Guest Blogger

Crafts vs. No Crafts, The Great Storytime Debate

There’s been a lot of discussion about this in various circles. When it comes to arts & crafts, librarians often fall into one of two camps. There’s the “We don’t do crafts in storytime!” bunch and the “We love crafts! Glitter for everyone!” crowd.

This is how I feel when I hear about libraries that don’t do art or crafts.

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I should say, this is how I feel on the inside because, well, I work in a library.

There are so many reasons to do art and crafts in storytime. The benefits certainly outweigh any cons. Before going any further, it’s important to know that there is a difference between art and crafts. Art is open-ended and focused on the process being used and each child’s work will look different. Q-tip painting with sparkly puffy paint is an example of process art.

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Crafts are more structured, more concrete. They’re projects that are representational. A paper plate house or construction paper taco are examples of this.

Why do art and crafts?

Let’s start with the obvious.

Most children in the preK to second grade age group like being crafty. I say up to second grade because after that, while kids may enjoy art, they can sometimes be reluctant to participate having had enough life experience by then to think that they’re not good at it which is a whole other conversation and a moot one because they’re past storytime. Kids like to make things. Throw out paper, glue, scissors, crayons and let them have at it and they’ll design their own whatchamacallit. They’ll be proud of it. They’ll want to show it to you. At storytime, the art/craft station-no matter what it is-is always popular.

One of the best reasons to do crafts specifically is that it’s a storytime souvenir. It’s a reminder of what we did and what they learned. It’s an invitation to retell and recreate at home. Besides appealing to a child’s natural desire to use their hands to create, there are plenty of developmental benefits to arts and crafts for kids.

  1. Social Skills: Creating with others gives kids an opportunity to learn how to share, cooperate and work well together.
  2. Motor skills: Tearing, coloring, cutting, painting and gluing help little hands to develop hand/eye coordination and muscle strength.
  3. Problem solving skills: Creating and crafting involves making decisions, trying new methods and figuring out how to make it work.
  4. Language skills: Lots of language-rich conversation happens around the art table as kids and caregivers talk about what they see, what they’re making and how it looks/feels/sounds.

How do I make a craft worthwhile?

  • Connect it to something that was done in storytime: literacy focus, book, song or rhyme.
  • Let kids and their adults know that there is no right or wrong way to do it.
  • Keep it simple but more than just cut and paste.
  • Encourage them to make it however they want. (This can’t be emphasized enough!)

But it takes too much staff time/supplies/money!

The easiest and cheapest method is open-ended process art. It requires you to have materials like paint, chalk or crayons on hand, but you probably do already. It doesn’t take much staff time other than what it takes to find an idea then set it up at storytime. A simple Google or Pinterest search for ‘process art for kids’ will give you more ideas than you could use in year.

Crafts are at a disadvantage here because they do take time and supplies. You can still do crafts; it just takes a little more planning. Do them occasionally. Plan ahead. I once did a cute craft that was tied to a book and I knew kids would like it. Each craft had 10 pieces. I had 35 kids in storytime, and I always make 5-10 extra just to be safe. You do the math. Put library volunteers to work cutting out pieces.  If you don’t have volunteers, recruit them from local middle and high schools. These days, many students are required to have a certain number of volunteer hours to graduate.

Doing art and crafts in storytime gives kids an opportunity to practice early literacy skills, interact with other children and models for caregivers the kinds of literacy and play-based activities they can do at home. And you can always make a case for that.

How do you feel about doing art and crafts in storytime?

(All photos courtesy of guest blogger)

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Headshot of guest blogger, Charity Jordan
Photo courtesy of guest blogger

Today’s guest blogger is Charity Jordan. Charity is a former educator and has worked in youth services at the Springfield-Greene County Library District since 2003. She is a member of the Missouri Library Association’s Building Block Award committee. She has a passion for music, play and messy storytimes. You can find her blogging about those storytimes at Chapter & Stack.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

9 comments

  1. Angela Reynolds

    Love the idea that crafts are Storytime Souvenirs. Parents could start a Storytime Scrapbook.. trying to think of a way to make that a cheap and easy “craft” for parents!

    1. Charity

      A storytime scrapbook? What a great idea!

  2. Lisa B.

    I’m pro arts/crafts. My favorite art activities are those where I can lay butcher paper on the tables and let the kids get sloppy. But I also really like having a creative yet non-crafty activity to close out storytime. Two examples are building and designing with our train tracks and with Duplo blocks, which we have accumulated through purchases and patron donations. Dolls, animals, and trucks provided added toy volume for big groups, and potential for imaginative play. These post-storytime play sessions end up being highly social times for the kids, frequently lasting an hour or so. My favorite part, though, is they do all the clean-up for me. 😀

  3. Kim Flores

    Great post! In our library the parents are as eager to do the craft as the kids are! We make enough so both can participate. It’s important for the children AND the parents to relax and enjoy the benefits of art. And it’s a chance for adults to bond with the mommy or grandpa next to them in an informal, comfortable way. Yay for Art and Crafts!

    1. Charity

      Yes, I’ve noticed that often what happens is that adult and child each do the craft/art activity which leads to lots of great bonding time and conversation.

  4. Lina

    I really enjoy Arts and Crafts in story time. I enjoy watching the kids create and doing the preparation for story time is also a lot of fun. For all of the reasons above I enjoy allowing kids to do arts and crafts listed above and also the ways that they take pride in their work is also really rewarding.

  5. Kelly Doolittle

    I wonder if you’ll get any nay-sayers in response to your post ; ) Not from me! We love arts and crafts and you are so right about all the benefits of tie -ins. I had a caregiver come in last week who said their little boy still had some peace flags we made at a DIA celebration storytime LAST YEAR hanging above his bed and they talked about it almost every night!
    As my kids are crafting or being arty I like to go around the table and talk about the shapes and colors they are using, encouraging fine motor skills for the youngest ones, “You are doing so well with those scissors! Great job!” So what if they are cutting their paper plate salad into confetti – they are INTO it, and feeling a sense of accomplishment!
    I often have volunteers help with putting together some of the more time-consuming parts for crafts. You are absolutely right that volunteers are easily come by these days. You can network with your local colleges and high schools, bringing even more folks into your library!
    There’s a reason STEM has evolved into STEAM. There’s nothing like art to help a child expand their world view. And it helps us increase their love of early literacy with those wonderful tie-ins! It’s a win-win if I ever saw one.

  6. KB

    I do crafts every week with my “Terrific Twos” and “Preschool Pals” storytime. My usual supplies are glue sticks, construction paper, paper plates, tissue paper, and cupcake wrappers…nothing expensive. Patrons are often willing to donate these supplies too. The kids love it. I think it’s the favorite part of storytime for some kids. The only slight downside is I will sometimes see the grown-ups doing the craft so it looks like my example. I try to encourage the kids to make it look however they’d like. It makes me happy when it looks nothing like mine!

    1. Carol Simon Levin

      I am a great believer in open-ended art or engineering activities following my storytimes — it gives kids a way to be creative and interactive with the theme of the day. Vis a vis KB’s comment, I don’t make a sample anymore because I find it limits their creativity…the kids always surprise me with their ideas! You can see a sampling of these kinds of programs here: http://carolsimonlevin.blogspot.com/search/label/Story%2FCraft%20Program%20%28PS-K%29

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