Blogger School-Age Programs and Service Committee

Take-Home Programs for Children

Since March, we’ve all had to find new ways to reach our patrons. From Stay-at-Home Storytimes to virtual live animal programs, we’ve tried many different ideas for engaging our patrons at the Simsbury Public Library, CT. Our live Zoom programs continue to be popular, but we know that kids and families miss the hands-on learning they’d enjoy at an in-person library program. While we can’t completely replicate that experience right now, we can create craft and activity kits that allow families to take a piece of library programming home with them. This summer, we offered “Take & Makes” every Friday and “Bag of Tricks” on select Wednesdays. We made 50 units of each activity, and families could pick them up anytime during our curbside service hours. It was so fun to watch kids jump out of the car and run to pick up a kit. This strategy proved so popular that we’re continuing to offer take-home projects in the fall with two new series: “Puzzle Packs” every Wednesday and “Desktop DIY” every Friday. Below are some additional details about each type of take-home program. I hope this provides some inspiration for your programming this fall.

Take & Makes

Picture of a red paper bag with instructions and supplies on how to assemble egg shakers

The first series of take-home programs we put together were the Take & Makes. This is actually a series we developed last year, but the model was perfect for programming in the age of coronavirus. We developed a different kit for every week of the Summer Reading Program (9 in total).  The trick of these is thinking up fun crafts, but also have low-cost supplies. We started by taking stock of our craft closet and then brainstorming crafts that would use supplies we had in excess. (For example, we had soooo many pony beads!) As I mentioned above, we aimed to produce 50 units of each kit, so none of the supplies could be too expensive. We also tried not to assume that kids would have supplies at home, and we were able to provide nearly everything they’d need, except for scissors, which were required for some of the crafts. In terms of adhesive, glue dots were a huge savior, as they could be proportioned out for the kits and were much less expensive than buying glue sticks to include in the kits. Each kit was neatly packaged in a red paper lunch bag and stapled closed with the instructions (and our library’s branding) on the front. Here are the crafts we came up with:

  • Shaker Egg – plastic eggs, rice, small ziplock bag, washi tape 
  • Fidget Stick – popsicle stick, pipe cleaner, 2 rubber bands, 8 pony beads
  • Fossil Dig – sand, mini-dino toy, mini paintbrush, 3 glue dots
  • Pop Pom Monster – 1 pipe cleaner, 6.5 ft of yarn, 2 self-adhesive googly eyes
  • Clothespin Mini Puppet – 3 clothespins, 2 cardstock puppet templates, 1 small piece of blank cardstock, 4 glue dots, (markers optional)
  • Pipe Cleaner Buddies – 3 pipe cleaners, 20 pony beads, 2 self-adhesive googly eyes
  • Balancing Robot – white cardstock template, 2 pennies, 6 glue dots, (markers optional)
  • Pixel Art – grid paper, tissue paper, glue dots
  • Windsock – paper bag, 20 inches of yarn, 3 pieces of crepe paper streamers, 3 glue dots

Bag of Tricks

Picture of red paper bag with instructions and supplies indicating how to assemble and execute the magic trick.

The Bag of Tricks was a magic trick kit for kids that we put together and gave out this summer. This idea was made possible by a staff member who had previous experience teaching magic tricks to kids and a large stash of playing cards leftover from another project. It was also a great tie-in with our Simsbury Public Library: Children’s Room YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1UgP9ZxemSU7pKNBvEwBZQ), which we started in March as a way to reach kids and families during the pandemic. These kits were definitely the most complicated to produce from a staff perspective, as there were two parts to each project. The kit included the supplies (a playing card or two, glue dots, fishing wire, etc.) that the child would need to create their prop for the magic trick. We also created two videos that we published on our YouTube channel. One video called “Prop Assembly” walked kids through the craft portion, and the other video called “Trick Performance” showed them how to do the magic trick. The entire concept is more involved than the Take & Makes, so we recommended these projects for kids in grades 1-6. We were only able to create three different tricks due to the complexity of this project. You can watch all the videos in this playlist (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLV8XQHor1SZATmt5mn4UjHlahtXTNayaz) if you’re interested. 

  • Vanishing Card Trick
  • Finger Through a Card Trick
  • Interdimensional Card Trick

Puzzle Packs

When the Children’s Room was open to in-person visits, our seasonal coloring sheets were a big hit. Coloring sheets are such a cheap and easy way to engage kids, and it gave us the idea to put little activity packs together around a theme. The puzzle packs include coloring sheets, crossword puzzles, word searches, drawing prompts, and some small paper crafts around a theme. The themes we have planned thus far include:

  • Back to School
  • Space
  • Disney
  • LEGOs
  • Video Games
  • Moon Festival 
  • Fall
  • Day of the Dead
  • Halloween
  • Election Day
  • Diwali
  • Veteran’s Day 
  • Wildlife
  • Thanksgiving

Desktop DIY

Finally, the Desktop DIY series took the best parts of the Take & Makes and the Bag of Tricks and combined them. Each kit features a simple craft activity and the necessary supplies, plus a video explanation of how to make it/put it together, which we post to our YouTube channel. This allows families to have a hands-on activity that’s ready to go, and it helps to keep fresh content and engagement with our YouTube Channel. You can find the full playlist here  (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLV8XQHor1SZBI_l6sCPigWAMEgxMFxVK6). Our Desktop DIY activities include:

  • Pipe cleaner action figure – 1 straw, 2 pipe cleaners
  • Friendship bracelet – string, pony beads
  • Gimp keychain – gimp, keyring
  • Washi tape bookmarks – washi tape, cardstock, ribbon
  • Cork boats – 3 corks, 2 rubber bands, toothpick, foam
  • Marble maze – marble, 5 strips of paper, paper plate
  • Paper climbers – yarn, cardstock, half a straw

Have you developed take-home activities or programs? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Stephanie C. Prato is the Head of Children’s Services at the Simsbury Public Library, CT. With experience in youth services, community outreach, leadership, instruction, and technology, she has developed innovative programs and services for all ages. She is an active member of the American Library Association and serves as the Co-Chair of the Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee of ALSC. If you have any questions, email her at sprato@simsburylibrary.info.

This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: I. Commitment to Client Group and III. Programming Skills

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