at our library  in the summer of 2009 for 15 children each and both filled. And while it was clearly a program aimed at drawing in little girls, we did have a few little boys as well. Every child was encouraged to dress "fancy" for the program. We read a few Fancy Nancy stories, then paraded around the library to show just how fancy we were. We were able to purchase tiaras at the dollar store for any child that wanted one. In addition, we also had what I call "Michael Jackson" styled hats in the craft closet that we gave to the little boys to wear. Following our parade, we then created our own accessories- since accessories are a very important part of your outfit, at least according to Fancy Nancy! The girls decorated fans made out of cardstock that were pre-folded and tied at the bottom with a pretty ribbon while the little boys decorated their very own bowtie. Decorations included sequins, jewel colored rhinestones, and foam shapes.

Edible Arrangements: Teen Style

In the summer of 2009, I decided that there needed to be a Teen Summer Reading Club. Not only were there prizes involved, but we hosted about 10 programs for teens that summer including the library's first-ever lock-in. It was a big hit and we had 25 teens attend! One of the activities we offered was for teens to make their own Edible Arrangements. Linda pre-cut pieces of cheese with a flower shaped cookie cutter and teens were then able to make their flowers using strawberries, blueberries, and grapes. Colorful Chinese food containers were used as the 'vase' for these arrangements with a piece of styrofoam in the bottom to hold the skewers in place. It's always nice when we can provide a healthy snack.

Friday, February 25, 2011

National Pancake Month

So, going along with idea of developing programs around monthly observances, we did a program last February called "Pancakes & Pajamas" since February is National Pancake Month. Children ages 3-7 came to the library on a Saturday morning in the pajamas to have some pancakes for breakfast. My part-time Children's Librarian, Linda, did most of the leg work. I showed up with my electric griddle and my electric frying pan to make the pancakes.

She read the story Pancakes, Pancakes! by Eric Carle and did the infmaous felt board story, Flip Flap Jack.  The pancakes were still cooking so not every child could be fed at one time. (We thought about this prior to the program.)  So the children played a version of hot potato, that we called 'pass the pancake.' The child that was caught with the pancake when the music stopped then got to go to the table to start eating their pancakes. It was a great game to play since there was no real winner, and no real loser- in the end, everyone got to enjoy a plate of pancakes!

Bubble Gum

One way we like to develop programs at my library is by honoring monthly, daily, or weekly observances.  The first Friday in February is Bubble Gum Day. Since we were doing a Valentine's program for our afterschool kids earlier in the month we pushed the bubble gum idea towards the end of the month. So this past Tuesday, I hosted a Bubble Gum program for children in grades K-3.

Originally, I had thought about making bubble gum with the children. But one of the key ingredients- gum base- is not easily found and I didn't want to drive myself crazy looking for it. So I decided that instead of making bubble gum, we'd have a bubble gum blowing contest in between our stories and craft.

Here's an outline of how the program went:

1- Shared some facts about bubble gum with children. These are cut into strips, folded up and placed in a basket for children to pick out of.
2. Read Pop: The Accidental Invention of Bubble Gum by Meghan McCarthy
3. Shared some more facts about bubble gum
4. Read Lester Fizz: Bubble-Gum Artist by Ruth Spiro
5. Bubble gum blowing contest- children lined up against wall and was given one piece of Double Bubble. See who can blow the biggest bubble, see who could blow the most bubbles in a minute, see who could blow the tiniest bubble, etc.
6. Craft- gumball machine. I found a template online for a gumball machine and printed them out on card stock.  Have the children color the gumball machine and then glue pom poms for gumballs inside the globe of the machine. I stuck a magnet on the back so it could be used as a fridge magnet. See below for my sample.

Here's what didn't work out so well- the bubble gum blowing contest. Many of the children that attended the program had no front teeth which made it hard for them to blow bubbles. Also, some of the children didn't know how to blow bubbles- this was the first time they would get a chance to do that. But I can tell you this much- it is not easy to teach someone how to blow a bubble. It's even harder to teach someone who doesn't have any front teeth!

I think in the future this might work well as a tween program- having a bubble gum blowing contest, and even making the actual bubble gum. But overall, the children had a great time- and it follows the one idea I always try to convey- that they have a postive experience at the library, because that is what will keep them coming back.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Librarians are superheroes, too!

One program idea that I took away from the Statewide Summer Reading Workshops in 2009 was to have a superhero program for preschool aged children. We read a couple stories about some not so well-known superheroes (like Adventure Annie!) and then made our own cape out of a plastic tablecloth and yarn, along with a mask to match. We then paraded our superhero costumes around the library so that all of the patrons knew they were safe! Check out the fierce Allison below!

My part-time Children's Librarian, Linda, took things one step further and actually made me a Super Librarian costume for the program. While I clearly don't resemble the prototype of the original Super Librarian, I don't mind stepping into the costume at all:-)

Captain Underpants

One of the meetings I regularly attend is the Children's LMX Meeting. Children's Librarians who work at libraries in Middlesex County meet once a month to exchange ideas, act as a sounding board, and pass along information. At one of my first meetings in 2008, every librarian brought two program ideas to exchange- one for preschool children and one for school-aged children.  This is where I 'borrowed' the Captain Underpants program I had at my library in the Summer of 2009.  Thank you Edison Public Library!

There are several parts of the program:

1) When the children arrive, the first thing they should do is make a nametag for themselves which is based on the initials of their first, middle, and last names. For example, my initials are CPM- there was a silly word associated with each letter which would then create a new Captain Underpants superhero name. My new name was "Buttercup Banana Chunks."

2) Once everyone has a new name, distribute a short test based on Captain Underpants Trivia.  This acts as an icebreaker just to see howgreat everyone's knowledge of Captain Underpants actually is.

3) Terd Tossing Contest- prior to the program, I had two teen volunteers unwrap midgee sized tootsie rolls which would be used as terds (they washed their hands first.)  I divided the children into two teams- each child was given 5 terds to toss into their team designated toilet, one at a time of course. The team who was able to get the most terds in their toilet won.  I bought two toilet seats for about $10 each @ Big Lots and perched them on top of garbage cans.

4) Craft- each child decorate a pair of underwear. Some had Spiderman and some had little flowers:-)

Overall, the program was a great success. I geared it toward children ages seven and up (so that they could do the trivia test on their own) and it ran about 45 minutes to an hour. I've had several requests to do another one, so I may be revisiting the outfit below at a later date.

The kids loved my outfit- they couldn't quite figure out why I was dressed the way I was. My thinking behind my fashion choices was that I was dressing how I would if I were actually a character in the Captain Underpants' series.

Yes, I am wearing underpants on my head. I have on black spandex pants (from track my sophomore year of high school), boxer shorts on top of the spandex pants, a Rutgers T-shirt, my fluffy pink flip-flop slippers, and pink diva sunglasses. I'm also wearing a name tag that says "Buttercup Banana Chunks"- my new Captain Underpants superhero name.

In case you were wondering, I am standing between the two toilet seats that we used them for the "terd tossing" game.

If you want templates for any of the aspects mentioned in this program, shoot me an email:

You can do this too at your library!

Well, since I started this librarian gig I've been thankful for all of the program ideas that have been shared with me- either through my colleagues at other libraries in New Jersey, or those ideas that I have "borrowed" from other libraries across the country.

Programming is by far, my favorite part of being a Children's Librarian. Sure, I like to buy books with other people's money...but where else can I wear underwear on my head at work and it be acceptable?

I'm hoping I can share my programming ideas with other librarians through this blog. Why constantly re-invent the wheel? I'm hoping not only to share programs that have been successful in my library, but to pass along some duds too. Who knows...maybe someone out there will be able to take my dud of a program and turn it into a great one!